The members of a committee appointed by the Government in the late 1940's were in no doubt about the Special Qualities of the AONB when the boundaries of the designated area were first drawn. And nearly 50 years later in 1994, when the Government finally got round to confirming the designation, the AONB's Special Qualities were recognised once and for all.
So what exactly are the special qualities that underpin AONB designation? Natural beauty is made up of flora, fauna and geological features that combine in our mind's eye to form a unique, or maybe shared, picture of the landscape. This picture is made up of many different parts, including some of the following:
- Contrasting scenery with dramatic views across remote moorlands to distant horizons together with sheltered valleys and rolling farmland.
- Sandstone tors like those at Brimham together with steep crags that mark the edge of many river valleys in the AONB.
- Internationally important wildlife habitats characterized by birds such as red grouse, golden plover and merlin.
- A rich and diverse historic environment including a World Heritage Site at Fountains Abbey, over a hundred sites contained in the Historic Environment Record and more than five hundred listed buildings.
- Extensive woodland including commercial plantations and ancient broadleaved woods with a network of species-rich hedgerows on the eastern edge of the designated area.
- Wetlands ranging from the eleven water supply reservoirs with their associated dams, weirs and sluices to the three river catchments plus numerous lakes and water features associated with the numerous AONBs designed landscapes.
- An extensive network of public rights of way with regional walking trails such as the Nidderdale Way and the Ripon Rowel plus Easy Going routes for people of all abilities.
- Over 125 square miles of open access land where walkers can explore the AONB on foot.
The purpose of AONB designation is to make sure that these Special Qualities are maintained; the AONB's Joint Advisory Committee is working with a wide variety of people including landowners, local authorities and Government bodies to make this happen.