Definition of the Natural Zone
For information only
The Natural Zone is defined in the National Park Plan (first review, 1988) as "those areas where the vegetation is almost entirely self-sown, with only minor modifications by human activities. There are few buildings or obvious signs of human influence such as field boundaries. The Natural Zone areas are not truly 'natural' since human influence...has considerably shaped the environment. However, they are the nearest thing to wilderness in the Park." This contrasts with the Rural Zone which comprises enclosed farmland and plantation woodlands, and the scattered farmsteads and field barns.
More specifically the Natural Zone is defined by the Authority as land on the Section 3 Map, together with the limestone dales. The type of land eligible for inclusion on the Section 3 Map is statutorily defined (Wildlife & Countryside (Amendment) Act, 1995) as areas of mountain, moor, heath, woodland, down, cliff or foreshore whose natural beauty it is, in the opinion of the authority, particularly important to conserve. The Authority's own statement to accompany the Natural Zone and Section 3 Conservation Map (first revision) follows the Countryside Commision's guidelines on the kinds of areas to be included on the map. It has been finalised following consultation with the main bodies with an interest in rural land management in the National Park (The Ministry of Agriculture, Farming and Rural Conservartion Agency, Country Landowners' Association, National Farmers' Union, English Nature, English Heritage and the Forestry Authority).
In order to qualify for inclusion in the Natural Zone the Authority considers that an area should substantially include the following key Natural Zone qualities:
- a quality of 'wilderness'
- relatively natural vegetation which is largely self-sown
- few obvious signs of human influence such as field boundaries
- comprises 'open country' (Structure Plan paragraph 3.12)
- high wildlife value
- comprises habitats falling within the statutory Section 3 Map (or limestone dale) definition
- comprises areas whose natural beauty it is, in the opinion of the Authority, particularly important to conserve