logo - The Countryside Agency    
title - Countryside Character Initiative
subtitle - Yorkshire and the Humber

Key Characteristics

• Broad low lying arable vale. Balanced yet simple open landscape.

• A regular pattern of medium sized fields with enclosure by hedgerows of limited species and few hedgerow trees. Variations include pre-enclosure hay meadows and pasture near Wragby, and the drained landscape north of Brigg.

• Variable woodland cover; little in the central and northern clays. Exceptions include coniferous plantations on both the Coversands, the sands and gravels around Woodhall Spa, and most notably the Central Lincolnshire Limewoods between Wragby and Bardney.

• Sparse nucleated settlement throughout the area.

• Traditional building materials predominantly local brick and limestone from adjoining Lincolnshire Edge.

• Rich in ridge and furrow, and deserted medieval villages.

• Wolds scarp strong visual boundary to east, distant views to Lincoln Cathedral in west.

Landscape Character

The area is a quiet low-lying vale divided into two parts by a central watershed. The northern half drains through the River Ancholme into the Humber. This section is clearly bounded to the east by the scarp slope of the Lincolnshire Wolds, and to the west by the relatively less distinctive dip slope of the Lincolnshire Edge. The southern section of the Vale drains to the River Witham and ultimately the Wash. The western boundary below Lincoln is formed by the River Witham and the Fenland beyond. To the south the catch-water drains for the Fens mark the limit of the Vale; while to the east the Vale rises up towards the south-western edge of the Lincolnshire Wolds.

The central core of the Vale between Brigg and Wragby comprises an open yet balanced agricultural landscape with large skies and cloudscapes. Arable crops predominate but are interspersed with pasture on the heavier clays. Hedgerows are typically single species hawthorn to roadsides and more mixed between fields. There are few individual field trees. Settlement is dispersed and sparse, with views occasionally punctuated by an individual farmhouse.

Three variations to this predominant landscape type are present. Firstly, the artificially drained Carrs north and south of Brigg. Much of the land is only a metre or so above sea level. A series of drains, dykes and the strongly embanked New River Ancholme drain this flat open landscape, accentuated by remnant carr woodland. Secondly, around Wragby and Bardney the arable landscape is further broken up by a significant number of medium sized woodlands, known locally as the Central Lincolnshire Limewoods or Bardney Forest. Some are ancient, while others are more recent plantations. Third are the lighter areas of wind-blown and fluvial sands which occur in three locations at Elsham, Market Rasen and Woodhall Spa. The wind-blown soils to the north have been extensively planted with conifers, while near Coningsby and Tattershall the fluvial sands and gravels have undergone considerable extraction.

Physical Influences

The Lincolnshire Clay Vale has resulted from a combination of erosion of the soft Upper Jurassic clays and deposition of chalky till to the east. Much of the Vale comprises seasonally waterlogged loams and clay grading to deeper calcareous loams, with fine calcareous loams towards Horncastle and the Lincolnshire Wolds. The resulting landform is very gently undulating. The River Ancholme is the most significant river which has been improved to form a straight course from Bishopbridge to Ferriby Sluice on the Humber. The watercourse is fed by a series of becks up to Brigg, and then by the drained Carrs. Much of the Ancholme floodplain was formed from marine alluvium during the post-glacial period with smaller areas of peat inland. To the south, Barlings Eau and the River Bain drain to the River Witham.

The tracts of Coversands to the east of the Vale overlie the Jurassic and glacial clays, and dominate the resultant vegetation. Here the deep and very acidic soils have been extensively planted with Corsican and Scots Pine by the Forestry Commission between World War 1 and World War Two. These soils are still subject to windblow where cultivated.

Historical and Cultural Influences

Early archaeological remains in the Ancholme Valley include the Appleby boat. This ancient longboat, c.11,000 BC, is the second oldest such vessel found in the world. In its time, the north Vale would have been a complex of inter-tidal creeks and carr vegetation. Brigg developed as an early crossing point, and was a prosperous market town by the 13th century. The Vale is important for the study of the smaller Iron Age and Romano-British settlements in the transition between the two periods. The principal archaeological remains of interest are the medieval sites; particularly the deserted and shrunken medieval villages, like Spridlington and the abbey ruins such as Bardney and Tupholme. Extensive though not entirely successful land drainage took place in the Ancholme Valley in the 17th century. By the early 18th century most of the land had been enclosed. Recent agricultural intensification has altered the pattern of landuse, although the appearance has changed little over this time.

Horncastle developed a nationally famous horse fair which ran from the 13th century to 1948. Revesby to the south of Horncastle was the home of botanist Sir Joseph Banks (1743-1820). Banks travelled the south Pacific with Captain Cook and was president of the Royal Society for 42 years.

Tourism and recreation has developed over the last century on the lighter sandy soils. Lincolnshire's only racecourse is found at Market Rasen, reflected, perhaps in modern times by the wildlife park at Elsham Hall on an area of blown sand. To the, gravel extraction at Coningsby has created a series of lakes with both recreational and nature conservation after-uses. Following the discovery of medicinal waters in the Victorian period, Woodhall Spa developed into a small inland resort set in the pine and birch woods. Coningsby Airfield provided a base for Lancaster Bomber Squadrons in World War Two.

