15. TERRACE FARMLAND
Regional Character Areas
Upper Thames Vale, Vale of Aylesbury, Vale of White Horse and Chilterns.
The landscape type extends over the terraces of the river Thames and its tributaries, covering a large expanse around Wallingford and Dorchester. It also includes the terraces of the river Thame.
A flat open, intensively farmed landscape overlying river gravel terraces.
• Broad, flat or low-lying gravel terraces.
• A large-scale, regularly-shaped field pattern of predominantly arable land.
• Localised tree-lined ditches.
• Nucleated villages.
Geology and landform
The area is associated with deposits of terrace sands and gravels to the sides of the Rivers Thames and Thame. Broad expanses of these terraces are on the sides of the lower Thames, around Dorchester, Benson and Wallingford. The landform is flat, low-lying and rising gently above the flat river floodplain.
Land use and vegetation
Terrace gravels are better drained and support lighter, more easily worked soils. As a result, much of the area is dominated by intensive arable cultivation, with only occasional fields of semi-improved and improved grassland to the south of the Chilterns and the upper part of the river Thames at Moreton and Bablock Hythe. Woodlands are uncommon and limited to characteristic clumps of trees scattered throughout the landscape type. They are found around farms and adjacent to roadside dwellings, and are often dominated by ornamental trees and shrubs. A few small plantations, mainly of poplar and crack willow, add to the woodland cover. Crack willows bordering ditches and streams are locally prominent landscape features, particularly in the areas around Culham, Buscot, Kelmscot and along Haseley Brook.
The landscape is characterised by a pattern of large, geometrically-shaped arable fields enclosed by a fragmented network of low hedges. The hedges are species-poor, consisting of hawthorn, elm and elder. In places, as in parts of Upper Thames, the land has been drained, and the ditches delineate the fields. Throughout the whole area, tree cover is rather sparse and is generally confined to small numbers of hedgerow trees mainly growing in roadside hedges. Parklands at Mapledurham, Hardwick House in the Chilterns, Rush Court and Mongewell Park are locally significant features. Their grounds are generally in good condition. The lack of woodland cover, and the removal of hedges and trees from many places has resulted in an open, large-scale landscape. However, in places, views are filtered through tree-lined watercourses.
The settlement pattern is characterised by both small and large nucleated villages. The gravel terraces along the lower part of the River Thames are associated with the creation of early large historic settlements, such as Dorchester and Wallingford. There is a variety of building styles and materials in the different localities, but also within the settlements themselves. In the Chilterns, villages are mainly built of brick and flint or red and blue bricks and clay tiles. In the Vale of White Horse and Aylesbury, many villages are characterised by brick buildings or timber and brick, as in the older parts of Benson and Dorchester, and clay tiles or thatched roofs. In Buscot, Kelmscot and other parts of Upper Thames, stone and clay tiles are the main building materials.
This landscape type, which is dominated by arable farming, supports a number of locally important habitats and a very limited range of priority habitats including species-rich hedgerows and neutral grassland.
• Low to low-medium bioscores/biobands.
• A limited range of priority habitats including species-rich hedgerows and ditches and an area of neutral grassland.
This landscape type occupies around 2% of the rural county. There is a range of locally important habitats including deciduous woodland, plantations, semi-improved grassland, species-poor hedges with trees and tree-lined watercourses. However, there are very few priority habitats, and these are generally isolated and in poor condition. They include some species-rich hedgerows and ditches. There is an area of neutral grassland, Dorchester meadow, adjacent to the river Thame which is relatively species-poor but is being managed sympathetically by a local group. There is also a series of flooded gravel pits to the east of Dorchester, which are noted for their ornithological interest although this has been compromised on some pits because of activities such as sailing and water ski-ing. There is a small area of fish ponds near South Stoke, which supports swamp vegetation. There is a little bit of ancient semi-natural woodland, but most of this is associated with a different landscape type.
LOCAL CHARACTER AREAS
Medium to large-sized arable fields dominate the area. There is also some improved grassland, and small fields of semi-improved grassland at Kelmscott. Fields are enclosed by hawthorn and blackthorn hedges, which are fragmented or, in many places, replaced by fences. Goat willow is also common in the hedges around Kelmscott. There are small numbers of hedgerow trees, including species such as oak, ash and crack willow. The most prominent feature in the landscape is the tree-lined watercourses bordered by crack willow. Around Kelmscott these have been pollarded.
Bioscores/biobands: 22/L: 29/L
This area supports a limited range of locally important habitats including semi-improved grassland, ditches, species-poor hedges with trees and tree-lined watercourses.
In this area there are medium-sized arable fields and some improved grassland. Roadside hedges are tall, thick and intact, and include species such as hawthorn, blackthorn, elm and wild privet. Field hedges are often low and fragmented. Tree cover is limited to hedgerow trees and deciduous plantations, either within or adjacent to roadside hedges.
This area supports a very limited range of locally important habitats including species-poor hedges with trees, a deciduous plantation and some species-poor watercourses.
