LCT5 River Valley Floor

LCA5C Upper Test Valley Floor

LCA MapGeneral Description

The Upper Test Valley Floor is a complex meandering and braided river system, with slow moving water. The valley floor varies in width, narrowing at its upper end beyond Middleton.

The area is dominated by pastoral agriculture with frequent patches of woodland, contrasting with the open areas of arable fields which rise from the valley floor onto the downland within LCT10. It has a strong sense of seclusion and tranquillity, undisturbed by modern development, except where it is crossed by the A303.

Location

The Upper Test Valley Floor follows the river from Fullerton to the Borough boundary.

Local Physical Influences

Landform: Flat valley with shallower slopes to the north.

Geology and Soils: Alluvium with Valley Gravels along the valley edge.

Drainage: River valley dominated by the braided River Test, with its confluence with the River Anton in the south and the River Dever in the north.

Local Biodiversity and Vegetation Pattern

The dominant pattern in this area is permanent pasture with patches of woodland. There is a diverse flora and fauna particularly in those habitats associated with seasonal or permanent waterlogging. Many of the wet meadows are typical traditional grazed hay meadows that are becoming increasingly rare due to agricultural pressures. They are dominated by fine-leaved grasses such as Red Fescue, Crested Dogs-tail and Velvet Bent, with a variety of flowering plants including White Clover, Red Clover, Birds-foot Trefoil, Knapweed, Bulbous Buttercup, Yarrow, Yellow Rattle, Selfheal and Oxeye Daisy, and can include frequent orchids such as Bee Orchid, Common Spotted Orchid, Pyramidal Orchid, Southern Marsh Orchid, and Early Purple Orchid. Wetter areas include Yellow Flag, Water avens, King cup, and Milkmaids.

Other notable habitats include areas of wet carr woodland, which with hedgerows, link to patches of ancient and semi-natural woodland and provide an important resource.

Local Historical Influences

This character area generally incorporates the upper reaches of the River Test and demonstrate the extent to which the complex bedwork water meadow systems were employed to improve the grass crop during the later 18th and early 19th centuries. Also present within this character area are some catchwork water meadows. These systems differ from bedwork meadows in that gravity is used to transport water to the meadows. Therefore catchworks can generally be found upon either the sides of larger river valleys or located within smaller, steeper valleys. These areas of water meadow are interspersed with what are referred to as ‘miscellaneous valley floor enclosures’ which may in fact be the heavily denuded remains of other water meadows since largely destroyed. The construction of the water meadows destroyed much of the open common and valley floor enclosures which had previously occupied the river valley. In some places these do survive, as at Bransbury and Chilbolton Commons, however, these landscape elements are increasingly rare within the historic environment of the valley floor.

During the mid-19th century the widespread agricultural depression, poor weather conditions, increased mechanization and the development of affordable fertilizers sounded the death knell for the water meadow. The water meadow was originally an efficient method of dramatically increasing the productivity of marginal land and after abandonment large areas returned to this marginal agricultural status. This often precipitated a process of gradual decay rather than dramatic and purposeful destruction and so various elements of water meadows survive within this area of the River Test.

Water meadows extend the full length of this character area while some limited parliamentary field enclosure occupies the northern bank of the River Test to the north east of Wherwell.

A Roman road is known to extend through this area although the only evidence for its presence is possibly retained fossilized within the south western field boundary of Bransbury Common.

Settlement Pattern

Several historic settlements occupy the valley floor within this upper portion of the River Test. Wherwell retains evidence of the Anglo-Saxon nunnery founded reputedly by King Alfred during the 9th century AD. Longparish to the north east consists of four historic cores each containing 16th and 17th century structures.

Settlements were originally small nucleated villages traditionally perched on the gravel shelf just above the valley bottom or along the valley sides although limited expansion during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries has resulted in some linear development along the road network.

Very few farms occupy the valley floor of this character area and are instead generally located upon the first river terrace.

