What is the Tamar Valley AONB?

The designation “Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty” (AONB) aims to conserve and enhance our best national landscapes, whilst recognising the needs of the local community and economy.

Natural England is responsible for designating AONBs and advising Government and others on how they should be protected and managed. Although ‘natural beauty’ is enshrined in the title, in essence most AONBs represent rich cultural landscapes.

The 1949 National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act defines “natural beauty” as “including the preservation or, as the case may be, the conservation of its flora, fauna and geological or physiographical features”. The conservation of archaeological, architectural and vernacular features in the landscape is implicit as landscape is human-made and cultural.

What is an AONB?

Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) are designated under the Countryside & Rights of Way Act (2000), and along with National Parks they represent the finest examples of countryside in England and Wales. Designation seeks to conserve and enhance natural beauty; including flora and fauna, geology and landscape features, archaeology and architecture; whilst recognising the needs of the local community and economy.

When did the Tamar Valley become an AONB?

Cornwall and Devon County Councils first suggested that the Tamar Valley should be designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1963, but it was not until August 1995 that the designation was finally granted. This is the most recent to be designated an AONB.

Why was the Tamar Valley designated?

It is a rare valley and water landscape based around an unspoilt estuary, a unique wildlife resource and a landscape of distinctive heritage.

Where exactly is the Tamar Valley AONB?

It is located on the border of Cornwall and Devon, and includes the valleys of the Tamar, Tavy and Lynher. The larger section, around the rivers Tamar and Tavy, extends north from the broad estuary at Plymouth to the intricate, deeply incised river meanders just below Launceston and Tavistock. It borders Dartmoor National Park to the east and takes in Kit Hill to the west. The section around the river Lynher extends west from Saltash and Torpoint to St Germans in south east Cornwall.

How big is the Tamar Valley AONB?

The AONB covers around 75 square miles (190 square kilometres, 16155.74 hectares). It contains a population in the region of 27,000 people, most in the 30-50 age group.

What is the Vision for the Tamar Valley AONB?

To ensure that by working together the Tamar Valley AONB is managed in a way that conserves and enhances its unique cultural identity and outstanding natural beauty for the benefit of all the people who live, work and visit the area, now and in the future.

Highs & Lows

From sea level to 333m at Kit Hill.


There are around 1700 hectares of woodland, of which 1500 hectares are on ancient woodland sites.


Includes the lower parts of the 3 river valleys – Tamar, Tavy and Lynher.


75% of farmland is under grassland, predominantly used for sheep and cattle; there are around 600 holdings ranging from tiny smallholdings to large dairy farms of over 200 hectares.

Nature Conservation

There are 2247.76 hectares of Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), much of the estuary is a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) under the EU Habitats Directive, there are 41 County Wildlife Sites and 1 Local Nature Reserve.

World Heritage Site

The AONB contains the majority of area 10 of the World Heritage Site for the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape. The AONB has over 100 former mine sites and their associated physical and social infrastructure.

Local Authorities

The boundary crosses 5 local authority areas (2 counties, 2 districts and Plymouth City). The AONB also borders Dartmoor National Park. The AONB crosses 24 parishes.