|2. Formulative Influences on the Landscape||
The basic structure of any landscape is formed by its underlying geology. The actions of weathering, erosion and deposition alter the form of the landscape, drainage and soils and in turn patterns of vegetation and land use. This section identifies the most significant physical and human influences that have created the Test Valley landscape as a whole.
Geology and Landform
A deep chalk bed laid down in the Cretaceous period forms the basic underlying geology of the Test Valley Borough. The Upper Chalk, the youngest of this chalk series, dominates the northern and central part of the Borough. In the north, accompanying the Upper Chalk, limited areas of Middle Chalk are found flanking the valley sides contributing to the more pronounced landform found to the north which includes high chalk ridges dissected by steeply sloping predominantly dry valleys and escarpments. These distinctive dry valleys were formed as part of a river system that evolved immediately after the Ice Ages, when the chalk would have been frozen at a depth and thus impermeable leading to streams of meltwater from the ice sheets. In contrast the central area of the Borough has a gentler undulating landform, although there are a number of small chalk hills and scarps which form distinctive features, such as Quarley Hill, Isle of White Hill and Danebury Hill with scarps at Broughton Down and Ashley Down.
Across this chalk area are localized deposits of Clay with flints, laid down during the interglacial period. The most extensive areas of Clay with flints occur to the south east and south west of Andover, at Ashley Downs and south of Upton to the north of Andover.
Towards the south of the Borough, the chalk stratum dips towards the sea and becomes buried beneath younger deposits of sands, gravels and clays. To the north, these include the deep bands of the Reading Beds and London Clay which due to their comparatively soft sedimentary character have formed a low-lying landform of small hills, ridges and valleys. Further to the south, the landform becomes flatter with the clays and clayer sands of the Bracklesham Beds and the Bagshot Sands which form the flat plateau of the New Forest. Broad bands of alluvium and valley gravels mark the river valleys and extensive area of plateau gravel overlie the sands and clays to the east and west of the Test Valley and Romsey. Other superficial deposits include localised pockets of Brickearth, a river terrace deposit found around Romsey.
Drainage and Hydrology
The River Test is the dominant river system of the Borough, starting east of Overton in the adjacent Borough of Basingstoke and Dean, flowing along a flat valley bottom as a series of braiding streams before forming the head of the Solent at Southampton. Over the central area, the Test River is joined by a number of tributary rivers and streams, principally the Dun, Dever, Anton and Wallop Brook. Winterbournes are a feature of this river system, formed when the water table is high and subsequently running above ground as small streams within the winter months. Towards the south of Michelmersh and Newtown, where, the underlying geology is more permeable, a drainage pattern of surface streams, which include Tanners Brook and the River Blackwater, has evolved feeding into the River Test.
Soils and Agriculture
Soils on the chalk tend to be well drained and calcareous and are typically brown earths on the higher ground to the north and brown rendzinas across the more gentle chalk plain to the south. These soils are good quality Grade 3, with a small number of very localized pockets of Grade 2. Due to their good quality, these soils are intensively farmed, with a range of crops resulting in large open fields. However relief and soil depth are limiting factors with the shallower soils found on the scarp slopes less suitable for cultivation and often wooded, or colonized by scrub or under permanent pasture and used for sheep grazing.
The more complex geology of the southern area of the Borough gives rise to a more mixed pattern of soils and agriculture land value. This area is dominated by stagnogley soils, which comprise seasonally waterlogged fine or coarse loamy soils over clay. These soils support a mix of pasture and arable crops and are classified within this area as mainly Grade 3. However the poor drainage has created further areas which are less productive and are mostly under woodland or wet lowland heath vegetation.
Brown earth soils, which are better quality, are found on the deposits of gravel along the river valleys. This has created soils of agriculture land quality of Grade 2 to the south and north of Romsey within the River Test Valley.
The river valleys are dominated by peaty calcareous mineral soils with high ground water levels. This has resulted in the valley bottoms being mainly under permanent grassland and used for rough grazing with a small amount for arable. These areas of grassland also support semi natural fen, wetland and grassland habitats. At the southern most end of the Test Valley, the valley floor is occupied by alluvial soils that are silty and peaty in character and have been drained to produce a more productive land suitable for cereals and other arable or vegetable crops.
