|LCT7 Semi Enclosed and Clay Farmland||
LCA7C Linkenholt Downs
Linkenholt Downs has a rising landform from the River Swift at around 100m to the ridgeline at Rockmore Down (230m) across to the settlement of Linkenholt (200m) and the domed Heaven Hill at 197m.
The topography is a result of the underlying chalk, which is responsible for the system of dry river valleys and the Clay and Flint which produces the softer ridgelines as seen south of Netherton Hanging Copse. Defined dry ‘V’ shaped river valleys align in a north southerly direction leading down to the Valley of the River Swift. Scarps are limited to the east of this Landscape Character Area with one sinuous scarp found located at Sidley Bottom. This scarp has a mixed covering of woodland and grassland.
A mix of large tracts of open arable fields, predominantly found on the ridges of clay and flint, for example to the west of Lower Doiley Farm, contrast with smaller pasture fields associated with settlements, as seen within the valley leading up from The Dene and the settlement of Littledown.
Wilster Copse forms the largest woodland within this LCA, with other woodlands forming small copses and spinneys, which are then linked together by hedgerows of varying thickness. Towards the west, the landscape is dominated by smaller hedged arable fields.
Linkenholt Downs is located within the northern part of the Borough, to the north of the road which links Vernham Dean to Upton, and the northern edge of the river valley of the River Swift. The northern boundary is formed by the ridgeline which links Linkenholt to Netherton Hanging Copse and the southern side of Faccombe Wood.
Local Physical Influences
Geology and Soils: Upper chalk with scattered Clay with Flints. Middle Chalk with Valley Gravel in dry valley north of Hurstbourne Tarrant.
Landform: Gently undulating landform rising to over 200m (the highest point in the Borough) in the north-west.
Drainage: Well drained, and within River Swift catchment area.
Local Biodiversity and Vegetation Pattern
This area is principally arable farmland and unimproved grassland, divided by hedgerows. There are important patches of ancient semi-natural woodland and the hedgerow structure provides some linkages between areas of woodland. The woodlands are mostly small copses and game spinneys and shelter belts. 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 occasional remnants 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 surviving historic landscape of Landscape Character Area 7C is largely that of 19th century parliamentary enclosure. These field systems occupy the bottom of the dry valley, the valley sides and the flanking upland within this area of the district.
The north western end of this area retained elements of the earlier small regular field systems with wavy boundaries indicative of later 17th and 18th century informal enclosure and some remnants of assarting. Also present were stands of pre-1810 woodland and some 19th century plantations, possibly part of Chute Forest.
At the south eastern end of the Landscape Character Area are a series of open prairie fields.
The village settlement pattern within this area has developed relatively little since the medieval and early post-medieval period. These settlements appear to be focused upon a nucleus such as a church or manor farm. Only at Linkenholt has the settlement extended in a linear progression during the later post-medieval period.
Farmsteads throughout the major portion of this area are well dispersed within the area of 19th century parliamentary enclosure. This pattern is repeated within the small area of large irregular assarts at the north western end of the area.
A number of settlements occupy the sheltered valleys, for example Vernham Dean, while others such as Linkenholt and Littledown are located on the ridges.
There is a good network of roads predominantly following ridges and valleys orientated in a north south direction. A number of shorter roads cross the landform additionally linking settlements.
Local Settlements and Features of Built Form
Hurstbourne Tarrant: Chalk River Valley Settlement Type
Linkenholt: Chalk Downland. Hilltop Settlement Type
Littledown: Chalk Downland. Hilltop Settlement Type
Vernham Street: Chalk Downland. Hilltop Settlement Type
Vernham Dean: Chalk Downland. Dry Valley Settlement Type
The built form includes brick and flint, chalk cob and thatch with some timber framing in older buildings.
Few comments were made for this area, with sporting and equestrian activity being noted.
Remoteness and Tranquillity
A rural landscape with remote valleys and ridges, creating a landscape with areas of high levels of tranquillity.
Varied downland topography of steep valleys with softer ridges
Dry V shaped river valleys
Small copses and spinneys are linked together across the landscape by thick hedgerows and in places shelter belts
Remnants of unimproved calcareous grassland
Large tracts of open arable land with smaller fields close to settlements
Small hedged arable fields in the west
Intrusive overhead pylons
A remote landscape, with a number of inaccessible valleys
19th century parliamentary enclosure abounds within this area although some earlier 17th and 18th century informal enclosure do survive at the north western end of the character area
Well dispersed farmstead pattern
Predominantly medieval settlement pattern only modified at Linkenholt.
Local Natural and Cultural Landscape Issues
Protection of historic settlement pattern
Vulnerability to visual intrusion due to openness of landscape.
Vernham Manor House Medieval garden Listed Grade II on the English Heritage Register of Historic Parks and Gardens Grade II* Listed Building
Combe Wood & Linkenholt Hanging (<1% of SSSI) - Broadleaved woodland
15 SINCs, mostly ancient semi-natural woodland and some agriculturally unimproved grassland
North Wessex Downs AONB.