|LCT6 Enclosed Chalk and Clay Woodland||
LCA6B Compton with Parnholt and Michelmersh Woods
Compton with Parnholt and Michelmersh Woods has a typical rolling and undulating chalk downland topography, rising above the valley of the River Test (at around 30m) through a series of distinctive dry valleys to a higher level in the east at 160m.
The woodlands vary in size from the largest Parnholt Wood (mainly plantation) to smaller copses, such as Stubbs Copse. A number of woodlands also occupy the more inaccessible and uncultivable slopes creating long sinuous wooded areas within the landscape i.e. Horse Lynch and Baileys Down. These areas of woodlands are then linked across the landscape by shelterbelts and a variety of hedgerows leading to a complex landscape of openness and enclosure.
Towards the western edge of this LCA, along the edge of the River Test valley, adjacent to the A3057 there are a number of active and disused quarries. Also in the Far Western corner is Compton Manor with an associated area of designed parkland.
Compton with Parnholt and Michelmersh Woods lies to the east of the River Test valley to the north east of Michelmersh, extending to the Borough boundary at Bailey’s Down.
Local Physical Influences
Geology and Soils: Upper Chalk overlain in some areas of higher ground by Clay with Flints.
Landform: The more gentle ridgelines are associated with the overlying Clay with Flints eg. the ridgeline to the northwest of Eldon House, and to the east of Bull Grove Copse. On the exposed Upper Chalk, there is a more dramatic landform as, for example, south of Compton House leading up to Lower Eldon Farm.
Drainage: The area drains westwards into the River Test and is characterised by an absence of streams and waterbodies.
Local Biodiversity and Vegetation Pattern
This area has some open arable areas but has a large incidence of woodland and hedgerows.
The hedgerow structure is relatively intact and links with areas of ancient semi-natural woodland. The woodlands vary from small copses and game spinneys to shelter belts and larger woodlands ie Parnholt Wood. Most of the ancient semi-natural woodland is dominated by Ash with some Oak where the presence of Oak indicates more acidic pockets of soil. Ash is the most common tree species with Field Maple and Yew. 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. 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 Birds-Nest Orchid
Other notable habitats include small pockets of unimproved calcareous grassland, that are typically a rich mixture of grasses and herbs and are characteristic of a vegetation with a long history of grazing. The grasslands are dominated by fine-leaved grasses such as Sheep’s Fescue and Red Fescue with Velvet Bent, and there is a variety of flowering plants that comprise a substantial proportion of the herbage, these include Salad Burnett, Selfheal, Birds-Foot Trefoil, Harebells, Lady’s Bedstraw, Devils-Bit Scabious. Less frequent plants include Fairy Flax, Gentian, Eyebright, Kidney Vetch and Stemless Thistle. Typical orchids include Bee Orchid, Common Spotted Orchid, Pyramidal Orchid, Early Purple Orchid, Fragrant Orchid, Green-winged Orchid, Burnt Orchid, Frog Orchid. Chalk grasslands are noted for their rich floristic diversity and also for their invertebrate populations.
Local Historical Influences
The central and eastern portion of Compton with Parnholt and Michelmersh Woods represent a largely upland environment and are dominated by the presence of numerous large irregular assarted fields with some small stands of trees and copses associated. A break in slope occurs between the upland assarted fields and the valley side parliamentary and prairie fields and this is best demonstrated where Michelmersh and Casbrook Common dominate the scarp.
The western end of this area begins to slope down to the valley floor of the River Test. Where the land drops to the valley floor, parliamentary and prairie fields dominate the historic landscape of the character area.
The northern portion of LCA 6B retains a significant amount of woodland and some associated assarting. Some parliamentary field enclosure and the later development of prairie field within the upland areas in the north of LCA 6B can possibly be attributed to the actions of Compton Manor which lies partially within this area.
The settlement is limited to the small hamlet of Furzedown and isolated farmsteads predominantly located on the south facing slopes throughout the area. A series of well-dispersed farmsteads sit within the open areas of arable fields. Few farmsteads lie within the area of large irregular assarts along the southern boundary of this character area. It is assumed that the farms to which these fields belong lie nearby in adjacent areas.Features of Built Form
Traditional building styles include brick and brick and flint walls with thatch and slate roofs. Tile hanging and timber cladding are also common.
Few comments were made on this area during the consultations. The fields were not considered to be ‘prairie’ like and there were questions raised as to whether there had traditionally been hedgerows on the open downs. Scrub invasion was raised as a problem.
Remoteness and Tranquillity
Away from the A3057, Compton with Parnholt and Michelmersh Woods has a quiet remoteness and tranquillity due to the undulating landform, high covering of woodland and sparsely settled character.
Undulating chalk downland topography
Distinctive dry valleys
Large areas of woodland, semi - natural and plantation, often sinuous following the line of steeper slopes
Active and disused quarries along the boundary with the Test Valley floor, as at Brook, often screened by surrounding vegetation
Pockets of unimproved calcareous grassland
Variety of shelter belts and hedgerows
Good covering of Public Rights of Way
There is a clear distinction between the upland assarted field systems (the result of forest clearance) and the valley side landscape where parliamentary and prairie fields abound
This difference represents historically different approach to farming within the topography of the Test Valley and its flankin
35 SINCs including ancient semi-natural woodland and agriculturally unimproved grasslandg upland environments
Well dispersed farmsteads and little settlement.
Local Natural and Cultural Landscape Issues
Possible development of larger prairie type field systems within the upland areas this assarted landscape which is quite clearly associated with it upland context.
35 SINCs including ancient semi-natural woodland and agriculturally unimproved grassland