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Historic landscape characterisation

The landscape of North Yorkshire and the Lower Tees Valley has a rich and diverse character.

Historic landscape characterisation contributes to our understanding of the historic landscape by moving the focus away from specific archaeological sites to looking at a broader landscape view. It emphasises understanding how historic processes have contributed to the present landscape, rather than reconstructing how the landscape was in the past.


The North Yorkshire and Lower Tees Valley historic landscape characterisation project was carried out between 2005 and 2010 by the historic environment team, with Tees archaeology undertaking characterisation of urban areas in the Lower Tees Valley. It is a desk-based programme of geographic information systems (GIS) mapping and analysis of the landscape. The process involves identification and description of historic components in the rural and urban landscape. It starts by describing current land use, then using aerial photography, modern and historic maps and other data to gain an understanding of how an area has changed over time. By understanding how landscapes have evolved, we can help to manage change and conserve features that give places their unique character.

The project was part of a national programme supported and developed by English Heritage and in partnership with North Yorkshire County Council, the North York Moors National Park Authority, the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, the City of York Council and Tees Archaeology.

North Yorkshire and the Lower Tees Valley historic landscape character

You can explore the North Yorkshire and the Lower Tees Valley historic landscape character  via our online mapping system:

Project aims

  • To characterise the present landscape of North Yorkshire and Lower Tees Valley, in terms of the visible evidence of the human processes that formed it.
  • To improve and promote the understanding and appreciation of the historic environment of North Yorkshire and the Lower Tees Valley.
  • To create a body of data and a tool to enable informed decisions on conservation and development.
  • To assist partnership with other agencies, particularly in targeting agri-environment schemes and schemes for rural diversification.
  • To inform and generate research agendas for the historic environment.

Project outputs

The GIS mapping and digital database are the main products of the project. A permanent database will be used to promote understanding of the historic environment and provide information for planning and conservation. The digital data has been given to the relevant historic environment records in the project area, and can be requested by contacting the relevant historic environment record. In time, data will be accessible via the archaeology data service website.

Historic landscape character - frequently asked questions

This page was last updated on 21 November 2013