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Landscapes and nature

Leicestershire countryside at Lowesby
Leicestershire countryside at Lowesby

Leicestershire’s landscape is diverse, rich, and worth protecting. The county’s landscape is generally gentle and agricultural, shaped by centuries of mining, and with only a small amount of forest cover and as such its natural beauty and regional distinctiveness sometimes go unremarked. However, the countryside is surprisingly diverse.

Eighteen Landscape Character Areas have been identified in the Leicester, Leicestershire, and Rutland Landscape and Woodland Strategy. These range from the unique volcanic highlands of Charnwood Forest to the floodplain of the Soar Valley, from the rolling pastureland of the Laughton Hills to the mixed agriculture of the Wolds, and from the dramatic landscape of the Belvoir Scarp to the industrially significant Coalfields. Parts of Leicestershire have been included in the National Forest.

Rocks at Beacon Hill
Charnwood Forest contains geological formulations of international significance, including some of the oldest rocks in England and fossilised evidence of some of the earliest forms of multi-cellular life in Britain.

The built and agricultural heritage of Leicestershire is also significant, with widespread clearing of forest dating back as early as 1000 BC. Since the 14th century pastureland has been an important part of Leicestershire’s landscape. Coal mining has also shaped the northwestern part of the county since the 13th century and more recent developments like canals and railways have lead to distinctive patterns of towns and villages.

However, Leicestershire’s landscape is also facing a variety of threats and pressures. Mineral extraction and electricity generation, while long-established in Leicestershire, have been intensifying in recent years and threaten the integrity of many areas of natural beauty. Likewise an intensification of agriculture and a shift from pastureland to arable agriculture, attended by the destruction of hedgerows and field ponds and the expansion of fields, is changing the appearance of large areas of rural Leicestershire and threatening agricultural ecologies.

Finally, development, particularly around Leicestershire’s cities and towns, must be managed with care to ensure a healthy and liveable landscape for years to come. CPRE Leicestershire is working in a variety of areas to protect Leicestershire’s countryside, ensuring that mineral extraction and electricity generation projects are designed and built with the best interests of the county and its citizens in mind and supporting the application of planning guidelines to ensure that housing development focuses on providing liveable and affordable communities without damaging the character of rural areas.

If you value Leicestershire’s character and countryside, join us today.