The moorland landscapes of the North Pennines are some of England’s wildest places. They are home to some of our rarest wildlife and have an unspoilt sense of naturalness and remoteness found in few other places in this country.
The moorland habitats include 36% of England’s upland heathland. Dry heath (14% of the AONB), is dominated by heather (ling) and bell heather. Wet heath, characterised by cross-leaved heath and/or purple moor grass, occurs in waterlogged valleys, and in association with blanket bog.
21% of the AONB is covered by wild expanses of blanket bog, occurring over the mantle of peat that covers extensive areas of plateau and gentle slopes. A typical tract of blanket bog in the North Pennines contains heather, cross-leaved heath, hair’s-tail cottongrass, bilberry, common cottongrass, cloudberry, deergrass, crowberry and bog asphodel, as well as many species of peat building sphagnum moss.
Unenclosed moorlands of the North Pennines are also important for a variety of specialised bird species including red grouse and black grouse, hen harrier, merlin, short-eared owl, curlew, golden plover, dunlin and twite.
Upland calcareous and acid grassland
Upland calcareous grasslands are relatively rare in the AONB. Of particular importance in the North Pennines are those that exist over the outcrops of sugar limestone, which occurs at just two places in the UK. Nationally and locally rare plants occur on this habitat at Moor House-Upper Teesdale National Nature Reserve, including Teesdale violet, spring gentian, marsh saxifrage, hair sedge and false sedge. Teesdale sandwort and the round mouthed whorl snail are found here and nowhere else in England.
21% of the AONB consists of acid grassland distinguished by mat grass, sheep’s fescue, common bent, wavy hair grass and heath rush. Large areas remain because they are difficult to improve for agriculture.