National Character Area 70

Melbourne Parklands - 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

An undulating landscape that exemplifies the link between geology and landform.

Justification for selection:

  • The Carboniferous Peak Limestone Group forms a broken ridge of hills of which, Breedon Hill to the east, is the most conspicuous. The highly visible and dramatically sited church here overlooks a steeply undulating landscape and localised quarrying.
  • Less resistant, overlying siltstones and mudstones of the Triassic Mercia Mudstone Group produce a gently rolling lowland plateau. Differential erosion by dynamic river systems has produced a plateau that is deeply incised in places forming narrow valleys. Two valleys have been dammed to create reservoirs at Foremark and Staunton Harold.
  • Triassic sandstones of the Sherwood Sandstone Group and breccias to the east and west of the NCA form slopes of free-draining sandy soils that support heathland and there are also areas of remnant acid grassland. Elsewhere, neutral grassland can be found in the nutrient-rich valleys.
  • The dominance of Triassic Mercia Mudstones over the east and extreme west of the NCA, produce productive soils that are slowly permeable and can be prone to seasonal water-logging.
  • Sandstones in the Millstone Grit around the Melbourne area form a distinctive part of the landscape with a series of ridges and valleys.

Extensive estate mixed woodland, new woodland creation, small game coverts roundels and tree belts and remnant orchards contribute to an overall wooded character.

Justification for selection:

  • Woodlands occur on steeper slopes, usually along valley sides, but are particularly evident in association with historic parklands at Calke, Melbourne, Staunton Harold and Bretby among others.
  • Collectively the trees and woodlands play an important role in emphasising estate character. Dense lines of trees along watercourses and locally prominent parkland and amenity trees play a key role in defining the scale and enclosure of the intervening spaces.
  • The woodlands are relatively well-linked with large blocks linked to the National Trust’s Calke estate and the nearby Staunton Harold estate.
  • 25 per cent of the NCA lies within The National Forest where extensive woodland and other habitat creation and management activity is underway, furthering the objectives of the strategy for The National Forest. Within The National Forest between Melbourne and Swadlincote, planting in large blocks has reinforced the current pattern.

Mixed farmland including market gardening surrounds the areas of parkland and arable farming dominates the plateau top with grazing on the steep-sloping valley sides.

Justification for selection:

  • Food production is an important service in the NCA. The parkland remains largely pastoral and where the soils are heaviest or the slopes are steep, pasture predominates. Much of the pasture has been improved and where the soil is free-draining there is some cropping.
  • Dairying was historically more prevalent and the Calke estate retains some commercial dairy farms.
  • Remnant orchards survive associated with the tradition of market gardening.

Hedgerows are generally low and well-trimmed where they surround large arable fields. There are many, scattered, sometimes ancient, hedgerow trees.

Justification for selection:

  • Field patterns are variable, reflecting the diverse history of enclosure. Within the lower-lying valleys the fields are small to medium size and irregular in shape reflecting the earliest enclosures. Surrounding the villages, field sizes become smaller and the pattern semi-regular and are characteristic of historic land uses. Hedges in these localities are mixed species comprising holly, hazel, blackthorn and hawthorn.
  • On the plateau, the field are generally medium to large in size and are rectilinear in shape reflecting a period of later enclosure. The hedgerows are fragmented and predominantly comprise hawthorn.
  • The expansion of commercial agriculture has resulted in the loss of some field boundaries with many small fields being amalgamated into larger fields.

A mosaic of semi-natural habitats

Justification for selection:

  • Extensive oak woodland as well as fine ancient trees within parks.
  • Where pasture prevails, particularly in areas of parkland, extensive areas of unimproved pasture and remnant acid grassland with heathy scrub persist.
  • Lowland heathland and lowland meadows support a variety of pollinators and nectar sources.
  • Areas of ridge and furrow are an indication of historic land use.
  • Remnant orchards would benefit by being brought into management and new orchards created.

A plateau that is deeply incised in places forming narrow valleys and having a consistent water supply affords the opportunity for the two large reservoirs at Foremark and Staunton Harold.

