Froxfield Sector 4 - Froxfield and Privett
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Local Landscape Character Assessment – Froxfield Area F4 (Prepared by Brian Brown and Ted Hackett) 1. Purpose of a Local Landscape Character Assessment The purpose of the Local Landscape Character Assessment (LLCA) which is being prepared for Froxfield and Privett is to: -
enable the communities of Froxfield and Privett to add more depth and individual detail to the Local Authority Landscape Character Assessments (LCAs) which relate to our parish. All residents have been encouraged to contribute towards the report so that it is comprehensive and fully representative.
complement other landscape studies of Froxfield and Privett e.g. the Hampshire County Integrated Character Assessment (2010), the East Hampshire District LCA Landscape Type 2 : Clay Plateau, 2A: Froxfield Clay Plateau and 3b: Bereleigh (2006), the Privett Conservation Area Study and Character Appraisal (January 2008) and the Froxfield Green Conservation Area Study and Character Appraisal (1982).
provide local information and views which can support or discourage proposals for development or change of land use.
provide a detailed record of special qualities and distinctive landscape features as observed by local people.
help to raise awareness of our local landscape.
provide the major local input to the Neighbourhood Plan, as outlined in the Localism Bill, currently passing through Parliament
This report covers a roughly 1000m wide strip of the south eastern area of Froxfield, which lies to the west of the C18 from the top of Stoner Hill to Barnet Side Lane. This has been termed Froxfield Area F4. Together with six other reports of the other areas of Froxfield and Privett it will be incorporated into the Parish LLCA in due course.
2. Introductory Statement The combined parish of Froxfield and Privett occupies a gently undulating plateau about six and a half miles from east to west and three miles from north to south at its widest. The ground rises from around 550feet asl in the west to 825 feet at Warren Corner in the north east. Stoner Hill, in the east, rises abruptly from the valley of Steep and overlooks a valley of considerable extent with glimpses of the sea through gaps in the South Downs. The whole parish is well above the level of the surrounding country with many splendid and far reaching views. The landscape has been shaped by farming with some impact by hunting and shooting. The extensive clay with flint deposits overlying chalk means poorer quality heavy soils and a landscape mainly dominated by pasture, with blocks of woodland and limited arable crops. Settlements are few and small in scale with little traffic on the rural lanes. There are about 45 miles of country roads and lanes in the parish. Overall there is a strong sense of quiet remoteness and tranquillity. From 1962 the parish was situated within the East Hampshire Area of Natural Beauty (AONB); this description was revoked when the whole parish was included in the South Downs National Park which was established on 1 April 2010. A significant area of land is included in the Privett Conservation Area and most of Froxfield Green is also a Conservation Area. 3.
Detailed Physical Landscape Character of F4
3a. Classification in previous reports The area is classified as Froxfield Clay Plateau (Landscape Type 2: 2A Froxfield Clay Plateau ) in the East Hampshire District LCA(2006). The Froxfield Clay Plateau comprises a broad elevated block of clay capped chalk in the central part of East Hampshire District, extending between Chawton in the north and Froxfield in the south. The extent of the overlying clay with flint drift defines the boundaries of the character area to the south and east. The area comprises two distinct landscapes; the area to the west of the A32 is more wooded with wetter soils and areas of former common land. To the east of the A32 the land is higher with more limited woodland cover. The area is considered as a single character area with common patterns of historical evolution and unifying features including the presence of park land.
3b. Key Characteristics of area F4 -
the area is between 600 feet above sea level, rising to 750 feet. There are many fine and striking views both externally and within the area.
over 90% of the area is farmland and well over half of it is currently farmed organically. The fields are predominantly pasture for grazing with limited arable cropping. There are some fields of late medieval origin and many relate to the planned enclosure of the early 19th century.
small areas of woodland occur throughout the area, mainly oak, ash and beech with some yew.
oak is a key tree species in hedgerows. low density of settlement with scattered farmsteads of either medieval or 18th/19th century origin and a small cluster of mainly 19th century houses at Stoner Hill.
a tranquil, undulating rural landscape but rising noise from the A3(T), three miles distant, cuts across the area when southerly winds blow.
