|LCT3 Mixed Farmland and Woodland - Medium Scale||
LCA3B Melchet and Awbridge Wooded Farmland
Melchet and Awbridge Wooded Farmland is a mixed landscape of large areas of woodland including plantations and large open areas of arable farmland with a poor quality hedgerow structure with contrasting areas containing small woodlands, small fields and better quality hedgerows with hedgerow trees.
The designed grounds/parkland of Melchet Park has a strong influence on the west end of this landscape, with its post-1810 designed parkland features. These include open areas of grassland with clumps and single trees, small woodlands and shelterbelts.
A number of old mineral workings are evident, as seen to the north east of Carter’s Clay. The smaller of these have generally regenerated as small woodland copses and the larger pits left to fill with water, which are now small lakes or ponds. Present day mineral extraction is evident to the east of Carter’s Clay and to the south east of Shootash.
Melchet and Awbridge Wooded Farmland is a long linear character area, which wraps around from Melchet Court in the west, to the north above Sherfield English and north and east of Awbridge Danes, down southwards to the River Blackwater west of the River Test Valley.
Local Physical Influences
Geology and Soils: The area is complex mix of mainly plateau gravels and Brackelsham Beds with Reading Beds. An intrusion of London Clay extends from LCA4A to Carter’s Clay and Melchet Court together with an intrusion of Bagshot Sands west of Awbridge.
Landform: The landform is more steeply undulating than other character areas within this landscape type, with steep slopes falling to the River Test and River Dun.
Drainage: Within the valleys leading down to the River Test, there are a number of stream fed lakes, as seen to the north of Hyde Farm, east of Lower Ratley, and at Stanbridge Earls. Along the western edge of this LCA there are a number of springs, where the impervious sands and clays of this LCA meets the porous chalk further to the west.
Local Biodiversity and Vegetation Pattern
Melchet and Awbridge Wooded Farmland is predominantly improved pasture and arable farmland, divided by hedgerows. Several areas of broadleaved woodland are found in this area. Oak is the most common tree species, with abundant Birch. Ash is uncommon and Field Maple is rare. Sweet chestnut is also locally abundant and has often been planted as coppice. Other trees found in low frequencies include Holly, Whitebeam, Beech, Geum, and Rowan. Damper soils have Alder and Poplar. The shrub layers usually have abundant Hazel and Hawthorn. Ground flora includes Bluebell, Wood Anemone, Red Campion, Honeysuckle, Bramble, Woodruff, Wood Sorrel, Dog Violet, Wood Spurge, Twayblade and Greater Stitchwort. Typical orchids include Lesser Butterfly Orchid, Early Purple Orchid, Narrow-leaved Helleborine.
Occasional areas of important mesotrophic grasslands are found in this area. They are dominated by fine-leaved grasses such as Red Fescue, Crested Dogs-tail and Velvet Bent. Coarser grasses such as Cocksfoot and Yorkshire Fog are not so frequent. There is a variety of flowering plants that in some cases can comprise a substantial proportion of the herbage. This include White Clover, Red Clover, Birds-foot Trefoil, Knapweed, Bulbous Buttercup, Yarrow, Yellow Rattle, Selfheal and Oxeye Daisy. Typical orchids include Bee Orchid, Common Spotted Orchid, Pyramidal Orchid, and Early Purple Orchid.
Other notable habitats include occasional patches of lowland heath dominated by heather, together with mosaics of acid grassland, patchy woodland and scrub. Some of the valleys have wet areas. Ancient and semi-natural woodlands link with hedgerows and provide an important resource.
Local Historical Influences
Melchet and Awbridge Wooded Farmland retains extensive evidence of assarting within a forested environment and the range and type of assarted fields suggests that this activity has been taking place throughout the late medieval and post-medieval periods. The medieval deer park at Melchet Park (c.1259) appears to have been assarted during the later medieval period with small irregular portions parceled off and cleared for arable agriculture. The regular fields with wavy boundaries also associated with Melchet Park may indicate the rationalization of the deer park and on large scale during the late medieval/early post-medieval period through informal enclosure. This differs from the creation of small irregular assarts in size and scale and may represent a large landowner wishing to rationalize their landholdings at a time when large deer parks were becoming increasingly costly and out of fashion.