Justification for selection:

  • Foremark Reservoir supplies Melbourne water treatment works within the NCA. This and Staunton Harold Reservoir are supplied with water from the River Dove that rises from the moors near Buxton outside the NCA and supplies drinking water to more than 800,000 people in Leicester and the east Midlands.
  • Both reservoirs offer a range of leisure opportunities with popular visitor centres and children’s play areas. Carvers Rocks, at the southern tip of Foremark, is managed by Derbyshire Wildlife Trust and is a scheduled Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for its geology and plants.
  • Minor streams flowing northwards into the River Trent and eastwards into the River Soar have narrow floodplains that are often prominent in the wider landscape as they are fringed by a ribbon of willow and alder.
  • Triassic sandstones of the Sherwood Sandstone Group in the east and west of the NCA provide a pathway for surface water to recharge the nationally important Sherwood Sandstone aquifer.

The small settlements at Repton and Breedon, are rich in Christian and Viking heritage.

Justification for selection:

  • Many of the estates were originally monasteries. Repton and Breedon were major ecclesiastical centres of the kingdom of Mercia. Repton was the seat of the Bishop of Mercia in the 8th and 9th centuries and Breedon-on-the-Hill was a Saxon monastery. The Saxon stone carvings in the church are amongst the finest of their type.
  • Vikings landed and settled at Repton incorporating the abbey into their fortifications. They chose Ingelby, nearby, as their burial site and it is the only known Scandinavian cremation cemetery in England.
  • The area’s churches provide prominent historic landmarks, for example, the imposing church at Melbourne, which is one of the finest and most complete Norman churches in England and the spectacularly sited church at Breedon-on-the-Hill. Staunton Harold estate church has superb carved woodwork and panelling. The churches have developed a dual role as spiritual centres and historic buildings containing works of art.

Imposing country houses and associated landscaped parklands and red brick farmsteads and villages provide a strong sense of place.

Justification for selection:

  • There are 7 registered parks and gardens representing 4 per cent of the area of the NCA.
  • Two examples are the historic Calke Abbey set in parkland, an NNR and SSSI, which contains many notable ancient and veteran trees, and Staunton Harold Estate, located in a valley with two lakes and includes the house, church, estate cottages and stables.
  • Small clustered red brick villages retain a rural character and a historic settlement pattern.
  • Areas of ridge and furrow, an indication of historic land use.

The extensive reservoirs and their surrounding areas at Staunton Harold and Foremark contribute to the experiential qualities of the NCA.

Justification for selection:

  • Tranquillity maps from 2007 show areas of undisturbed land around the reservoirs at Foremark and Staunton Harold and the rural area around Repton. This is in contrast to a significant reduction in the area of undisturbed land in the area bounded by the M1 and A42 around Shepshed.
  • A strong rural character with an undulating upland feel offering plateau-top views northwards across the Trent Valley Washlands NCA.
  • Historic designed parkland and associated country house estates provide opportunities for quiet recreation.

Landscape opportunities


  • Maintain the ancient woodlands, estate mixed woodland, small game coverts, roundels, traditional orchards and tree belts to conserve the distinctive character of the parklands and to ensure the legacies of historic land use are preserved for future generations.
  • The areas of ridge and furrow are an indication of historic land use that is often associated with semi-natural grassland and species-rich hedgerows.
  • Protect the remaining areas of tranquillity around the reservoirs at Staunton Harold and Foremark.
  • Bring areas of ancient woodland, wood pasture and traditional orchards into management and expand areas of existing woodland. Consider successional planting over a long period of time to maintain the canopy and the wooded character of the NCA.
  • Plan to augment over-mature hedgerow trees over a long period of time, to maintain the overall character of field boundaries.
  • Maintain and where possible enhance the existing geological exposures by agreeing management plans with owners and occupiers.
  • Gap-up and reinstate hedgerows on historic boundaries where possible.
  • Plan long-term conservation of rock exposures at key geological sites, by agreeing restoration plans with mineral extraction companies.
  • Establish new woodland plantations that strengthen the mosaic of interconnecting habitats in The National Forest.