4. Perceptual/Experiental Landscape From the area’s southern boundary and the south eastern corner there are magnificent views over the Steep Hangers, which rise up to the area from the northern side of the valleys below. They are much admired by local residents and many people who stop their cars or bicycles to gaze at them. These views stretch from Haslemere in the east to Petersfield and the South Downs, with glimpses of the sea through gaps in the hills. Looking from the valleys towards the hangers it is noteworthy that there are no signs of any houses along the top of Stoner Hill – a feature which should be preserved. Within the area there are attractive and interesting views from the fields to the north of Soalwood lane over the old parkland stretching to the Slade, the residence of the Sylvester family from the reign of King Henry VIII until 1928, when the family died out. There are also particularly fine long westwards views from the edge of the Stoner Hill settlement over fields bordered by the tops of the hangers and Broadway Copse. A much admired view – particularly by the customers – is from the Trooper Inn, over fields to the spire of St Peter’s Church, High Cross, rising above the trees a mile away to the west. There is a similar view from Green Lane towards the same spire, also towards the west. 5. Farming. The great majority of the area’s fields are pasture, grazed by the parish’s last surviving milking herd, beef cattle and sheep. Those fields which are organic are particularly lush with much clover and many wild flowers such as cornflowers, ox eye daisies and charlock. Horses also graze some fields and their
numbers increase when several polo ponies over winter in the organic fields. The eastern end of Froxfield is now the only part of the parish where farm animals remain a common – and well loved – sight. They are also an important experience for the many young children who visit Blackmore Farm on organised school visits. This traditional farming scene – seeing, hearing and smelling the animals is much valued by all the local residents and visitors to the area. 6. Woodland and Tree Apart from some trees bordering lanes, Ringsgreen Copse is the last surviving fragment of the ancient woodland which covered most of this area for many centuries. It is now mainly beech with just a hint of past coppicing. There are currently no commercial woodland activities in the area. Just beyond Ringsgreen Copse is a one hectare copse ofwoodland – known locally as Hackwood – planted in the mid 1990s as a memorial to a member of the farming family which has lived there for some eighty years. Designed and planted in conjunction with Sparsholt College it contains examples of many indigenous English trees – with a particular emphasis on bio diversity. The copse appears to be thriving in an area of very heavy clay. A fine example of an important initiative with considerable landscape and wildlife benefit.
7. Lanes, Verges & Hedges There has been significant hedgerow loss in some fields over the past 40 years so it is very encouraging to see that the tide seems to have turned in the past few years resulting in a lot of positive action to replace, improve or plant new hedges. Much of this is because of the Stewardship Scheme Level 2 but also there has been private work by residents to plant new traditional hedges. All farm hedges in the area are now protected. However some of the field hedges are becoming noticeably straggly due to the very long period between cuts required by some of the stewardship schemes – resulting in much reduced bird predator protection to nesting birds. All of our country roads and lanes have verges – some of them several feet wide. In recent years many of them have been
increasingly badly churned up by the increasingly large and heavy traffic driving over them. This process was exacerbated when the C18 on Stoner Hill was closed for repairs for nearly twelve months about three years ago, resulting in a marked growth in the traffic using our lanes during that period. A consequence of the erosion of the verges through increased traffic pressure has also been an artificial widening of the road surfaces, often accompanied by potentially hazardous jagged edges and gaps between tarmac and the verges. However, we have also been able to help the verges (particularly in their vital role as linear nature reserves) by negotiating that the cuts – autumn especially - are much less severe and more limited in area than they used to be. Also, due to the tireless efforts of the eighty members of our community litter picking team they are kept clean. One past resident ensured that several saplings in his main boundary hedge were allowed to develop into what are now fine young trees. Modern flail hedge cutting machinery is inimical to this kind of conservation but there is no doubt that more can be achieved by gentle encouragement – of both owner and cutter. 8. Bio Diversity Despite the lack of any running water and of variety in the arable crops the area has a wide range of natural habitats: patches of woodland, ponds, farmland, organic pastures and arable fields, hedges, sunken lanes and disused chalk and flint pits. As a result it supports a good population and variety of wildlife and wild flowers. Roe deer, foxes, badgers, rabbits, weasels etc are commonplace; there are few hares compared to Privett where there is a much wider arable diet available. Birds of all sorts are plentiful and
some of the rarer varieties are seen pretty regularly. The fields, especially the organic ones are full of bird song and the verges are a glorious sight in the Spring with a good variety of species and a tremendous display of cow parsley. It would be good if the publication of the LLCA stimulated interest in forming a wildlife/bio diversity group to study this aspect of our parish in greater detail. Happily there are many interested residents and our farmers are very pro wildlife.
