|LCT5 River Valley Floor||
LCA5B Middle Test Valley Floor
The middle stretch of the River Test forms a flat valley floor, narrower than the Lower Test Floodplain and contained by valley terraces and the shoulders of the chalk hills. It is a strongly pastoral and tranquil landscape with many remnants of past traditional agricultural practices such as water meadows and commons.
Its settlements are generally small and even. Stockbridge is well contained on the valley floor, retaining its historical form. Other forms of development are limited.
Middle Test Valley Floor covers the stretch of the river from the north west of Romsey to Fullerton.
Local Physical Influences
Landform: Flat valley bottom with adjacent valley sides steeper to the east, north of Michelmersh. From King’s Somborne northwards, the broad slopes of the chalk downlands to the east and west enclose the valley.
Geology and Soils: Alluvium with strips of Valley Gravels at the edge of the valley.
Drainage: Broad valley dominated by the River Test (including its confluence with the River Dun, the King’s Somborne river and the Wallop Brook), which is braided into several streams, some of which have engineered profile in the south of the area. Lakes, formed from former gravel pits, lie at Timsbury and Houghton.
Biodiversity and Vegetation Pattern
The area has a diverse flora and fauna and supports a range of wet carr woodland as well as ancient semi-natural woodland and agriculturally unimproved grassland. Typically the woodlands are found on more calcareous soils and are generally dominated by Ash with Field Maple and Yew in the drier areas. Other trees found in low frequencies include Lime, Hornbeam and Elm. The shrub layers are generally composed of Hazel, Elder, Blackthorn, Dogwood, Spindle and Privet. Typically Hazel was planted as a coppice crop. Wetter areas are dominated by Alder and Poplar.
Ground flora includes Dogs Mercury, with Bluebells, Enchanters Nightshade, Arum Lily, Early Dog Violet, Yellow Archangel, Sanicle, Moschatel, and Pignut. Wetter areas often have dense covers of Ransoms/Wild Garlic. Typical orchids include Early Purple Orchid, Twayblade and Birds-nest Orchid
The wet meadows are classed as agriculturally unimproved mesotrophic grasslands and are often typified as traditional grazed hay meadows. They are dominated by fine-leaved grasses such as Red Fescue, Crested Dogs-tail and Velvet Bent. There is a diverse range of flowering plants that can comprise a substantial proportion of the herbage, and can frequently include 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. This area also supports the globally rare Southern Damselfly.
Local Historical Influences
The Middle Test Landscape Character Area was dominated by a patchwork of water meadow systems during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Today the remains of these systems, their associated structures, earthworks and enclosure boundaries survive in varying degrees of completeness. The water meadow resulted in a dramatic restructuring of the valley floor landscape and indeed prompted the removal of much earlier valley floor enclosure and common land. Today, the common land of Stockbridge Common survives and is owned and managed by the National Trust. To the south the River Test was slightly less well provided with water meadows and particularly to the south of Romsey. Within this portion of the river all types of water meadow are to be found and there may well be early eighteenth century examples surviving across the flood plain.
Early presumably medieval roads extend up along the valley following the contours of the first river terrace. These cross the valley at fording and bridging points and here settlements have developed to take advantage of this. The main route however extended north south along the valley floor heading from Romsey north to Stockbridge and Andover. Further up the valley slopes of this LCA the historic character reflects the nature of the surrounding landscape away from the valley. In the south this is one of smaller assarted fields and informal enclosure while to the north on the chalk geology later parliamentary field systems dominate. These historic forms extend down onto both sides of the valley slope.
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. Such settlements as at Stockbridge tend to be linear in nature, strung out across both river banks but generally remain close to the bridges or fording point rather than extending up the valley side and away from the river.
Settlements were originally small nucleated villages traditionally perched on the gravel shelf just above the valley bottom or along the valley sides. However recent development has created a more linear form along the valley sides, for example at Timsbury. Stockbridge is the principal settlement within this LCA and is located on the valley floor.
Very few farms occupy the valley floor of this character area and are instead generally located upon or above 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
Horsebridge: Chalk River Valley Settlement Type
Kimbridge Chalk River Valley Settlement Type
Stockbridge: Chalk River Valley Settlement Type
Timsbury (South western portion): Chalk River Valley Settlement Type