The landscapes of Test Valley Borough are an important resource for biodiversity, supporting a wide range of habitats and species. The patterns of biodiversity across the Borough today have resulted from the interaction of the natural environment and the long history of human settlement and management of the landscape. This section summarises the broad patterns of habitats across the Borough.
The north of the Borough is dominated by the chalk geology, giving rise to the downland landscapes of the Open Chalklands. The downland landscapes extend to the east across the Hampshire Downs and to the west into the higher and more rugged South Wessex Downs. The Chalk Downland Ridge that runs through Quarley Hill downs marks a transition to the higher South Wessex Downs and is associated with several areas of unimproved grassland.
Since the late 1940s the great majority of the downland grasslands have been ploughed for arable farming and improved ley grassland. The remaining resource of species-rich grasslands are largely confined to isolated sites and to the steeper slopes where ploughing is less practical, and to military training areas. Nationally important areas of grassland are found at Danebury Hill, Quarley Hill Fort and Porton Downs. Remnants of the grassland flora also survive along some green lanes, verges and tracks and beside hedgerows. There are great opportunities to create new areas of unimproved grassland in the downs, and to link isolated remnants along tracks and field margins.
Many areas of the Downs are valued by the local community for open views so any creation of new woodlands or hedgerows will need careful planning. Woodland cover is sparse across much of the downs, and often limited to shelter belts. Woodlands are more common where deposits of clay with flints cap the chalk in the Semi Enclosed Chalk and Clay Farmland and the Semi Enclosed Clay Plateau Farmland. The clay deposits are more extensive in the Enclosed Chalk and Clay Woodlands and the Enclosed Clay Plateau Farmland Landscape Character Types, giving a greater proportion of woodland cover.
The woodlands found on the most acidic soils over clay with flints are dominated by oak, with ash dominant in more neutral and calcareous woodlands. Many woodlands were traditionally managed as coppice, although this form of management has declined in recent years.
The Downs are dissected by stream valleys, and by the broader floodplains of the River Test and its tributaries. Towards their upper reaches, many of the streams in Bourne Valleys flow only seasonally and are completely dry in the summer. Such winterbournes are characteristic of the downland landscapes, and are associated with neutral grasslands along the valley base. Much of the grassland has been agriculturally improved and there is great potential to restore species-rich grasslands.
Further downstream, the rivers and streams of the River Valley Floor are fed by water from the chalk aquifer at a constant temperature of 10óC. This constant temperature and flow has led to the development of a very diverse aquatic habitat. The River Test is a nationally important freshwater habitat with a rich assemblage of aquatic plants.
The River Valley Floor landscapes are associated with many areas of former water meadow and much of the land adjoining the rivers remains as unimproved grassland today. Many areas of neutral floodplain grazing meadows occur such as those at Chilbolton Common and Stockbridge Common. Other areas have developed as alder and willow carr and as rush pasture following the decline of flood-meadow management. South of Romsey, much of the permanent pasture of the floodplain has been lost to arable and improved grassland although important areas of fen and grazing marsh survive in the far south.
The mosaic of habitats in the south of the Borough is influenced by the complex geology of sand, gravel and clay that mask the chalk, and also by the distinctive cultural history of the New Forest. Semi-natural broadleaved woodlands are prominent in the Mixed Farmland and Woodland – Small Scale and the Mixed Farmland and Woodland – Medium Scale Landscape Character Types. There are many ancient woodlands with a continuous history of woodland cover since at least 1600 AD. Woodlands are often associated with the heavier clay soils that are more difficult to cultivate and are dominated by oak. There has been a decline in coppice management of woodlands over the last century and there is great potential to increase the biodiversity of woodlands through improved management. Species-rich hedgerows, often associated with assarting, are an important resource linking the woodlands.
The unenclosed Heathland landscapes of the New Forest extend into the south-western part of the Borough, on Plaitford Common and West Wellow Common. The heath vegetation, dominated by heather, dwarf gorse and cross leaved heath, occurs in mosaics of acid grassland, woodland and scrub. Valleys have wetter areas due to the deposition of clayey soils and are often associated with mire habitats. Some remnants of heath vegetation are found in the adjacent enclosed landscapes of Pasture and Woodland Associated with Heathland and there is scope for restoring and extending these habitats. A good example of a heathland remnant is at Baddesley Common.