9. Buildings and Settlements There is a total of thirty houses and cottages in the area.. Half of them are in the nucleated settlement of Stoner Hill, the others are scattered, mainly related to farmsteads, past and present. Stoner Hill was first recorded in the 13th century and there are records of medieval settlement at Week Green, where the present Grade II Listed Week Green Farm is 18th century but built on the site of an earlier building and also of another medieval settlement near the 19th century Stoner Hill Farm. The name of the18th century Grade II listed Wyke Green Farmhouse can be traced back to 1209; much improved and extended over the past thirty years it is now a fine country house. The Grade II listed 17th century Spencer’s Cottage (assessed as much older – 1490 – by staff of the Singleton Open Air Museum) – was initially a farm cottage with the animals’ quarters downstairs and the family living upstairs; there is a fine old yew tree in the garden, at least a 1000 years old. Stoner Hill
House has progressed from small 18th century cottage, to farm, to the main residence, following substantial improvement and enlargement in the early 20th century, of the Stoner Hill Estate, owned by the Cave family, formerly of Ditcham Park. Built chiefly of brick and flint and partly of malm stone,it was divided into four individual houses in the 1950s following the sale of the estate. Stoner Hill Farm (brick and flint), Wyck Green Farm (brick) and Crabtree Farmhouse (brick and flint) were part of the estate and sold into private ownership. Six semi detached brick and flint cottages at Stoner Hill, all occupied by house or estate staff, were also sold; two are now in single family occupancy and the other, following extension in 1993, is four individual cottages. Week Green Cottage, brick and flint built with a thatched roof and many interesting old nautical timbers, Spencer’s Cottage and 2 brick built cottages in Blackmore Lane were also included in the estate sale. Another house of interest at Stoner Hill is the brick and flint built Mayhills, which was a small coaching inn until the present scenic road from Steep to the top of Stoner Hill was cut early in the 19th century. Until that time the Alton to Petersfield turnpike ran straight up the side of the hill from just above the turning to Ashford Place, emerging at Old Stoner alongside Mayhills Cottage. The pond opposite, now in the garden of Greycroft, was used for watering the horses at the top after the very steep climb to Old Stoner. 10. Road Signs, Street furniture and power lines. There are only a few road signs in the area but they all tend to be untidy, and appear to serve little useful purpose or to enhance road safety. There is an attractive ERII letterbox built into a curved, purpose built brick wall at the southern end of the Stoner Hill settlement. The number of assorted poles and low voltage power cables tend to spoil the landscape in many places, particularly at the southern end of the settlement.
11. History Several - mainly flints – finds in relatively recent years have continued to confirm prehistoric activity in this area. However, the visible sites of bronze age barrows in the field opposite Crabtree Farmhouse and the two Cross Dykes also in that area are of considerable interest. The Cross Dykes are part of the Froxfield Entrenchments and their purpose is still undecided. However the impressive size of the eastern one surely suggests that they were dug out for defensive purposes rather than being markers of the boundaries of Saxon kingdoms. 12. Country Activities A local pack of fox hounds meet in the area most seasons and local packs of bloodhounds and beagles also visit occasionally. There is a shoot on Blackmore Farm and regular Sunday morning clay pigeon shoots in Gunner’s Plantation. Mountain Bikers and motor cyclists frequently visit Ridge Lane on Sunday mornings and recreational cyclists, joggers and horse riders are a common sight on many lanes. Chinook helicopters from RAF Odiham often use the area for training with the full support of the farmer who owns the land and generally by the local community. Less welcome are some of the microlight and other small aircraft from the Colemore airstrip which sometimes fly over the area on summer weekends. They are particularly noisy and intrusive. 13. Land Access The area is reasonably well provided with public footpaths and bridle ways, which provide many lovely views. Walkers and controlled dogs are always welcome on them. However, the large number of farm animals in the fields of this area do not make them suitable for additional rights of way. 14. Employment & Public Transport Farming generates around eleven or twelve jobs in the area either directly or through contracting. Disused farm buildings at Greenforde Farm have been converted to provide office and other commercial activities. Five businesses currently occupy them and create around twelve to fifteen jobs; currently only a couple of these are local people. A local builder and some service providers also provide around four full time and two part time jobs for local people The other jobs in this area are mainly part time domestic or gardening - around one full time and fifteen part time jobs in all. About 18% of the area’s residents are retired, 60% are of working age and 22% are children. All those of working age have jobs and many of the retired are heavily involved in voluntary work. A Monday to Saturday bus service to/from Petersfield runs through the area three times each morning and afternoon.
