The richest freshwater landscapes in England and Wales

Our focus for a wilder, wetter, cleaner, connected Freshwater Network

We’ve identified 24 Important Freshwater Landscapes, the hubs for the Freshwater Network, where we’ll focus our work. Through the Freshwater Network, we’re prioritising these nationally significant landscapes – because we can’t afford to lose them.

Protecting the best

From the pristine streams, ponds and mires of the New Forest to Oxfordshire’s historic floodplains and the marshes, bogs and fens of the Yorkshire Lowlands, Important Freshwater Landscapes are the richest places for freshwater biodiversity in England and Wales.

Teeming with threatened freshwater plants and animals, Important Freshwater Landscapes have concentrations of Water Framework Directive ‘High status’ biological communities, protected freshwater habitats, and a diversity of freshwater habitat types supported by clean unpolluted freshwater. This means they are places that are both highly vulnerable to fragmentation, pollution and loss – and the arks from which freshwater species can spread.

That’s why we’re working in these Important Freshwater Landscapes as a first priority. With our partners, we’ll find opportunities to protect, strengthen, repair and build connections within and between them – creating a wilder, wetter, cleaner, connected Freshwater Network.

New Forest wetland on a wintery day with blue sky

- New Forest freshwaters are internationally significant.

How we'll do it

To identify Important Freshwater Landscapes, we’ve combined data used for Water Framework Directive assessments with freshwater species and habitat conservation data to find the national hotspots for freshwater biodiversity.

In each Important Freshwater Landscape, we’re identifying the building blocks of the Freshwater Network – Important Freshwater Areas, Historic Floodplains and Wetland Opportunity Areas.

Next, we’ll produce a baseline and costed action plan for the landscape scale biodiversity conservation of all freshwaters in these special places.

Aerial view of digger next to large area of bare ground to create a pond.

- Newt Conservation Partnership pond creation in action

Our work in Important Freshwater Landscapes

Discover some of the places where we’re working in collaboration with our partners to protect Important Freshwater Landscapes. 

Aerial view of the River Thet and surrounding ponds in the Brecks
The Brecks

We’re learning more about freshwater habitats in this unique Important Freshwater Landscape in Norfolk and Suffolk.

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New Forest

The New Forest’s pristine freshwaters, wetlands and coastal habitats are part of the New Forest and Dorset Heaths Important Freshwater Landscape.

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Boy looking at large pond with trees behind.
Nidderdale AONB

Local people are helping us to identify the best habitats for freshwater wildlife in this Important Freshwater Landscape in North Yorkshire.

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Aerial view of fen with trees around it.

Through the Oxfordshire-Buckinghamshire Freshwater Network project, we’re restoring these alkaline fens in this Important Freshwater Landscape.

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Working together for freshwater wildlife

We can’t build the Freshwater Network alone. That’s why we’re working with many partners across England and Wales, including landowners, other conservation NGOs and funders, to protect Important Freshwater Landscapes and create a better future for freshwater wildlife.

Get in touch to find out how you can work with us to build a wetter, wilder, cleaner, connected Freshwater Network.

Contact us
Group of people standing in a field with hills behind, smiling to camera.

- Members of the Welsh Government Pan Environment team with Freshwater Habitats Trust representatives in the Irfon catchment.

Plant with red and yellow spokes in shallow water, sparkling in the sunlight.
Important Freshwater Areas

The sites identified at regional, county or catchment level as freshwater biodiversity hotspots. Our priority for protection, restoration and reconnection.

Important Freshwater Areas
Two men standing by a waterbody, one pointing to something in the distance
Wetland Opportunity Areas

The gaps between the Important Freshwater Areas, where we can build out and connect. Once lost to land use change but now strategic opportunities for a wilder, wetter, cleaner,  connected Freshwater Network.


Wetland opportunity areas
Historic floodplains

Rich in freshwater habitats, these connecting corridors flow through and between Important Freshwater Landscapes. We’re restoring habitats to benefit biodiversity and people.

Historic Floodplains