Land uses are mixed with small to medium-sized fields throughout. Field boundaries largely consist of ditches and some hedges. Although hedges are frequently gappy, they are generally in better condition and more species-rich where they border roads and include shrubs such as field maple, buckthorn and wild privet. Hedgerow trees include pollarded crack willows and some ash.
This area has a range of locally important habitats including semi-improved grassland, species-poor hedges with trees and tree-lined species-poor watercourses. Although they are scarce, there are some species-rich hedgerows bordering roads that are in reasonable condition, as well as some species-rich ditches.
Small fields of improved and semi-improved grassland dominate this area. They are bounded by gappy hedges of hawthorn with some elm and goat willow. Hedgerow trees, mainly ash, oak and crack willow, are a prominent landscape feature. There is also a small block of ancient semi-natural oak-ash woodland.
The locally important habitats include semi-improved grassland, species-poor hedges with trees and tree-lined watercourses. There is also part of an ancient semi-natural oak-ash woodland.
This is an intensive landscape of medium to large-sized open arable fields. They are enclosed by hedges with species such as elm, hawthorn and elder. They are in generally good condition along roadsides, but have largely been removed elsewhere. The lack of hedgerow trees also emphasizes the open character of the area. There are a few small tree clumps around the University Research Station.
There are very few locally important habitats including semi-improved grassland and species-poor hedgerows.
In this area there are medium-sized fields of arable and semi-improved grassland enclosed by tall hawthorn hedges in good condition. Clumps of trees around farmhouses and mature oak hedgerow trees are distinctive features. Dense corridors of crack willows bordering ditches and a few very small poplar and crack willow plantations are also characteristic features of the area.
Locally important habitats include a deciduous plantation, semi-improved grassland, species-poor hedges with trees and tree-lined species-poor watercourses. There are some species-rich hedgerows with trees.
In this area there are medium-sized arable fields and some semi-improved grassland. The field pattern is practically non-existent but where it does occur it is characterised by fragmented hawthorn hedges, although roadside hedges are generally intact. Oak and ash hedgerow trees are also confined to roadside hedges. A few woodland belts are located to the west of Peach Croft farm and a there is a small area of parkland at Wick Hall.
The area supports locally important habitats including deciduous woodland, semi-improved grassland, and species-poor hedges with trees. The parkland at Wick Hall is also of local importance.
The area is characterised by medium-sized arable fields and some semi-improved grassland enclosed by hedges of hawthorn, willow and elder. They are tall, intact and a prominent landscape feature. Hedgerow trees, mainly of ash and willow, add to the structure. Clumps of trees in the middle of farms are also characteristic. Woodland is more obvious in this area, and consists mainly of small poplar plantations and a semi-natural deciduous woodland. Haseley Brook is bordered by a dense corridor of ash and willow.
This area supports locally important habitats such as deciduous woodland and plantations, semi-improved grassland, species-poor hedges with trees and tree-lined species-poor watercourses.
The area is dominated by medium to large-sized arable fields. Field boundaries are almost non-existent, although roadside hawthorn hedges have remained intact. The most prominent feature in the area is the linear strips of crack willows and poplars bordering watercourses. There are also occasional very small deciduous plantations.
The only locally important habitats are deciduous plantations and tree-lined species-poor watercourses.
The area is dominated by large, open arable fields. The field pattern is insignificant, with only a few field boundaries surviving. Woodland cover is limited to a few very small deciduous plantations. The flooded gravel pits and by-pass around Dorchester are screened by ornamental tree and shrub planting.
There is a range of locally important habitats including deciduous woodlands and plantations, semi-improved grassland, species-poor hedges with trees. The flooded gravel pits to the east and south of Dorchester are of ornithological interest but this is limited on some pits where there is water-based recreation such as sailing and water ski-ing. To the south of the town, there is a series of neutral meadows adjacent to the River Thame, which are sympathetically managed by a local group.
This is an intensively-managed landscape of large, open arable fields and some semi-improved grassland enclosed by hawthorn hedges. Roadside hedges, with some hedgerow trees, are generally in better condition, but elsewhere they are either gappy or missing. Small deciduous plantations and semi-natural woodland are scattered throughout the area and Mongewell Park also contributes to the overall tree cover.
The area supports locally important habitats such as deciduous woodlands and plantations, semi-improved grassland, and species-poor hedges with trees. Mongewell Park near Wallingford is also of local interest.
The area is dominated by large arable fields enclosed by hedges. There is also horticultural cropping to the north of Wallingford, and some small semi-improved grass fields around dwellings to the south of Rush Court. Hawthorn hedges are locally prominent to the south of Wallingford, where they are intact and have numbers of hedgerow trees including ash, sycamore, dead elm and field maple. To the north of Wallingford, the landscape is very open with most of the hedges and hedgerow trees having been removed. A distinctive feature is the avenues of Scots pine and sycamore to the north and south of Wallingford. Scattered tree clumps around farms and adjacent to roadside dwellings are also characteristic. The parkland at Rush Court is in good condition and includes prominent mature trees.