Although Test Valley Borough is a largely rural borough, there are significant urban areas at Andover, Romsey and on the fringes of Southampton. Important habitats lie in and beside these urban areas, including woodland, heath and unimproved grassland. The close interface between urban and rural landscapes is a significant feature of the Borough and there is great potential to improve the quality of these urban fringe habitats to provide benefits for biodiversity and the people living nearby. The gardens in villages and beside isolated houses across the Borough also provide significant habitats, and can be managed to support wildlife.
Test Valley Borough has many nationally significant habitats and there is great potential for increased biodiversity in the future. The Local Biodiversity Action Plan (LBAP) for the Test Valley will provide an assessment of the opportunities for improving biodiversity in the Borough. The LBAP should be used in conjunction with the Landscape Character Assessment to encourage the creation of habitats that provide benefits for biodiversity and contribute to the distinctiveness of landscapes across the Borough.
The Hunter-Gatherer Peoples of the Test Valley (750,000-6,000BC)
During the Palaeolithic (750,000-10,000BC), Hampshire and the rest of southern England was connected to the continent, allowing movement between the two during times of low sea level. Population numbers were small and people moved across their landscape living as hunter-gatherers1 (SWRC 1996:9). River valleys, such as the Test, were highly attractive to these people during this period and evidence to support this is in the form of flint artefacts and stone tools. By the end of this period temperatures began to rise leading to the development of soils and the establishment of plants. Primeval woodlands and marshes were beginning to take shape.
The onset of the Mesolithic period (10,000-6,000BC) saw the maturation of a mixed deciduous and coniferous woodland which must have covered the entire Test Valley district. The population remained small in number, consisting of nomadic hunter-gatherer groups most probably based around extended family units1. Human beings probably only had a minimal impact upon the landscape at this time although there is evidence of occupation remains and a possible structure at Broomfield, near Braishfield, where flint production was a primary industry. Members of the Test Valley Archaeology Unit and Southampton University have also excavated several hut like features dating to the later Mesolithic at Bowman’s Farm within the district. Other evidence is limited to stray finds and artifact scatters4.
The Early Farmers of the Test Valley (6,000-1,200BC
The Neolithic period (6,000-2,800BC) saw a dramatic change in the appearance of the landscape and the way people perceived, experienced and utilized the landscape. Groups became increasingly rooted to a single area or territory and increasingly relied on the new technologies of agriculture and animal husbandry for subsistence although this did not preclude the continued practice of hunting, fishing and fowling. The development of arable and pastoral farming processes required the clearance of land to fuel the agricultural economy and so much of the surviving woodland was cleared from the chalk downland.
In both the Test Valley and Hampshire as a whole, discoveries of settlements are limited. Current evidence is dominated by scattered finds of flint and pottery attributable to the widespread occupation of the chalk, where soils would have been fertile (ibid.). The clearest indicator of occupation within the district is in the monuments prepared for the dead, with long barrows dominating the northern half of the district (such as those seen on Danebury Down). Other evidence for activity comes from flint mines (e.g. Martins Clump near Over Wallop) and pottery scatters and hearths (such as those seen near Braishfield). Although it has not been conclusively proved, it is believed that occupation was generally restricted to fords across the major rivers and upon the higher chalk downland which was better drained and provided land which was easier to farm.
The forest clearance of the Neolithic period continued throughout the Bronze Age (2,800-1,200BC) and resulted in large areas of open country on the chalk. Groups also began to colonize the lower lying, less exposed areas. As with the Neolithic, evidence for actual occupation is at present scant although there are some indications of Bronze Age occupation at Danebury. Where occupation evidence has been found, it has tended to consist of small groups of buildings with no formal enclosures or defensive works. They are usually found on the chalk of the northern portion of the district, where remains are often ephemeral and much evidence must have been lost to the plough during the ensuing centuries. Such farmsteads were often associated with field systems and near areas of pasture indicating a mixed agricultural economy. Again the hypotheses rely largely upon scattered finds and the funerary monument (round barrows or tumuli) which dominate the ridgelines of the district.
