The landscape has evolved to serve the changing needs of successive generations.
Past human influence is etched in every facet of the landscape – in the shape of fields and woods, the alignment of tracks and lanes, the form and texture of villages and hamlets. The North Wessex Downs are home to more than 520 Scheduled Monuments, one of the densest concentrations in the country. In total there are more than 11,000 sites, monuments and finds of archaeological and historic interest and over 4,000 listed buildings.
The special qualities of particular interest include the following:
Neolithic and Bronze Age ritual and funerary monuments
Iron Age, Roman and post-Roman defences and settlements
Medieval and post-medieval settlements,buildings and historic churches
Country houses and landscaped parks and gardens
Post-medieval buildings and infrastructure, industrial and military features.
Defining and mapping the Historic Landscape Character Areas for the North Wessex Downs has provided new insights into the evolution of the landscape and the historic processes that have influenced the countryside. Historic landscape characterisation (HLC) is a way of analysing and recording how several millennia of human interaction with the land produces the rural landscape of today.
The HLC data has been the basis for a new online resource with interactive maps, pictures and text so you can easily access the information you need whether it is to inform decisions about development, conservation, farming, land managment or just your own interest. See www.historicnorthwessexdowns.org.uk to find out more about this project.
Avebury forms part of the only prehistoric World Heritage Site in England, recognised and protected by UNESCO. It is internationally important for its complexes of outstanding prehistoric monuments. The North Wessex Downs AONB is a key partner and represented on the World Heritage Site Steering Group.