This landscape of rolling, interlocking ridges, deeply incised by river valleys and patterned by beech hedges, provides an important setting and transition to Exmoor. The upland river valleys drain southwards from the high moorland, forming deep clefts in the landscape that contain clean, fast-flowing water and are clothed in ancient oak woodlands. The Bray valley is the major landscape feature of the western part of the area; further east the valleys are shorter, steeper and narrower. Tree features and hilltop clumps form notable landmarks. The area is sparsely settled, with individual farmsteads and small hamlets and vernacular buildings that are mainly of sandstone and slate. Seen from the south, the area forms the foreground landscape to Exmoor. Seen from the north it forms a diverse and strongly patterned patchwork of fields and wooded valleys.
This area abuts the southern and western boundaries of Exmoor National Park (not part of the Devon Landscape Character Assessment). Bounded to the west by the more open landscape of the North Devon Downs and to the south by the South Molton Farmlands and Witheridge and Rackenford Moor, this area of enclosed pastoral land with deep north-south wooded valleys rises northwards to the Exmoor moorland rim, where there is a clear landscape transition.
To protect the landscape’s role as a setting to Exmoor National Park, strengthening its special qualities and features and conserving its open skylines. Field patterns are reinforced through the restoration and management of distinctive beech hedgebanks. Distinctive hilltop tree clumps and valley-side woodlands are managed and wetlands are expanded to help prevent downstream flooding and protect water quality. Opportunities are sought to restore conifer plantations to broadleaved and heathland habitats. The landscape’s time depth continues to have a strong influence, whilst opportunities for sustainable recreation and limited low-carbon development are sensitively accommodated. The peaceful and historic character of the valley settlements and their industrial heritage is enhanced whilst providing recreational spaces in less prominent locations.