Buildings and Settlement

The settlement pattern is typically dispersed and sparse. Villages have remained small while a few small towns have grown, including Brigg, Market Rasen and Horncastle; the latter originated as a Roman town. Local clay provides the major building material with most traditional buildings constructed of brick and pantile. The dominance of brick is most distinctively portrayed in Tattershall Castle (National Trust) built c.1440 for Ralph Cromwell, Lord Treasurer of England. This majestic, yet stocky, keep tower is a fine example of medieval brickwork, and provides a strong landmark amid the restored mineral sites across the adjacent fens.

Local stone from the Lincolnshire Wolds including Claxby Ironstone and Tealby Limestone is seen in some of the churches close to the Wolds around Market Rasen whereas Spilsby Sandstone is found in churches around Horncastle.

Land Cover

The contrasts in landcover within the area strongly reflect the patterns of soils and drainage. The undulating clayland comprises medium sized fields dating from 18th century enclosure. Hedges, mainly clipped, enclose fields of winter cereals, oilseed rape, sugar beet and grazing land.

South of Wragby the Bardney Forest comprises a mix of larger arable fields and a relatively high density of woodlands. These woods are nationally important for the concentration of small-leaved lime. Sections of these ancient woodlands are managed as coppice with standards. Some of the old parish boundaries are marked by older mixed hedgerows. Chambers Farm Wood, managed by the Forestry Commission, comprises a wide mix of woodland types. This sub-area also contains pre-enclosure hay meadows and relatively more livestock, like those at Minting.

There are few estates or parklands associated with the Vale. The notable exceptions are to the south at Scrivelsby Park and Revesby Abbey, close to the edge of the Wolds. Lanes are typically twisting and narrow, with most of the major routes running east-west.

Closer to the Humber in the Ancholme Valley, fields are more rectilinear, relating to the patterns of drainage dykes. Hedgerows are sparse, and give way to occasional carr woodland, copses, drainage ditches and isolated willows.

The Coversands of Elsham and Market Rasen have a variety of heath habitats, for example at Wrawby Moor SSSI, and Willingham Forest woods which also include regeneration of birch scrub. Around Woodhall Spa, once an area of predominantly open heath, extensive conifer plantations, scrub oak and denser roadside hedgerows are more prevalent. Sand and gravel extraction along the Lower Bain valley continues to take place while old workings have partly been restored for recreation. Here the landscape is more densely settled, with scattered smallholdings, isolated gravel extraction, and the RAF base at Coningsby.

The Changing Countryside

• Agricultural intensification and farm amalgamation causing decline in mixed farming, an increase in field sizes, loss of hedgerows and hedgerow trees.

• Creation of extensive conifer woodlands on Coversands (now halted).

• Reduction in grasslands, hay meadows and ancient pasture by ploughing, drainage and expansion of settlements. Continued threat to meadows, ridge and furrow and archaeological sites.

• Partial neglect of Central Lincolnshire Limewoods.

• Intrusive built developments including M180 and power lines.

• Extensive sand and gravel extraction to Coningsby and Tattershall area.

Shaping the future

• Hedgerow reinstatement, including gapping up and tree planting would redefine structure and enhance linkage between woodlands.

• The creation of new woodland on open clay farmland, where no conflict with archaeology, is important. The Carrs to north need water tolerant species such as alder and willow. The central Lincolnshire limewoods need continued management including coppicing.

• A balance needs to be achieved on the Coversands between conifer plantations and open heath habitats with conservation benefits.

• Opportunities exist for wet grazing, washlands, new salt and freshwater habitats in response to rising sea levels between Brigg and Humber.

• Visual containment of existing infrastructure and sprawling settlements is important, by planting of raw edges and emphasis on use of traditional building materials.

• Restoration schemes in sand and gravel areas near Coningsby would provide linkage between areas and re-create more open heath habitats.

• The future management of meadowland and pasture should be considered, particularly where they contain ridge and furrow and other archaeological sites.

Selected References
Automobile Association (1978), Illustrated Guide to Britain, Drive Publications Ltd

Bennett, S. Bennett, N. (1993), Historical Atlas of Lincolnshire, University of Hull Press

Countryside Commission (1995), Countryside Stewardship Targeting Statements for Lincolnshire, Countryside Commission

Gillespies (1995), Humberside Landscape Assessment/First Draft, Gillespies, Altrincham

Lincolnshire South Humberside Tourism (1995) Welcome to Lincolnshire, Lincs S. Humberside Tourism, Lincoln

Lincolnshire Tourism (1996), Welcome to Lincolnshire, Lincolnshire Tourism, Lincoln

Pevsner, N. Harris, J. (1989), Buildings of England - Lincolnshire, Penguin Books, Middlesex

Smith A.E. (1996), Nature in Lincolnshire: A biodiversity strategy, Lincolnshire Trust for Nature Conservation, Horncastle

Thorold, H. Yates, J. (1965), Shell Guide to Lincolnshire, Faber Faber, London

Barley, M W (1971) Lincolnshire and the Fens, EP, Wakefield

Rogers, A (1985) A history of Lincolnshire, Phillimore, Chichester

Start, D (1993) Lincolnshire from the air, Heritage Trust of Lincolnshire, Heckington

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