LCT12 Bourne Valley  

LCA12A River Swift Valley

LCA MapGeneral Description

The River Swift Valley is a shallow narrow winterbourne valley, typical of this part of the North Wessex Downs.


The River Swift Valley runs along the valley floor from Upton Down to Hurstbourne Tarrant.

Local Physical Influences

Geology and soils: Valley Gravels flanked by Middle Chalk.

Landform: Narrow valley, flanked by the adjacent winding steeper slopes of the exposed Middle Chalk.

Drainage: Winterbourne with the stream emerging intermittently along the valley.

Biodiversity and Vegetation Pattern

This is a landscape type that is typical to chalk downlands. It is a stream valley that has an seasonal water flow yet maintains a high groundwater water table giving a distinctive type of vegetation. It is usually classed a wet mesotrophic grassland, as during wet summers there could be a continual flow of water. Due to their unpredictable nature the valley bottoms are always kept as pasture. Arable farming is found on higher ground. Fields are divided by hedgerows, and there are occasional patches of broadleaved woodland and scrub.

There is a diverse flora and fauna in these habitats associated with seasonal or permanent waterlogging. Such meadows 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.

Local Historic Influences

The valley sides of the Bourne Rivulet have been completely given over to later 18th and 19th century parliamentary field systems. A single catchwork water meadow (Type 1) is evident immediately to the south east of Hurstbourne Tarrant.

Settlement Pattern

This Landscape Character Area is largely occupied by the large linear settlement of Hurstbourne Tarrant which is centered upon the intersection of two roads and has developed subsequently along each of these roads. The historic core of the Hurstbourne Tarrant is located at the T-junction formed by the intersection of the two roads and later post-medieval development has extended largely up the valley sides and along the valley floor.

The smaller village of Ibthorpe is located at the north western end of the valley floor. A minor road extends down the valley to meet with Hurstbourne Tarrant to the south east and post-medieval settlement has extended along this road to join with its larger neighbour.

Lower Farm located immediately to the south of Hurstbourne Tarrant if the only farmstead to occupy this character area.

Local Settlements and Features of Built Form

Hurstbourne Tarrant: Chalk River Valley Settlement Type
Ibthorpe: Chalk River Valley Settlement Type
Upton: Chalk River Valley Settlement Type

Buildings are largely of the local vernacular brick and flint and tile and slate roofs, with some thatch.

Community Perceptions

No particular comments were made for this area.

Remoteness and Tranquility

With the exception of the area at the junction at Hurstbourne Tarrant, the river valley is quiet and secluded. The pastures have an air of older pastoral landscapes.

Key Characteristics

Narrow river valley
High groundwater levels giving rise to wet mesotrophic grassland and diversity of flora and fauna
Fields retained as pasture due to recurrent waterlogging
19th century Parliamentary enclosures flank the Bourne Rivulet
A single catchwork water meadow surviving at the south eastern end of the bourne
Hurstbourne Tarrant extends across the valley floor with 19th century development extending up the valley sides along the main road
Area of intimate quiet seclusion
Views up the valley and valley sides.

Local Natural and Cultural Landscape Issues

Increased need for water abstraction leading to wet grasslands and woodlands drying out causing a reduction in biodiversity and a downwards movement of the spring head
Increased silt loading through erosion of previously permanent pasture
Scrub and reed encroachment through changes in land management
Loss of unimproved mesotrophic grassland to arable or through application of fertilisers
Loss of water meadow
Enrichment of the stream through aqua culture ventures (water cress beds).


Nature conservation


1 SINC (Upton meadows), an agriculturally unimproved grassland

Volume 2: LCA12A Strategies and Guidelines

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