23. WOODED PLATEAU
Regional character Areas
The landscape type covers the isolated plateau areas to the north-west of the Chilterns Escarpment around Brightwell, Grove and Oakley Wood.
This is a rolling, semi-enclosed wooded landscape with a strong pattern of woods and hedgerows.
• Glacial clay deposits with flints.
• Large blocks of ancient woodland and smaller, geometrically-shaped plantations.
• Tall dense hedgerows with scattered mature trees.
• Mixed land uses with medium to large-sized fields.
• Scattered farmsteads.
Geology and landform
The geology of this landscape type has been formed by extensive glacial Coombe deposits, with both gravels and flints, overlying the chalk outcrop. The deposits give rise to an undulating landform which is not very obvious as a result of the woodland and tree cover.
Land use and vegetation
The land is used mainly for intensive arable farming. There is some grassland, largely associated with paddocks and old gravel pits, and it is interspersed with patches of gorse. Woodland is the dominant visual element, particularly the larger blocks of ancient woodland with oak standards and hazel coppice, and it provides structure and a sense of enclosure in the landscape. There have been a number of small plantations and linear tree belts to the north of Ewelme, which have been planted as part of the landscaping scheme for mineral workings and landfill operations in that area.
Arable fields are medium to large in size, whereas grass fields tend to be smaller. The pattern of tall, dense hedges links up with the woodlands and adds to the sense of enclosure and provides visual cohesion between the open farmland and woodland. Hedges are mainly hawthorn and blackthorn but, to the south of Ewelme and bordering some green lanes, they tend to be more species-rich including shrubs such as spindle, dogwood, field maple, guelder rose and wayfaring tree. Mature hedgerow trees, mainly of oak, ash and sycamore, add to the hedgerow structure and filter distant views. Views are frequently framed by tall hedges and woodland edges, and are also confined by the Chiltern escarpment to the east.
This is a sparsely settled landscape characterised by dispersed farmsteads and small groups of houses such as Turners Court and Hailey. They are mainly located to the south of Ewelme where the vernacular character of the buildings is stronger. The local building materials are brick and flint or plain brick and clay roof tiles.
Apart from some plantations, semi-improved grassland and species-poor hedges with trees, the main interest is associated with some ancient semi-natural woodland and species-rich hedgerows with trees.
• Predominantly low to low-medium bioscores.
• Important habitats include ancient semi-natural woodland and species-rich hedgerows.
This relatively small landscape type occupies around 0.4% of the rural county. It supports a limited range of locally important habitats including plantations, semi-improved grassland and species-poor hedgerows with trees. Its most significant habitats include ancient semi-natural woodland, such as Oakley Wood, and species-rich hedgerows with trees bordering some roads and green lanes. The ancient woods are mainly 4-5 ha but the largest is around 20 ha.
LOCAL CHARACTER AREAS
The area is characterised by large, regularly-shaped arable fields. Tall blackthorn and hawthorn hedges, with mature oak and ash trees, are visually prominent and create an enclosed landscape. Small, scattered mixed plantations contribute to the enclosed and wooded character of the area. Ashley’s Wood, near Britwell Salome, is a large block of ancient semi-natural woodland lying to the east.
Apart from plantations, semi-improved grassland and species-poor hedgerows with trees, the main feature of interest is Ashley’s Wood, a block of ancient semi-natural woodland which has been modified by some commercial planting.
B. Oakley Wood (CH/3)
This area is more wooded and is characterised by large, interlocking blocks of ancient semi-natural woodland and occasional small deciduous and coniferous plantations. Land uses are mixed, with medium-sized arable fields and smaller grass fields. A landfill site to the north of the area has been partially restored to grassland and deciduous plantations. Field boundaries are a combination of woodland and tall, thick hawthorn and blackthorn hedges with thinly scattered trees of oak and ash. Some of the rural lanes are bordered by species-rich hedges. Hedges are generally in good condition, except where they enclose arable fields and along parts of the A4130.
This area supports a range of locally important habitats including plantations, semi-improved grassland and species-poor hedgerows with trees. It includes several blocks of ancient semi-natural woodland, such as Oakley and Mogpits Woods, which average around 4-5 ha, as well as species-rich hedgerows with trees.
FORCES FOR CHANGE
• Although the field pattern of hedgerows and mature trees is generally intact, it is declining in areas bordering arable land where the hedges are more intensively maintained and, as a result, tend to be low and gappy.
• There is generally a low impact from built development and it is mainly confined in scattered dwellings bordering roads. New development, such as Turners Court, is mostly in keeping with the existing settlement pattern and uses local building materials.
• Visually intrusive development such as scrap yards and landfill sites benefit from the screening provided by woodlands and hedgerows.
Conserve and strengthen the pattern of woodlands, hedgerows and hedgerow trees.
• Promote the sustainable management of existing woodland to safeguard its long-term survival.
• Promote the planting of deciduous woodland blocks using locally characteristic species such as oak and ash.
• 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.
• Minimise the visual impact of intrusive land uses 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.
• Maintain local distinctiveness by controlling the quality of built development taking into account its scale, setting and use of local building materials. New development should reflect the existing dispersal pattern, and ribbon development along the main roads should be resisted.
• Where appropriate, restore mineral workings and landfill sites to woodland and semi-improved grassland.
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.
• The priority habitats in this landscape type are ancient semi-natural woodlands and species-rich hedgerows with trees.
• There are a number of ancient semi-natural woodlands, including Oakley Wood, and the priority must be to ensure that all these sites are in favourable condition and management.
• Species-rich hedges are a significant feature along some green lanes. They should be safeguarded, where appropriate, with the use of the Hedgerow Regulations administered by Local Authorities and enhanced by sympathetic management and replanted, if necessary, using native tree and shrub species characteristic of the area including oak, ash, field maple, dogwood, and spindle.
• Opportunities for the establishment of other locally important habitats, such as semi-improved grassland and small deciduous woodlands, should be promoted in order 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.
• Conserve and strengthen the pattern of woodlands, hedgerows and hedgerow trees.
• Ensure that all ancient semi-natural woodlands and species-rich hedgerows with trees are in favourable condition and management.