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Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty are some of the most beautiful and cherished landscapes in Britain. They are designated as special landscapes which provide a range of benefits for people and wildlife.

The primary purpose of AONB designation is to conserve and enhance that natural beauty. This is the responsibility of the local authorities covering the AONB.

Each of the 37 AONBs in England is designated for special attention by reason of its high qualities. Natural beauty includes the flora, fauna, historical and cultural associations as well as geological and physical characteristics of the area and the scenic views.

Landscape encompasses everything – both natural and human - that makes an area special, including the places and people who live and work there.


Facts & Figures

The North Wessex Downs AONB covers 1,730 sq km (the third largest AONB nationally) but has a population of only 125,000 people.

Hungerford and Marlborough are the two largest settlements, with a combined population of 14,000. Yet the AONB is surrounded by the significant urban centres of Reading, Newbury, Basingstoke, Andover, Swindon and Didcot, collectively providing a population of over 1.2 million within 20 minutes of the AONB. It is crossed east-west by the M4 and north-south by the A34.

The AONB encompasses 173 parishes. It straddles the boundaries of two counties, three unitary authorities and four district/borough councils.