Our AONB Explained

The Tamar Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, on the Devon & Cornwall border, is a special landscape that is defined and shaped by the rivers Tamar, Tavy and Lynher, and by the human activity focused around them. The area is famous for its mining heritage landscape and market gardening history, and is a haven for wildlife.

A team of dedicated staff and volunteers run projects and coordinate work to conserve and enhance the natural beauty of the Tamar Valley.

The exceptional cultural significance of the Cornish mining landscape transcends international boundaries. The permanent protection of this countryside is important to people all over the world. This is why the area has been given World Heritage status.

‘World Heritage’ status gives recognition to ‘Cornish Mining’s’ excellence as a world class cultural heritage site and recognises the importance of ‘Cornish Mining’s’ historic landscapes, its outstanding mine buildings and other features, in addition to its important role in technological innovation and scientific research. To find out more visit the Cornish Mining site, click here

By working together, the Tamar Valley AONB will be 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.

Meet the team

The Tamar Valley AONB is a partnership of community organisations and key agencies who collaborate to achieve our shared goals. The AONB works in a way that delivers projects which support the core needs of the area. We help to conserve our landscape’s natural beauty.

The AONB Partnership is made up of representatives from the local community, specialist organisations, government agencies, farmers and landowners. This group works together to produce a Management Plan for the AONB every 5 years which guides the team’s workload…

For general enquiries please email enquiries@tamarvalley.org.uk or call 01822 835030 (currently unmanned during COVID-19). To contact a specific member of staff, please see their details below.

left to right in picture;

Lesley Strong Project Officer (p/t)
Jo Pridham Monitoring & Reporting Officer (p/t)
Corinna Woodall (former Tamar Valley AONB Manager)
Charlotte Dancer Information & Communications Officer (p/t)
Valerie Darwall Project Officer
Coralie Barrow (former Development Officer)
Donna Watterson Office & Finance Manager (p/t)

Our Vital Partners

The Tamar Valley AONB Partnership has a governance structure allowing all of its stakeholders to influence and oversee the development of policy within the Management Plan and action on the ground through the Delivery Plan. 

There are effectively three levels of operation for the Tamar Valley AONB Partnership:

The AONB team – comprising a core staff unit and additional project funded staff responsible for delivery and administration of the AONB Partnership and delivery plan

The Executive Group – comprising the constituent Local Authorities for the AONB. Cornwall Council is currently the ‘Host’ authority with financial, line management and employment responsibility for the core staff unit (and other project staff as appropriate). This group has overall/executive financial responsibility for the AONB Partnership and Staff Unit.  The Executive also has elected non-Council representatives from the AONB Partnership.

The Partnership – responsible for guiding, advising and supporting the AONB team and Core Funders Group through the production and delivery of the AONB Management Plan. 
The AONB Partnership is comprised of representatives from;

Where is the AONB?

The Tamar Valley AONB straddles the border of Devon and Cornwall, extending north from the broad estuary at Plymouth to the intricate river systems that meander towards Launceston and Tavistock. It borders Dartmoor National Park to the east and Kit Hill to the west.

– If you require a detailed map to specifically identify the Tamar Valley AONB boundary, please visit https://map.cornwall.gov.uk/website/ccmap/


Landscape character

To help us and others look after the area we need to understand what’s here.
To look after the countryside we break it down into areas, define the characteristics of those areas then we have a list of what’s important to look after. A full Landscape Character Assessment for the Tamar Valley AONB was completed in 2008.

The Assessment was initially at the level of the Landscape Description Unit (LDU), firstly as a desk study then checked and validated through field work. The LDUs map areas with similar landscape character based on their physiography, ground type, cultural pattern and land cover. LDUs were then grouped into larger Landscape Character Areas with common key landscape characteristics providing a ‘sense of place’ over a geographically distinct area.

This process is assisting the work of the AONB by providing a more ‘scientific’ method for assessing the value of landscape. It underpins the new AONB Management Plan and will increasingly be of value as a tool for planners and other land managers. Best Practice Guidance for the use of Landscape Character Assessment will be available soon on the Cornwall Council website.


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

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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