Natural England launched the Natural Areas concept in 1993 as a framework for setting nature conservation objectives. Natural Areas were parts of England with similar wildlife and natural features. They reflected geology, land-use and land use history rather than administrative boundaries. They provided a more meaningful basis on which to evaluate the wildlife and geological resource.
Natural Areas are being replaced by new National Character Areas. Each is defined by a unique combination of landscape, biodiversity, geodiversity and cultural and economic activity. Their boundaries follow natural lines in the landscape rather than administrative boundaries, making them a good decision making framework for the natural environment. The National Character Areas provide a sensible scale at which to view the wildlife resource and enable local perspectives to be integrated into the national overview. Further details are on the Natural England website.
The county fits into 5 National Character Areas these are:
104 South Herefordshire and Over Severn - including neutral grassland, the River Leadon, traditional orchards, hedgerows and woodlands;
105 Forest of Dean and Lower Wye – including extensive coniferous and broadleaved woodlands, the River Wye and various grassland types;
106 Severn and Avon Vales – including the River Severn, neutral grasslands and traditional orchards;
107 Cotswolds – including limestone grasslands, broadleaved woodlands and the upper Thames catchment;
108 Upper Thames Clay Vales – covering the Cotswold Water Park with neutral grasslands, rivers and open water.
The boundaries of the NCAs are not precise but small areas of 100 Herefordshire Lowlands, 103 Malvern Hills plus 118 Bristol, Avon Valleys and Ridges can be considered to fall within Gloucestershire.