National Character Area 93

High Leicestershire - Analysis: Landscape Attributes & Opportunities

Analysis supporting Statements of Environmental Opportunity

The following analysis section focuses on the landscape attributes and opportunities for this NCA.

Further analysis on ecosytem services for this NCA is contained in the Analysis: Ecosytem Services section.

Landscape attributes

Varied landform of complex geology and soils comprising broad rolling ridges and often steep sided valleys

Justification for selection:

  • Ironstone-rich Jurassic Marlstone Rock and Northampton Sand cap several hill tops ,while Lincolnshire Limestone forms higher ground in east of area. All three are used extensively as building stones, giving a distinctive character to many areas. Thick mantles of till evident across much of western part of the area. Soils range from easily cultivated glacial sands and gravels with heavy intractable soils on Lias clays on gentle scarp slopes to the east.
  • Elevated land contrasts with varied valleys ranging from small, remote and enclosed to broad and quite intensively farmed. In the north steep scarp slopes drop down toward Queniborough Brook and the Wreake Valley.

Centrally elevated plateau radiating a myriad of freshwater streams south, east and westwards along sheltered secluded narrow and broader valleys.

Justification for selection:

  • From the elevated central plateau around Billesdon, streams carve out narrow valleys which drain to the Sence and Welland.
  • The main drainage pattern of the area is south toward the River Wreake and the River Welland. The Eye Brook and Eyebrook Reservoir are important features as are the streams feeding the Gwash valley and River Chater which are concentrated here and feed into surrounding NCAs including Rutland Water SPA to the east.

Well-wooded character arising from surviving concentrations of ancient woodland, abundant wide hedgerows, hedgerow trees, copses, spinneys and small woodlands.

Justification for selection:

  • Although relatively limited in woodland cover as a whole, the well wooded character is derived mainly from wide predominantly hawthorn hedgerows and hedgerow trees, copses, spinneys and small often ridgetop woodlands that have benefited from good management associated with a well established equestrian and hunting culture.
  • The wooded character is enhanced by overgrown hedges and small fields as well as frequent parkland associated with attractive country houses such as Quenby Hall, Noseley Hall and Lowesby Hall.
  • The clusters of oak/ash woodlands around the Eyebrook and River Chater are generally ancient and represent one of the highest concentrations of ancient woodland in the Midlands.

Strong visual identity from mixed farming regime, predominantly arable on ridgetops and wide valley bottoms with intact and well managed hedgerows

Justification for selection:

  • Predominantly arable agriculture of wheat, beans and oilseed rape with pasture supplying sheep and beef and associated foods. A landscape with a long tradition of field sports with many woodlands, coverts and spinney’s created and maintained to supply game.
  • Mixed field patterns, a strong rectilinear field pattern at the southern and northern edge and in a band extending from Stoughton to Skeffington with smaller linear fields around historic villages.

Ancient oak and ash woodlands, freshwater systems and unimproved grassland are important habitats.

Justification for selection:

  • Remnant ancient woodlands often on undulating land around the Eyebrook and River Chater, for example at Owston Woods and Launde Big Wood are of national nature conservation significance. They mark the remnants of the medieval royal hunting area of Leighfield Forest (SSSI) and represent one of the highest concentrations of ancient woodlands in the Midlands.
  • Unimproved grasslands at Ketton and near Braunston-in-Rutland are also important for nature conservation as is the myriad of streams and networks of rivers and associated waterbodies, for example, Eyebrook Reservoir and Rutland Reservoir which lies just outside the NCA to the east. Field ponds in corners of clay fields are also characteristic.

A predominantly rural landscape with little modern development. Sparse settlement of small villages with distinctive local vernacular.

Justification for selection:

  • Small historic villages often located on high ground such as Kings Norton and Houghton on the Hill whose buildings cluster around prominent spired churches of grey limestone or ironstone which varies from deep orange to lighter golden brown. Sometimes limestone and ironstone are banded in the same
    building. Red brick is abundant in buildings some of which are thatched.
    A rich historic landscape hosting a prominent iron- age hill fort, frequent and very prominent ridge and furrow, ancient woodland and veteran trees, fine landscape parkland and attractive country houses often associated with evidence of many deserted or shrunken medieval settlements. Abandoned industries of iron ore extraction and building stone.