Locally important habitats include plantations, semi-improved grassland and species-poor hedges with trees. The parkland at Rush Court is also of local interest.
The area is dominated by large, open arable fields. Most of the hawthorn hedges have been removed, but along roadsides they are gappy and support some sycamore trees. A distinctive feature is clumps of lime, beech and sycamore along the road and around farms. Some internal field boundaries are simply poplar shelterbelts.
Locally important habitats include plantations and species-poor hedges with trees.
In this area there are small to medium-sized fields of arable land and pony paddocks, enclosed by hawthorn and elm hedges which are generally in good condition. There is also a nursery with associated glasshouses to the south of Goring. Tree cover is limited to clumps of ornamental trees adjacent to houses.
Locally important habitats include plantations, semi-improved grassland and species-poor hedges.
Medium to large-sized, regularly-shaped arable fields dominate the area and they are enclosed by hawthorn and elder hedges. The hedges have been removed or replaced by fences in most places and, where they survive, are often gappy. They have small numbers of mature oak and sycamore hedgerow trees. Small mixed plantations are associated with the parklands at Mapledurham and Hardwick House. Clumps of trees surrounding farms are also a characteristic feature.
The area has locally important habitats including plantations, semi-improved grassland, and species-poor hedges with trees. The parklands and their associated features at Mapledurham and Hardwick are also important local features.
Medium-sized arable fields, improved grassland and some pony paddocks characterise this area. Fields are enclosed by tall and intact hawthorn hedges with thinly scattered trees. Woodland cover is confined to a few small deciduous plantations and a semi-natural woodland adjacent to the railway line. There is also a horticultural nursery at the edge of Henley.
The area includes locally important habitats such as deciduous woodlands and plantations, semi-improved grassland, species-poor hedgerows with trees and some species-poor ponds.
FORCES FOR CHANGE
• As a result of intensive arable farming, most of the internal field hedges have been removed and where they survive, they are frequently low and gappy. Roadside hedges and hedgerow trees have generally been retained, and are thicker and in better condition.
• The airfield and its associated buildings at Benson are visually intrusive and out of character.
• Golf courses to the north of North Stoke and to the south of Henley have a suburbanising effect and do not blend well with the surrounding landscape.
• Horticultural businesses, with their associated glasshouses and large buildings on the fringes of larger settlements, can have a localised impact.
• The flooded gravel pits around Dorchester are used for a range of water-based activities, and their associated ornamental tree and shrub screen planting, doesn’t blend well with the surrounding landscape.
• Electricity pylons that cross the flat open landscape at Poultry Farm are highly intrusive.
• New residential development is largely confined to existing settlements but, at places such as Berinsfield, modern estates can be out of character. The road network to the south and west of Wallingford, with its associated roundabouts and ornamental planting, has had a localised impact on the surrounding countryside.
Strengthen and enhance the pattern of hedgerows, hedgerow trees and tree-lined watercourses.
• Strengthen the field pattern by planting up new and gappy hedges, particularly along roadsides, using locally characteristic species such as hawthorn, and hedgerow trees such as crack willow, 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.
• Enhance and strengthen the character of tree-lined watercourses by planting willows and ash and, where appropriate, pollarding willows.
• Promote small-scale planting of deciduous woodland blocks using locally characteristic species such as crack willow, oak and ash.
• Safeguard, maintain and enhance and the characteristic landscape features of existing parklands including mature trees, avenues of trees, lakes, woods and walls.
• Minimise the visual impact of intrusive land uses at the fringes of towns and villages with the judicious planting of tree and shrub species characteristic of the area. This will help to screen the development and integrate it more successfully with its surrounding countryside.
• Local building materials should be used, including brick and clay tiles in the Vale of White Horse, flintstone and brick or red and blue brick and clay tiles in the Chilterns, and stone with clay tiles in the Upper Thames area.
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. Promote agri-environment schemes which will benefit biodiversity in general and protected species and farmland birds in particular.
• Priority habitats in this landscape type are relatively small and isolated. They include some neutral grassland and species-rich hedgerows.
• The neutral grassland site at Dorchester Meadows is in favourable 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.
• Tree-lined watercourses are a feature throughout the landscape type. They should be safeguarded and enhanced by planting species such as ash and willows, pollarding willows where appropriate, and establishing buffer strips/field margins to potentially benefit small mammals, invertebrates and birds.
• Opportunities for the establishment of other locally important habitats, such as semi-improved grassland and small deciduous woodlands, should be promoted in a way to strengthen wildlife corridors and enhance the local landscape character.
• Promote the use of agri-environment schemes such as conservation headlands, over-wintered stubbles, and winter-sown crops to benefit farmland birds such as skylarks and yellowhammers.
• The flooded gravel pits near Dorchester are still of ornithological interest and any water-based recreation should be zoned both spatially and seasonally to reduce their potential impact on bird populations, particularly overwintering wildfowl.
Strengthen and enhance pattern of hedgerows, hedgerow trees and tree-lined watercourse.