LCA5C Upper Test Valley Floor
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- Longparish House 17th or early 18th century garden
Grade II* Listed Building (16th century granary
- Wherwell Priory Scheduled Monument
- 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
- Chilbolton Common - Unimproved neutral grassland, marshy grassland,
reedbed and some broadleaved woodland
- East Aston Common - Broadleaved semi-natural woodland and reedbeds
- 13 SINCs, including agriculturally unimproved grassland, wet
grassland and fen
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