Area 6: Lambourn Wooded Plateau
This area is the highest section of the Kennet – Lambourn watershed.
There is significant cropmark evidence of later prehistoric field systems (later Bronze Age and Iron Age) across the area. The Ermin Street Roman road is a dominant feature with associated Roman activity. On the northern side of the area small pockets of ancient woodland interspersed with post 1800 plantation and old secondary woodland (1600 to 1800) survive. These are an important historical survival representing evidence of the former medieval and post-medieval exploitation of woodlands. Historic Designed Parklands are another important historical survival. Surviving World War Two features including Membury Airfield have a strong illustrative interest these offer an opportunity for oral history and local ‘stories’.
Present Day Historic Landscape Character
The western portion of the area has been heavily modified by the construction of Membury Airfield during WWII. This took an angular chunk out of the landscape, truncating surrounding fields, and included the insertion of shielding plantations of fast growing conifers around parts of the base’s perimeter. Although now disused, the airfield still has a presence in the landscape. Most of the airfield area is farmed and the remains of runways and service routes form the boundaries of the fields.
Across the rest of the area fieldscapes have seen large-scale rationalisation through a combination of field reorganisation and boundary removal. This has led to a much less irregular-looking landscape. Boundary removal was commonest in the assarts around East Garston Woodlands. The construction of the M4 motorway also contributed to this reorganisation through disruption and truncation of historic field systems. The conversion of historic enclosures into paddocks is common.
Layers in the Landscape
Prehistoric material is not common and includes a single long barrow at Balards Copse and isolated Bronze Age round barrows. A barrow of clearly Bronze Age date near Shefford Park Farm was excavated on at least two occasions. The Iron Age hillfort at Membury is a dominant feature.
The dominant feature is the Ermin Street Roman road which still forms the major route through this area as the B4000. Although the course of Ermin Street is well-known and it is still largely in use, there has been limited investigation of the physical nature of the road itself. Other Romano-British features have been observed near the road including a probable building on the site of Membury Services and a group of Romano-British features, including a corn-drier, were excavated at Lodge Farm prior to construction of the M4.
Second World War military remains are found on land that was occupied by Membury airfield. Concrete runways remain within fields, and buildings related to the airfield are found over an extensive area to the North and East, many of which have been re-used for alternative, mainly industrial, uses.
This is a largely early enclosed landscape with substantial areas of woodland and a dispersed settlement pattern. Very little of the area remained unenclosed or not covered by mature woodland by the start of the 18th century, although areas of pre 1700 open land have been identified including the slopes to the North of Chilton Foliat, and the area around the deeply incised valley flowing South from Aldbourne.
Woodland was widely spread across the area. Most woodland is ancient; smaller areas of other old woods were also present for example around Ballams Wood. The ancient woodland was present in large blocks, most of which show signs of assartment.
Small parklands are found in this area. Two smallish parks were established almost next-door to each other in the southern half of the area at Inholmes and Poughley and to the West of the area small parks existed at Membury House, Crowood House and Eastridge House.
The combination of farm names, assarted woodlands and the irregular early enclosed landscape suggests that this area had long been enclosed into fields, probably by individual farmers carving out their own farmland from the downs and woodlands. Much of this landscape is likely to date back at last to the Medieval period.
Historic Settlement Character
The historic settlement pattern was dispersed and there are no nucleated villages. It is typified by small discontinuous settlements, such as Lambourn Woodlands and Shefford Woodlands, which are strung out along the Roman road and lack a clear centre. There is evidence for slight settlement growth over the 18th and 19th centuries with new housing built along the Roman road.
Historic Farmstead Character
Farms were fairly densely scattered across the area and most are named after individuals, such as Dixon’s Farm and Gooding’s Farm. There is a low-medium concentration of pre-1750 farmstead buildings. These farmsteads are often large with loose courtyard plans or 19th century regular courtyard plans and are associated with the valley bottom.