Tensions and Territoriality in the Valley (1,200-44BC)
The development of iron led to widespread clearance of woodland cover on the heavier, clay soils on the lower slopes of the downs and in the river valleys. For the first time the landscape was divided into a series of fields for crops of wheat and barley. Settlement evidence has been found in the Test Valley and includes a large group of hut circles at present day Andover. The majority of evidence recovered is till from the northern section of the Test Valley.
The most notable sites at this time are the hill-forts and their surrounding landscapes, the best survivor of which is Danebury. The Danebury Environs Project has identified an intensively used landscape with fields, trackways and small settlements and the hill fort dominating the surrounding area. It is probable that other forts in the valley retained such landscapes with the main defensive elements used for storage and protection only in times of threat. These defenses are traditionally considered to be a development associated with the upland chalklands, however Woolbury can be found straddling the valley floor, masked by woodland.
The Order of Rome (44BC-AD410)
During this period woodland clearance gained a new momentum due to the increase in the population and demand for fuel, resulting in all but the heaviest soils having to be farmed, woodland being cleared and coppicing. In most areas of the country a complex patchwork of roads, villas (and their estates), farmsteads, and townships developed across Britain although the rural population may well have not encountered radical changes in their lives.
This ‘Romanisation’ of the Test Valley appears to have largely occupied the lower slopes of the downs, the river valleys and the coastal plain. Roman occupation does not appear to have significantly affected inland settlement or field systems in the Test Valley other than with the introduction of villa sites such as at Thruxton and East Anton. Other settlements may have been established close to Roman roads or where two roads intersected (ibid.). From the general evidence of the Test Valley, it would appear that this region remained largely an unchanged rural landscape.
Roman roads cross the Test Valley in a number of places. One road crossed the Test at Horsebridge, linking Winchester (the fifth largest Roman town and administrative capital) with Old Sarum, whilst another one crossed from Winchester to Cirencester, via Andover. A third linked Silchester to Old Sarum, crossing through Andover.
The Rise of Germanic and Scandinavian Influences (AD410-1066)
Woodland clearance continued at such a pace during this time that legislation was imposed to protect the woodland cover. The Saxon passion for hunting led to the formation of extensive hunting parks (‘haga’), which included the Forests of Chute, the principle hunting domain of the Saxon kings who made Andover their headquarters.
Archaeological evidence for this period is limited although it has been assumed that the majority of present day villages date to this period. In the Test Valley, rural settlement seems concentrated in the upper valleys of the Test and its tributaries and on the northern chalk land around Andover. It was at this time that the parish system evolved and parish churches appeared, such as that seen at Kings Somborne.
The Consolidation of the English State (1066-1650)
Although legislation was in place regarding forest clearance by the Middle Ages it was the Normans who introduced laws relating to the management of the forest. For the first time castles or fortified manors appeared in the landscape, for example John of Gaunt’s palace at King’s Sombourne. John of Gaunt’s deer park, west of the hunting lodge at King’s Sombourne, can still be traced and partly lies on the meadows of the River Test. Also new to the landscape was the inclusion of monastic foundations with their large complexes of stone buildings and extensive estates (e.g. Mottisont Priory).
The Middle Ages was a time of relative prosperity and rapid population growth. In the Test Valley villages continued to remain the focus for populations and outlying farms remained unusual. These villages were typically surrounded by a farming system of large open fields (such as those recorded in the Andover region), which were divided into individually owned strips which were collectively farmed.
By the 13th and 14th centuries farming practices changed from the open field system to enclosed fields. Instead of the previous domination of arable farming, sheep rearing increased in importance resulting in grazing becoming a feature of the chalk downland. Romsey, at this time, was to flourish and become an important wool center.
Early Modern Period
By the middle of the 16th century the prosperous wool trade led to an increase in the number of sheep required. This in turn fueled the need for more efficient grazing in the available space resulting in the enclosure of grazing land. Increase in numbers of stock led to a lack of late winter and early spring fodder. This resulted in the development of a system of water meadows which allowed water to run across valley bottoms early in the year and so produce an early grass crop. This new system was to have a profound affect upon the character of the river valleys, particular the River Test, where sluices are still evident.