15. Future Developments, Perceived Threats and Opportunities Talking to residents in the area the aspects of living in Froxfield which are particularly valued are that despite being so scattered we live in a friendly and caring community in unspoilt, lovely, tranquil green countryside with many splendid views and remote spots. Looking ahead, now that we are in a National Park, we feel generally positive but there are, nonetheless, a number of concerns and also some hopes for improvement:a. Farming. Well over 90% of our area of Froxfield is farmed, mainly for livestock. The Ellis family own and farm most of it with the Robb family owning the 90 acre Stoner Hill Farm and renting it to Philip Madgewick and Emma Dow of Vinnells Farm who own and rent a further 100 acres or so in the area which provide grazing for their cattle, sheep and horses. The quality of the soil and the topography of the land at the southern end of the area are such that there seems little likelihood of it being changed from grazing grassland. Both landowner and farmer agree and no change is anticipated for the next ten years at least. However, there are clearly many factors which could affect our area as well as many farms in Hampshire. There seems likely to be increasing Government pressures for improved food security and for more crops to be grown which relate to the fuel industry. There is also the possibility of tensions within the National Park between the National Park Authority concerns about landscape protection and the requirements of visitors and the modern infrastructure needs of farmers operating in a very competitive market. Also, in our area, there is concern about the shrinking margins of organic farming and the consequent possibility that there could be a shift towards conventional farming – with the resultant changes to our landscape if lush green fields, rich in clover, wild flowers and birdsong are replaced by conventional crops including oilseed rape. These are all factors which will be the subject of much discussion over the next few years and the likely practical outcomes are far from clear at the moment. Whilst we can only wait and see at the moment we must also strongly support efforts which can provide practical help to our farmers – such as the soon to start Froxfield and Privett Village Market and the Village Stores policy of stocking more locally produced food. b. Development. Currently all the redundant farm buildings in the area are already being used for other business purposes and with its lack of facilities and only an occasional bus service – with vulnerable financial viability – it is not an attractive place for affordable housing to be built. Village wide, however, the requirement for and preferred sites for affordable housing must be kept under close review and a firm agreement reached with the local authority that any which are built in the future will be exclusively for rental by existing residents who otherwise would have to leave the area. Such new buildings should, however, blend in with our older houses and also nestle naturally in the landscape. c. Traffic and our roads and lanes. We have many concerns here: our lanes were not made for large vehicles and the number and size of large lorries, the local bus and other commercial vans are a real worry. Linked with the size problem is
speed. Two limited areas of 30 mph speed limits were created in Froxfield last year but the speed and danger of much driving in our narrow and winding lanes can be hair raising. We believe that there is a case for considering the introduction of a blanket 30mph limit throughout the whole parish. Providing it does not involve hundreds of repeater signs. Traffic noise from the A3(T) is steadily increasing with a referred impact up the hill and into Froxfield. After the Hindhead Tunnel is opened it is likely to increase further - with a marked increase in its effect on this area. We hope that early action can be taken to reduce the aural impact of the A3(T). Finally the amount of tacky road signage clutter should be reduced – a lot of it is unsightly and unnecessary. d. Low Voltage Power Cables. Webs of low voltage power cables exist in parts of this area and in the parish generally. The haphazard growth of power distribution has blighted the landscape with an excessive number of power lines and poles. They spoil views. Cannot some of them be put underground or moved to cable? e. Broad Band. We hope the expected improvement in the near future may increase the number of people who can work from home and enable small internet related businesses to be established.