Skip to main content

NCA Profile: 15: Durham Magnesian Limestone Plateau (NE435)

An updated version of this profile is online at This pdf is retained for historical and completeness purposes.

The Durham Magnesian Limestone Plateau is an open, agricultural landscape with sharply defined boundaries in the form of a steep limestone escarpment to the west and a dramatic coast of limestone cliffs, headlands and bays to the east. The River Wear cuts across the north of the area, flowing into the sea at Sunderland, and the River Skerne drains into the Tees Lowlands to the south. The Magnesian Limestone aquifer that sits below the area is an important source of drinking water for surrounding urban areas. Rural land cover consists of arable land and grazing pasture, with small, isolated areas of wildlife-rich habitat such as Magnesian Limestone grassland and ancient woodland in the narrow valleys (or denes) running down to the coast. The coast is an important breeding and feeding area for migratory birds, and harbour porpoise frequents inshore waters. The area has been strongly shaped by its industry, with coal mining and quarrying in particular leaving a very clear mark on local landscapes and identity. Settlements range from larger urban areas such as Sunderland to the north and ex-mining towns with their distinctive terraces to the south and east, to scattered traditional stone villages built around village greens on the plateau and ‘New Towns’ such as Peterlee and Newton Aycliffe. Local nature reserves and a good access network, particularly along disused colliery railways and the coast, provide local residents with good opportunities for outdoor recreation.
Further information

Downloads available for this record

File Uploaded
NE435:NCA Profile:15: Durham Magnesian Limestone Plateau, PDF, 6.5 MB 2013/04/22


This record relates to the location identified by the marker on the map: