Settled Ancient Pastures
14. SETTLED ANCIENT PASTURES
Regional Character Areas
This landscape type includes areas around East End, North Leigh, New Yatt and Leafield, as well as the area around Chadlington to the north of the River Evenlode.
A small-scale settled landscape with a rolling topography, characterised mainly by a pattern of pasture fields bordered by mature hedgerow trees.
• Rolling landform with minor valleys and streams.
• Dense hedgerow trees and a range of woodland types.
• Small, irregularly-shaped fields enclosed by tall thick hedges.
• A dispersed settlement pattern of villages, hamlets and farmsteads.
Geology and landform
The area to the south of the River Evenlode is part of the Cotswold dipslope. The rolling landform is largely associated with the hard limestone of the Great Oolite. Oxford Clay, overlying the limestone bed, covers the area around North Leigh and part of the area around Leafield. To the north, the river cuts through the limestone, exposing the lower geological strata of the Lower, Middle and Upper Lias clays, siltstones and shales. The lower slopes are dominated by the clays of the lower Lias.
The rolling landform is obvious throughout the landscape type, except in the area around North Leigh where it is obscured by the dense tree cover. Around Hailey, to the west of East End, and to the north of the River Evenlode the landform is dissected by narrow, steep-sided valleys with streams feeding into the main rivers.
Land use and vegetation
Land uses are mixed but semi-improved, permanent pasture is particularly prominent on steeper banks and around the villages of Hailey and East End. Arable cropping is found to the west of Crawley and around Chadlington. Unimproved calcareous grassland and bracken can occasionally be seen along road verges. There are a number of small copses and plantations and the occasional, medium to large-sized block of ancient woodland. The valleys are frequently dominated by semi-natural woodland and scrub. Dense rows of crack willow and ash border the streams. Collectively, these features characterise the landscape and add to the overall sense of enclosure.
There is a distinctive pattern of small to medium-sized, irregular fields that are predominantly pastureland and an irregular pattern of narrow roads and lanes. Fields are enclosed by a prominent hedgerow pattern of tall thick hedges. They are mainly hawthorn and blackthorn, but species such as dogwood, field maple, elm and hazel were also recorded in places. Species-rich hedges are largely associated with field boundaries bordering roads and tracks around North Leigh and to the north of the River Evenlode. Many hedgerow trees, particularly mature oak, ash and field maple, are also common around North Leigh and Chadlington. Around Leafield and Chadlington there is also a distinctive pattern of stone walls.
This combination of irregular fields, species-rich hedges and mature hedgerow trees creates a strong sense of place and was probably derived from woodland clearance, or ‘assarting’ as it is known, within the Royal Forest of Wychwood. The tall hedges, mature trees and woodland copses combined with the rolling landform filter distant views and create a strong sense of enclosure. By contrast, there is a much more open landscape around places like Chadlington, where there is a combination of large arable fields enclosed by low hedges and walls.
A key element of the landscape is the dispersed settlement pattern of villages, hamlets and farmsteads. The vernacular character of the area is strong, with the consistent use of local Oolitic limestone and stone slates. Stone walls are also a characteristic feature in villages such as East End and North Leigh.
A rolling landform with a combination of semi-natural ancient woodland, small pasture fields enclosed by species-rich hedgerows with trees.
• Bioscores range from low-medium to very high.
• Priority habitats include semi-natural ancient woodland, species-rich hedgerows with trees, neutral and acid grassland.
This relatively small landscape type, occupying around 1% of the rural county, is located exclusively within the Cotswolds. It supports a range of locally important habitats including plantations, semi-improved grassland and species-poor hedges with trees. It also supports a number of priority habitats including semi-natural ancient woodland, species-rich hedges with trees, calcareous and neutral grassland, as well as species-rich ponds and watercourses. Most of the grassland sites are relatively small, often averaging no more than 1-2 ha, and isolated. The ancient woodlands are larger and range between 10-20 ha.
LOCAL CHARACTER AREAS
The rolling landform is very distinctive in this area and is characterised by mixed land uses and small to medium-sized irregular fields. This is a very diverse landscape characterised by tall, dense hedges which are species-rich in places, densely-scattered mature hedgerow trees, semi-natural woodland in the valleys, and tree-lined watercourses.
This area has a similar range of locally important habitats to the other areas including plantations, semi-improved grassland and species-poor hedges with trees but it stands out by having more priority habitats. Apart from ancient semi-natural woodland and species-rich hedges, it has surviving patches of unimproved neutral and calcareous grassland, species-rich ponds and watercourses, and ancient wet woodland. Many of these features have been designated as county wildlife sites, and are found south of Chadlington where it slopes down to the River Evenlode. Wigwell nature reserve, near Charlbury, is managed for its limestone grassland interest.
This is a predominantly pastoral landscape, characterised by small, irregularly-shaped fields enclosed by hawthorn or blackthorn hedges with many hedgerow trees. The hedges are generally in good condition, except where they border arable land. Although the area doesn’t have any substantial woodland blocks, there is an general impression of a well-wooded landscape.
This area supports only a limited range of locally important habitats including semi-improved grassland bounded with species-poor hedges with trees. Apart from a small patch of calcareous grassland, no other priority habitats have been recorded.
The rolling landform is very distinctive in this area and is characterised by middle-sized, sub-regular to regularly-shaped fields with a mix of land uses. There is more arable farming in this area, particularly to the west of Crawley. It is also characterised by small valleys and streams bordered by dense willows, small woodlands, and a larger block of ancient woodland at Wilcote. Hedges along Boddington Lane are species-rich. The hedgerow pattern is more fragmented to the west of the area, where arable farming predominates.
This area supports the typical range of locally important habitats including plantations, semi-improved grassland, species-poor hedges with trees as well as tree-lined watercourses. Priority habitats include ancient semi-natural ancient woodland, species-rich hedges and patches of calcareous grassland.
It is a predominantly pastoral landscape characterised by small to medium-sized irregular fields enclosed by tall, thick hawthorn or blackthorn hedges with many hedgerow trees. In parts, there are species-rich hedges that include shrubs such as dogwood, hazel and field maple. Woodland is prominent throughout the area, consisting mainly of mixed and deciduous plantations.
This area has a slightly wider range of locally important habitats, including deciduous woodland, plantations and scrub. Its priority habitats include semi-natural ancient woodland, species-rich hedges and some acid grassland associated with North Leigh Common. The latter is managed as a Local Nature Reserve by the District Council.
FORCES FOR CHANGE
• Overall, the hedges are tall, thick and in good condition. However, where arable farming dominates, there is a pattern of low gappy hedges with few hedgerow trees. In particular, the field pattern to the west of Hailey is very fragmented.
• Sustainable management of existing woodlands.
• There is some limited infill residential development in the larger settlements of North Leigh and Chadlington. The impact of development is more prominent around New Yatt and North Leigh, where there are a number of scattered dwellings bordering roads.
Conserve and enhance the irregular pattern of woods, small fields, hedgerows and hedgerow trees, and maintain the dispersed settlement pattern of villages, hamlets and farmsteads.
• Strengthen the field pattern by planting up gappy hedges using locally characteristic species such as hawthorn, and hedgerow trees such as oak and ash.
• Promote environmentally-sensitive maintenance of hedgerows, including coppicing and layering when necessary, to maintain a height and width appropriate to the landscape type.
• Conserve the surviving areas of permanent pasture and promote arable reversion to grassland.
• Promote the sustainable management of existing woodland, particularly ancient semi-natural woodland, to safeguard its long-term survival.
• Enhance and strengthen the character of the wooded valleys and tree-lined watercourses by planting species such willow and ash and, where appropriate, pollarding willows.
• Promote small-scale planting of deciduous woodland blocks using locally characteristic tree and shrub species such as oak, ash, field maple and dogwood.
• Protect stone walls from deterioration.
• Maintain the dispersed pattern of settlements and promote the use of building materials, such as limestones and stone tiles, and a scale of development and that is appropriate to this landscape type.
Ensure that all surviving priority habitats are safeguarded, in favourable condition and management, and enhanced to satisfy the actions and targets identified within the relevant habitat and species action plans. Safeguard, maintain and enhance all locally important habitats in a way that is appropriate to the landscape character of the area.
• The landscape type supports a range of important and priority habitats, including ancient semi-natural woodland, species-rich hedgerows with trees, calcareous and neutral grassland, and species-rich ponds and watercourses.
• There are a number of ancient semi-natural woodlands near places such as Chadlington and Wilcote. The priority must be to ensure that all these sites are in favourable condition and management.
• Species-rich hedgerows with trees are distributed throughout different parts of the landscape type. Priority should be given to safeguarding, maintaining and expanding this resource, particularly in those local character areas where they remain a significant feature. Replanting, if necessary, should use tree and shrub species characteristic of the area including oak, ash, field maple, dogwood and hazel.
• There is only a limited amount of calcareous and neutral grassland, and most of these habitats have been designated as county wildlife sites. The priority must be to ensure that they are in favourable condition and management through agreement with the landowners.
• There is only a limited amount of acid grassland within the landscape type. This is primarily associated with North Leigh Common Local Nature Reserve. There is a management plan for this site, which will ensure that the acid grassland is in favourable condition. Opportunities for extending this resource are limited.
• Tree-lined watercourses and wooded valleys are a feature throughout the landscape type. They should be safeguarded and enhanced by planting species such as ash and willow, and pollarding willows where appropriate.
• Opportunities for the establishment of other locally important habitats, such as semi-improved grassland, hawthorn and blackthorn hedges, and small deciduous woodlands should be promoted in a way to strengthen wildlife corridors and enhance the local landscape character.
• Safeguard and enhance the pattern of small fields, species-rich hedgerows and ancient semi-natural woodlands.
• Ensure that all priority habitats are in favourable condition and management.