National Character Area 71

Leicestershire and South Derbyshire Coalfield - Key Characteristics

  • The landscape is unenclosed with shallow valleys, subdued sandstone ridges and a gently undulating plateau.

  • There are heavy, poorly draining soils over the Coal Measures and mudstones of the Mercia Mudstone Group, and free-draining soils on the sandstone ridges.

  • The area forms part of a regional watershed between the River Mease to the south and the River Soar to the east and has many minor, swift-flowing streams draining the area, for example Saltersford Brook and Rothley Brook. Flooded clay pits and mining have resulted in many subsidence pools or flashes, which in combination with Thornton Reservoir provide valuable open water sites for nature conservation and recreation.

  • The area has a developing woodland character that is heavily influenced by the work of The National Forest initiative, which augments locally dense riparian woodland and prominent amenity trees around settlements with developing woodland on former colliery sites.

  • Small to medium-sized fields occur with a wide variation in field pattern, including some narrow, curved fields that preserve the strips of the open field system. Where arable production predominates, fields have been enlarged. Hedgerows are low with a few scattered hedgerow trees and in places show the effects of former open cast workings.

  • Agriculture comprises a mixture of arable and mixed sheep and beef units and, to a lesser extent, dairy. Combinable crops are grown on the freer-draining soils. Potatoes are grown in rotation on the heavier soils around Measham and Packington.

  • There is remnant acid grassland over sandstone with neutral grassland in the valleys, and acid heathland on open mosaic habitats on previously developed land, particularly colliery spoil. The River Mease SSSI and SAC has internationally important spined loach and bullhead fish and nationally important white-clawed crayfish, otter, and aquatic plants such as water crowfoot.

  • Rich heritage assets include Ashby-de-la-Zouch medieval castle and industrial heritage including the Ashby Canal and Moira Furnace, one of the best examples of an early 18th century blast furnace. Archaeological assets include a moated medieval village at Desford and the Roman town at Ravenstone.

  • Traditional vernacular is predominately locally manufactured red brick with tile or slate roofs. Some older buildings are of stone. Locally characteristic around Measham is a double-sized brick of the late 18th century known as the ‘Measham gob’. There are many three-storey brick-built farmhouses.

  • The settlement pattern is dominated by mining settlements. Isolated hamlets along the roadsides and small villages centred on a church contrast with extensive areas of 20th-century housing and prominent industrial and commercial distribution warehouses at the edge of larger centres, notably Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Measham and Coalville.

  • Around Coleorton, a more dispersed pattern of settlement associated with small-scale bell pit mining of the 13th century, spoil heaps, small fields, a dense network of footpaths and a fine example of historic parkland landscape contribute to the distinctiveness of this part of the coalfield landscape.

  • The area is easily accessible by major roads and rail and is close to East Midlands Airport. Long-distance recreational routes include the Ivanhoe Way, the Leicestershire Round, and a wide network of local trails and footpaths associated with the recreational assets of The National Forest. The Ashby Canal also provides a link to the wider area.