Generally the roads within this LCA, follow the river on both sides of the valley just above the floodplain and are typically perched upon the gravel shelf itself. Additionally there are a number of roads which cross the valley floor, and in some cases then continue up the valley sides, these were originally the Drove Roads.

Local Settlements and Features of Built Form

  • Cottonworth: Chalk River Valley Settlement Type
  • Fullerton Chalk River Valley Settlement Type
  • Longparish: Chalk River Valley Settlement Type
  • Wherwell: Chalk River Valley Settlement Type


The older buildings are commonly timber, cob and thatch, with brick and flint. Both tiled and slate roofs are used. Boundary walls are often brick and flint, or chalk cob with thatch or tile capping.

Community Perceptions

As a part of the River Test valley system, this area is of particular local importance and the area most often referred to for its tranquillity scenic and pastoral interest. Of particular note are the pubs and villages that line the river, the trout fishing and water birds, and the cleanness of the river and streams. Greater numbers of deer, pheasants and foxes have been noticed in the area.

There is a general perception of a lack of opportunity to access the countryside. Even the Test Way, which passes through the area, is not perceived as providing access to the river which is seen as for a privileged few.

The loss of some of the valley floor pastures, with their grazing cattle, into arable use and horse paddocks is considered an unwelcome change.

The village of Wherwell, a small part of which lies within LCA5C, is a popular attraction and is considered particularly scenic.

Remoteness and Tranquillity

Due to the lack of development, the Landscape Character Area offers a prevailing sense of naturalness, tranquillity and solitude.

Key Characteristics

  • River sand and gravel deposits over chalk
  • Multi braided water channels of clear spring water with even flows all year
  • Important game fishing waters
  • Narrow, flat valley floor enclosed within rising valley sides creating a strong sense of intimacy and tranquillity
  • Intimate pastoral with small scale water meadow landscape
  • Frequent patches of broadleaved woodland including carr woodland with alder and willow
  • Remote rural character, with valley floor devoid of settlements
  • A mix of vegetation types adjacent the river providing areas of enclosure as well as openness
  • Dispersed linear settlements, including Wherwell, Chilbolton and Longparish, located on the first river terrace on the adjacent valley sides
  • Road system that follows gravel terraces which define the transition from valley floor to valley sides
  • Visual and noise intrusion from the A303
  • Surviving common land enclosed by the braided streams of the River Test and River Dever as at Chilbolton Common and Bransbury Common
  • Surviving remains of catchwork water meadows upon the floodplain.

Local Natural and Cultural Landscape Issues

  • Agricultural rationalization may threaten the survival of water meadow earthworks surviving upon marginal land
  • Sensitivity to changes in the landform and riverine habitats, eg. from flood defence projects, along the principal river channels including the Test
  • Possibility that future changes to landuse within the valley floor threatening the survival of water meadow earthworks
  • Spread of equestrian activity.

Designations

Historic

  • Longparish House 17th or early 18th century garden

Conservation Area

Grade II* Listed Building (16th century granary on saddlestones)

  • Wherwell Priory Scheduled Monument

Nature Conservation

SSSI

  • Bransbury Common - Reedbeds, unimproved neutral grassland and some broadleaved woodland
  • River Test (<50% of SSSI) - Running water, marginal vegetation and adjacent habitats including woodland, unimproved grassland and reedbeds
  • Chilbolton Common - Unimproved neutral grassland, marshy grassland, reedbed and some broadleaved woodland
  • East Aston Common - Broadleaved semi-natural woodland and reedbeds

SINC

  • 13 SINCs, including agriculturally unimproved grassland, wet grassland and fen


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Test Valley Borough Council
(Main Office Address)
Beech Hurst, Weyhill Road
Andover, Hampshire
SP10 3AJ
tel: 01264 368000
fax: 01264 368149
Email Us: admin@testvalley.gov.uk
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2001 Test Valley Borough Council