Further away from the deer park large irregular and regular assarts (with straight boundaries) are indicative of later post-medieval forest clearance (during the 18th/19th and 19th/20th centuries respectively). There appears to have been only limited parliamentary enclosure during the 19th century which tended to focus upon the lower slopes of the valley of the River Test and towards the northern end of this character area to the north of Sherfield English and Awbridge.
The majority of the settlements within this Landscape Character Area are generally small in size and tend to retain evidence of only nineteenth and twentieth century development. Lockerley does retain a historic core although this settlement is somewhat dispersed in nature. The settlements dominated by recent, nineteenth century expansion tends to be linear in form and extend along the main roads which extend through this Landscape Character Area.
The smaller field systems at the eastern end of this character area retain a relatively densely packed pattern of farmsteads and this extends into the system of parliamentary enclosures south of Carters Clay. To the east the density of farmsteads decreases along the banks of the river Test and at the southern end of the character area.
This is a settled landscape with a variety of settlement types. There are a small number of scattered nucleated settlements, for example Lockerley, Carter’s Clay and Newton. Other settlements, which constitute farms, farm cottages and small linear arrangements of Victorian development are seen to be intermittent in character often leading out from defined nucleated settlements or occurring in a scattered fashion.
A high density of roads cover this area, with the A27 and the wide A3090 to the south. In the north the roads have a more rural character which are winding, narrower and with lower volumes of traffic.
Local Settlements and Features of Built Form
Awbridge: Clay Lowland Settlement Type
Carters Clay: Clay Lowland Settlement Type
Critchell’s Green: Clay Lowland Settlement Type
Lockerley (South Eastern Portion): Clay Lowland Settlement Type
Newtown: Clay Lowland Settlement Type
Melchet Court: Common Edge Settlement Type
Kimbridge: Clay River Valley Settlement Type
Traditional styles of built form include brick walls with clay tile roofs and clay tile hanging.
Very few comments have been made specifically relating to this area but there is a perception of a lack of opportunity to access the countryside in the area with some support for a country park. Even the Test Way, which passes through the area, is not perceived as providing access to the river.
Restoration of mineral sites is considered a particularly important issue.
Remoteness and Tranquillity
The complex character of the small valleys, ridges with a high density of woodlands has created numerous pockets of areas of high tranquillity. The levels of tranquillity adjacent to mineral extraction will be affected by intrusion and activity.
Although Melchet and Awbridge Wooded Farmland is well settled, the existing settlements and areas of individual dwellings are on the whole well integrated within the landscape, maintaining a sense of seclusion. However, within those areas of linear development, which create the perception of a higher density of development, this sense of remoteness is lost.
A landscape of contrasts, with areas of a small intimate scale alongside areas with a more open character
Valleys with lakes leading down to the River Test Valley
Open areas of mineral extraction
High density of leafy rural lanes and many footpaths
A variety of settlement types with linear settlements predominating
Hedgerows are an local important feature but their quality is very variable
Patches of lowland heath and valley wetlands
The forested environment has had a significant impact upon the development of the historic landscape
The presence of the medieval deer park at Melchet resulted in the late medieval/early post-medieval development of a relatively more intensive arable landscape immediately around the park boundaries
The parks at Melchet and Stanbridge Earls
Limited parliamentary enclosure focusing upon the area around the River Test and in the western and northern portions of the character area.
Local Natural and Cultural Landscape Issues
Infill development along roads with already a high percentage of ribbon development
Restoration of areas of mineral extraction
Declining hedgerow quality
Potential erosion of landscape from new mineral workings
Further rationalization and opening out of the assarted field systems in the northern and western portions of the character area
Potential inclusion of a large part of the area at Melchet Park within the New Forest National Park and increase in demand for recreational facilities.
New Forest Heritage Area: Area to the south of Plaitford Green
Melchet Court and Park Grade II* Listed Building with Grade II Listed Building features
SSSI / SAC
Whiteparish Common - Broadleaved semi-natural woodland
Dunbridge Pit (<10% of SSSI) - Broadleaved woodland, and mixed plantation
River Test (<1% of SSSI) - Improved grassland and broadleaved semi-natural woodland
49 SINCs, mainly ancient semi-natural woodlands, other woodlands and agriculturally unimproved grasslands; also sites which support notable species, flushes and a heatland remnant