The 18th century was a time of great change. The turn of the century saw the enclosure of fields into small, irregular shapes and the appearance of winding lanes and tracks in the landscape. Enclosures defined specific parcels of land and were constructed to identify ownership and control of a valuable commodity. The early development of enclosures was designed to remove land from the more ubiquitous common land and offered a more efficient method of farming. In the south of the Test Valley Borough there were still large areas of woodland and extensive tracts of heathland, while in the north there was both open and enclosed chalk downland. The second half of the 18th century witnessed the Agricultural Revolution and the disappearance of the common field system. Down pasture areas were converted to arable and commons and heaths were enclosed. The previously witnessed enclosure, with its irregular patterned fields, was replaced by the new enclosures which were square or rectangular fields surrounded by straight hedges of hawthorn. New wider roads, with grass verges either side replaced the winding lanes. Any remaining fields were enclosed by Parliamentary enclosure during the 19th century.
A notable change in the landscape during this period was the establishment of the 18th century country mansion situated within the landscaped park. In the Test Valley Borough the landscaped park at Broadlands proves an excellent example of this aristocratic trend and was designed by the most prominent designer of the time Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, who suggested the widening of the River Test near the house. The picturesque style, which was to follow and patroned by John Nash, was also witnessed in the Test Valley and an example can be seen at Houghton dating to the end of the 18th century.
The need to impress one’s peers in the landscaping of their estate led to a demand for exotic and selectively bred plants. This led to a number of businesses appearing to meet these demands – such as the Hillier Gardens and Arboretum, near Romsey.
The Victorian and Edwardian interest in sporting and leisure pursuits led to many belts of trees, copses and hedgerows being planted or retained as cover for game birds. Fishing was the main pursuit in the Test Valley and the River Test has become world-famous for its trout fishing.
The most apparent change in the Test Valley during this time is the changes in farming practice and the enlargement of the urban areas. New farming techniques have led to field size being expanded and downland pasture being converted to arable land. This process of agricultural improvement and intensification has also affected parts of the river valleys, specifically the lower Test Valley. This trend has begun to slow down now due to agricultural surplus and new ‘agri-environment’ policies (such as the designation of the Test Valley as an Environmentally Sensitive Area in 1988).
The Borough’s main towns and area is still experiencing significant development pressures and this has led to the ‘suburbanisation’ and loss of rural character of a number of the Borough’s villages. This is also coupled with the continuing demand for sand and gravel extraction in the south of the Borough, resulting in a dramatic change in the appearance of the landscape.
Historic Landscape Character Assessment
General trends have become apparent throughout the Borough during the course of the historic landscape character assessment. The geological zones present within the Borough appear to also determine in basic terms the historic character of the landscape with the interface between the two ‘zones’ defined by the chalk/clay spring line villages. To the north of this interface lies the higher ground of the chalk upland zone largely dominated by eighteenth and nineteenth century parliamentary field systems. The design and development of such field systems and the surveyed tracks and roads associated with them have removed large swathes of the earlier historic landscape. Some discrete pockets do continue to survive, most notably in a corridor to the northwest of Andover and in the northeastern corner of the Borough. Here a patchwork of smaller, less regular fields dating to either the medieval or early post-medieval period, along with smaller assarted fields with some stands of pre-1810 woodland are generally located upon capping deposits of clay with flints.
To the south of the chalk-clay spring line interface, the clays and gravels dominate with a lower lying topography. The geology and topography have greatly influenced the development of the historic landscape character in this area, as has the close proximity of the Royal hunting grounds within the New Forest. In fact, between 1221 and 1280 part of the Borough lay within the boundaries of the Royal Forest and so fell within forest law. Today the forest lies to the southwest of the Borough although its influence upon the development of the landscape is still clearly visible. Within this portion of the Borough smaller, irregular shaped field systems dating to the early post-medieval period and smaller assarted fields cut from the previously forested environment survive to produce a patchwork of field systems cut by narrow lanes many of which provided access to and from the ancient forest farmlands and common land within the New Forest.
To the east of the New Forest the landscape has been heavily impacted by rapid urbanisation during the later nineteenth and twentieth centuries associated largely with the develop of the Southampton conurbation. Areas of larger assarted fields and plantations are to be found within and between the agglomerated settlements although these features are predominantly associated with landscape change during the nineteenth century.