An area of rich geodiversity.

Justification for selection:

  • The iron-age hill fort at Burrough Hill Country Park is located on one of the highest points and continues to provide impressive views across the landscape. Fine country houses in parkland settings such as Quenby Hall, Noseley Hall and Lowesby Hall with a deserted settlement within or close to the park are a strong characteristic feature of this landscape.
  • Of particular significance are the quiet winding rural lanes, hummocky landform associated with ridge and furrow and other medieval features such as deserted or shrunken villages and manorial complexes preserved beneath areas of permanent pasture.
  • Remnant clusters of ancient woodlands survive to mark the medieval royal hunting area of Leighfield Forest (SSSI) and the Forest of Rutland.
  • Ploughing out of ridge and furrow and damage to deserted settlements has occurred locally. There is a need to promote careful management of archaeological earthwork sites especially in areas where there are particular concentrations.
  • Industrial heritage iron ore extraction and building stones.
  • An area rich in geodiversity with exposures at former ironstone and building stone quarries, Tilton railway cutting SSSI and many good geomorphological landform features.

Networks of quiet green lanes winding down sheltered valleys contribute to the overall tranquil, remote and often empty character of this landscape.

Justification for selection:

  • There are many minor remote quiet lanes and gated roads that often wind down into sheltered valleys connecting farmsteads and hamlets.
  • The landscape has and continues to experience low development pressure. Only a very small percentage of the NCA is classified as urban. Uppingham is the only market town.
  • Tranquillity remains a significant feature of this NCA despite the notable decrease in undisturbed areas from 84 per cent in the 1960s to 63 per cent in 2007.

Landscape opportunities

  • Protect the varied, diverse and essentially rural character of the tranquil and sparsely settled broadly rolling landscape with its historic villages and farmsteads traditional vernacular and the network of quiet lanes and roads.
  • Protect the strong visual identify derived from this landscape’s mixed farming regime by preventing further loss of pasture to arable production. Manage high-quality patches of unimproved grassland by linking and buffering with lowland pasture, hay meadows and grass margins, and manage lowland grassland from fragmentation to improve habitat, encourage species diversity and resilience to climate change following appropriate management options under Environmental Stewardship.
  • Protect from damage and appropriately manage the areas cultural heritage in particular the iron-age hill fort and deserted medieval settlements and earth works including areas of ridge and furrow, historic country houses and their settings in parkland landscapes including veteran trees and ancient winding lanes, hedgerows, verges and trackways.
  • Plan to establish a strong landscape framework as a context to potential modern development expansion from Leicester and Melton Mowbray at the edges of the NCA ensuring that new development does not have a negative impact on landscape character. Consider the visual impact of any new modern development particularly from urban intrusion and manage road improvements to maintain the existing character of the rural road network.
  • Encourage rare arable plants and range restricted farmland birds and mammals, following appropriate management options under Environmental Stewardship.
  • Manage and conserve the distinctive field patterns and well wooded character of this landscape derived through its ancient, semi-natural and broadleaved woodland, hedgerow networks and hedgerow trees. Ensure each woodland can be managed as a single entity and include measures to reduce their fragmentation and restore structural diversity. Reintroduce active coppice management where this will enhance woodland habitat and wildlife interest and strengthen hedgerow networks particularly on the steep scarp and valley slopes and where hedgerows connect areas of woodland.
  • Manage the network of streams and rivers to maintain them as distinctive features in the landscape and enhance their wildlife interest, while restoring, expanding and re-linking wetland habitats, bringing rivers back into continuity with their flood plains where this will help sustain these wetland habitats. Re- establish and restore the characteristic field ponds which traditionally provide secluded, wooded wetlands which are focal points in the corners of many clayland fields particularly in the central and western parts of this character area.
  • Protect, manage, maintain and conserve the geodiversity of the area.