Chute Forest – Faccombe
Area adjacent to the Southern AONB boundary and straddling the Wiltshire, Hampshire border. The area is bounded to the West by Collingbourne Wood and the North by the top of the North facing chalk escarpment.
Surviving areas of unaltered pre 1700 fields, ancient woodland and open chalk downland can be used to illustrate early post-medieval and earlier land use associated with the Medieval exploitation of Chute Forest. Archaeological earthworks dating to the Prehistoric and Roman period survive under woodland and on chalk downland.
Present Day Historic Landscape Character
The area is heterogeneous in character, with replanted ancient woodland to the East and West sandwiching a mosaic of post 1900 and pre 1700 enclosure and parkland.
There is only one small pocket of 1700 to 1900 parliamentary enclosures surviving around Tangley, much of which was subsequently modified post 1900.
Areas of open unimproved chalk grassland survive on the steeper chalk escarpments on the fringes of the woodland.
Smaller pockets of ancient woodland also survive to the North on the steep sides of chalk downland as woodland hangers and on the clay tops while much of the core of the Medieval hunting forest has been replanted post 1700, new sinuous and linear areas of woodland have also been created in the 1700 to 1900 period.
Another distinctive feature is the area of post 1600 parkland including that surrounding Biddesden House, Chute Lodge and Conholt Park.
Layers in the Landscape
There is a Neolithic long barrow at Wick Down on the western edge and one towards the southern edge of the area and some Neolithic sites around Andover which suggest that the landscape to the South and West was settled. However it is likely that in the Neolithic the area itself was not intensively exploited, possibly used just for hunting and herding. This is reinforced in the Bronze Age, where burial mounds are richly clustered along the river valley to the South but infrequent within the character area itself. However by the Iron Age a range of sites are emerging and Celtic fields systems laid out which suggest that the landscape starts to be settled in this period. Interestingly, the Roman period is marked by a series of Roman villas and this may point to a landscape that is settled and evolves principally in the Roman period, rather than one that evolves out of a rich palimpsest of earlier settlement, which seems to be the case further South.
The area coincides with the Medieval hunting area of Chute Forest which lay partly in Hampshire and partly in Wiltshire and was first mentioned in historical sources in 1156. At its greatest extent on the 13th century it enclosed an area of over 100 square miles. A perambulation of 1300 reduced the limits to an area nearly co-terminus with the modern parish of Chute Forest although outside these bounds the manor of Ludgershall remained subject to forest law.
The importance of this legacy to the historic landscape of the area is due to the effect of the special laws which governed the area and the gradual break up of the forest by disafforestation leading to gradual creation of large areas of Medieval and Post Medieval enclosure. Prior to 1700 this area was dominated by two distinct areas of ancient woodland centre on Collingbourne Woods to the West and Dole Wood and Blagden Copse to the East, the latter of which has seen large areas of woodland clearance post 1700.
Historic Settlement Character
The settlement pattern consists of dispersed hamlets and farmsteads along the edge of the lanes mentioned above; these are arranged in an East-West direction between the two areas of woodland; only the villages of Upper and Lower Chute have developed enough to become nucleated. Built forms included chalk, chalk cob and thatch with some timber framing.
Historic Farmstead Character
Farms and farm buildings do not start to appear in this area until the 18th century, representing expansion of arable farming into downland areas and the replacement of the former sheep dominated agricultural regimes, even then they are isolated and small, associated with loose courtyard plans or represented by single field barns.