The River Test has given its name to the Borough and this major river with its associated tributaries flows through the Borough in a north south direction. Towards the south of the valley it was probably navigable from the prehistoric through to the medieval period maybe as far as Stockbridge. For almost its entire length, the river Test retains some evidence of its role in the development of water meadow systems during principally the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Other smaller rivers also permitted the design and construction of water meadow systems which provided protection to new grass from late frosts and permitted a second crop for fodder. These systems played a crucial role in the agricultural revolution during the later post-medieval period and resulted in the considerable remodelling of much of the river valley system within the Borough. Many of these systems survive today as earthworks, drainage ditches and often isolated structures.
In conclusion, the Test Valley borough retains pockets of medieval/early post-medieval landscape elements within the southern portion of the Borough and to the north west and northeast of Andover. Elsewhere, the field systems are dominated by eighteenth and nineteenth century field systems which have by and large cleared away much of the earlier historic landscape. This development often represented a large scale redesigning of the landscape and so its impact upon earlier elements was often more far reaching than previous, piecemeal landscape change. It is for this reason that the south western, north eastern and north western portions of the district retain greater historic landscape diversity with a melange of landscape elements implemented often on an ad hoc basis.
Today little evidence remains of the prehistoric, Romano-British and early medieval settlements which must have been present within the Test Valley borough. Often these survive as archaeological deposits below the ground or as discrete earthworks and some were the precursor to the development of later medieval settlements. This was particularly the case in especially favourable locations close by springs and fertile agricultural land or at the fording points of larger rivers. Given the, often only, fragmentary survival of settlement evidence up to the fourteenth century, little has been invested within this study concerning the hypothetical development of earlier settlements across the Test Valley. The earliest standing structure within a settlement is usually the parish church, often such a building in the Borough was the only stone built structure in a settlement during the early medieval period. Given the wealth of the church much time, labour and money has been invested in these structures with rebuilding and renovation being carried out and changing architectural styles reflected in their often eclectic nature. For an interesting discussion on early settlement development and change please refer to Monograph No.1 of the Hampshire Field Club and archaeological Society entitled ‘The Archaeology of Hampshire,’ edited by Shennan and Schadla Hall.
General settlement patterns within the Borough are inevitably dominated by the principal waterways which flow through the area. Consequently the three major settlements (Andover, Romsey and Stockbridge) are all located either on or close by the river Test. These waterways provided drinking water, often removed sewage from the vicinity of the settlement, irrigated nearby field systems and on wider rivers provided a reliable method for transporting heavy loads. Of the ten settlement types used to inform this study, the majority of settlements were classified as chalk river valley type. The early development of the majority of settlement types (nine out of the ten types listed) was strongly influenced by the physical characteristics of the landscape. In many cases the topography of the landscape and the presence of natural resources were crucial to the survival and development of settlements. Estate village settlement types are the only group to rely predominantly upon human factors for at least their development during the post-medieval period serving and servicing as they did many of the larger estates which developed throughout the Borough during this period.
In general the settlements within the southern portion of the Borough and particularly close to the Southampton conurbation have witnessed the greatest change during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Increasingly these settlements were either consumed within Southampton or one of its larger satellite settlements or were developed as commuter (dormitory) settlements during the later twentieth century. This process has resulted in widespread settlement expansion and, up until recently, the removal of historic buildings within the historic cores of many settlements. Further north the impact of settlement expansion during the later post-medieval period was substantially less with the notable exception around the principal valley floor settlements of Romsey and Andover.
Settlement development during the medieval period appears to have focused upon a nucleated form, often with a central open space or at the juncture of several roads. The church may or may not have been the focus as in some instances this was located some way from the settlement associated with the manorial complex. Later expansion during seventeenth to early twentieth centuries saw the redevelopment of many smaller settlement centres combined with linear development of housing along the principal roads leading into settlements. Later twentieth century settlement development tended to result in small scale linear expansion along existing roads or a return to larger nucleated ‘estate’ adjuncts to existing settlements. These more modern developments often included provision for further facilities to reduce pressure on existing services and were connected to the existing communication network by new roads.