|LCT5 River Valley Floor||
LCA5A Lower Test Floodplain
The Lower Test Floodplain is a complex meandering and braided river system, with slow moving water and a well-developed aquatic plant and animal communities fed by a constant fresh supply of clear spring water. The valley floor tends to be broad and open framed by the intimate enclosed wooded landscape of LCA3.
This is a wide area of flood plain with a strong tidal influence, from Southampton and Totton, north to Romsey, while its southern edge is formed by the River Blackwater. The lower reaches are typified by lowlying reedbeds that are regularly inundated at the tidal peak. Above Totton the floodplain has more agricultural use with small fields used for pasture and crops such as sweet corn. Testwood and Broadlands Lakes are of great importance in the area particularly for overwintering waders and ducks.
The Lower Test Valley Floor covers the stretch of the river from north of Totton to the railway line north east of Romsey.
Local Physical Influences
Landform: A flat landscape with steeper valley sides to the west.
Geology and Soils: Alluvium with Plateau Gravels along the eastern fringes south of Romsey.
Drainage: Broad river plain dominated by the River Test. The River Blackwater bounds the character area along its southern boundary. Numerous ditches and streams in the southern part of the area, with several lakes formed out of former gravel workings, as at Broadlands.
Local Biodiversity and Vegetation Pattern
The area has an important flora and fauna particularly in regard to its aquatic and associated habitats. Many of the wet meadows have been left as pasture as they are less suitable for cropping, due to the lowlying flood plain and its high water table. They are classed as agriculturally unimproved mesotrophic grasslands and are often typified as traditional grazed hay meadows and 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. 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, 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
The river within these lower reaches was and continues to be navigable by small to medium river craft and must have provided a valuable transport route to and from the coast. The main roads within the valley floor extend along the either side of the river with several main crossing points present throughout the LCA.
The banks of the river within this LCA are dominated by miscellaneous valley floor enclosures with some limited bedwork water meadow systems on its eastern banks close to the first river terrace point. 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.
Immediately to the south of Romsey and within this LCA lies the Broadlands Estate, traditional family home of the Mountbatten family. This estate is a discrete element within the surrounding historic landscape and represents the post 1810 development of a designed parkland landscape.
Settlements within the floodplain of the River Test are generally located at bridging or fording points across the river channel. In these areas the benefits of location for trade, river control and transport purposes outweigh the problems caused by excessive damp and periodic flooding. The only settlement located at least partially within this LCA is Romsey which in places extends out onto the lower lying valley floor of the River Test.
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
Nursling (Western portion): Heath Associated Settlement Type
As a part of the River Test valley system, this area is of particular local importance.
There is a good general awareness and pride in the history of this area with reference to Romsey and Broadlands but few other comments have been made specifically relating to this area. There is a general perception of a lack of opportunity to access the countryside 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.
Remoteness and Tranquillity
Due to the lack of development the Test River Valley Floor 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
Wide flat floodplain with a strong tidal influence
Lower reaches are typified by low lying reedbeds and marshes that are regularly inundated at the tidal peak
The visual impact of overhead power lines and the M27
Areas of unimproved grassland and marshland
Road system that follows gravel terraces which define the transition from valley floor to valley sides
A predominantly undeveloped valley floor north of the M27
Settlements limited to farmsteads
Surviving remains of bedwork water meadows upon the floodplain
Influence of urban fringe uses at Nursling south of the M27
19th century parkland, which includes landscape grounds and associated features.
Local Natural and Cultural Landscape Issues
Agricultural rationalization and future development on the valley floors may threaten the survival of water meadow earthworks on marginal land
Threat of flooding and impact of fluctuation in tidaln patterns as a result of climatic change
Sensitivity to changes in the landform and riverine habitats, eg. from flood defence projects, along the principal river channels including the Test
Visual intrusion and impact on the adjacent rural character from development in the adjoining urban area and the M27.
Broadlands Park and House Grade I Listed Building and listed as Grade II on the English Heritage Register of Historic Parks and Gardens.
Solent Maritime - Unimproved grasland, running water and marginal vegetation
Lower Test Valley (<50% of SSSI) - Unimproved grassland and some woodland and reedbed
River Test (<10% of SSSI) - Running water and marginal vegetation including woodland and unimproved grassland
9 SINCs, mainly agriculturally unimproved grassland, wet grassland; also fens and some broadleaved semi-natural woodland