Within this VDS "Open spaces" are sporting and recreational areas, while "Open areas" are defined as the large tracts of forest and farmland with associated hedgerows and tree lines. Both are important because they provide memorable views as well as a sense of peace and tranquility. Micheldever is richly endowed with such landscape features, both within the villages and hamlets and between settlements. They are a vital feature of the rural environment that serves to create this special identity.
Each of the larger villages has recreational open space that it is important to retain.
The farmland and woodland surrounding Micheldever is rich in flora and fauna. Most of the area is chalk downland supporting a vast array of wild flowers with their attendant insects, butterflies and birds. The uncultivated borders of tracks are particularly noteworthy for their cowslips, primrose, scabious, knapweed, agrimony, lady's bedstraw, campion, marjoram, and many other wild flowers and herbs. During the past 25 years local farmers have undertaken small-scale planting of deciduous trees, some of which, in the winter, provide berries for wildlife. In spring many woodlands sport an extensive carpet of bluebells, following the glorious display of snowdrops and cowslips that are a feature of the three local churchyards and many roadside verges. Farm hedges, consisting mainly of hawthorn, field maple, blackthorn, spindle and hazel, are generally well maintained. Bird life includes lapwing, red-legged partridge, pheasant, yellowhammer, sparrow hawk, buzzard and skylark. It is thought that some of these may be diminishing in numbers, possibly due to more intensive farming practices, but the rare stone curlew returns to breed in selected areas each spring. Small mammals are also widespread, with foxes, badgers and deer present in different locations throughout the parish.
The extensive open farmland and natural woodland that is evident throughout the parish contains numerous bridleways and footpaths linking and surrounding the villages. Some paths are long and straight, such as Coffin Walk linking East Stratton to Micheldever, and these give a tunnelling effect when bounded by hedges or woods.
Others traverse open ground and give stunning landscape views. From the higher ground around Micheldever Station, for example, Cheesefoot Head and the hilly ridge to the south of Winchester can be seen, while from Weston Clump on the northern boundary of the parish the downs on the Isle of Wight can be seen on a clear day. Looking north from Micheldever, Coxford Down forms the horizon three miles away, and from rising ground above Northbrook there is an outstanding view north-east to Black Wood and east towards the Strattons. The view to the west from Borough Arch, along the Dever Valley to Stoke Charity and Hunton is also worthy of mention.
The River Dever, with its natural wildlife ponds, runs from West Stratton through Micheldever and Weston Colley to join the River Test at Wherewell. It supports a variety of water fowl and other birds, including swan, geese, kingfisher and heron, all of which are seen in places along the river from West Stratton to Weston Colley. Trout, sometimes 10" or more in length, are also commonly seen.
The Stratton Woodlands comprise extensive tracts of forest. Micheldever Forest (359 hectares) and Black Wood (276 hectares) are ancient semi-natural woodlands (ASNW's) that have been in existence since before 1600. Embley Wood (30 hectares) and Rownest Wood (23 hectares) are also part of the Woodlands that are owned and managed by Forest Enterprise, who recognise the social and environmental issues associated with their management. A large part of this area, particularly within Micheldever Forest is of considerable archaeological interest and has been designated a Scheduled Ancient Monument (SAM 588). Winchester City Council and Hampshire County Council, working in partnership with Forest Enterprise, have created an archaeological trail (that contains the site of a Roman settlement) in Micheldever Forest. Over a period of time the restoration of the woodlands as ancient semi-natural woodlands and PAWS (plantation on an ancient woodland site) is part of the management strategy. Black Wood consists of mixed deciduous and coniferous trees providing ample tracks and rides for recreation. It is flanked on the west by an old drover's track providing a fascinating walk with woodland on one side and wide-open areas on the other, with long views northwards and westwards. In addition to the forestry plantations many copses and trees are dotted around the landscape, while the well-wooded railway embankment is an impressive sight at various points on its route through the parish.
(Character studies for the Dever River Valley and the Stratton Woodlands, which give greater detail about these important landscape features, are reproduced in Appendix A, with the kind permission of Winchester City Council).
|OA1||footpaths and bridleways should be kept open to the public and maintained in good repair|
|OA2||proposals to provide additional footpaths and bridleways should be encouraged|
|OA3||planting of native tree species should be undertaken to create windbreaks and wildlife habitats|
|OA4||conservation strips around the perimeter of fields and open spaces should be created and maintained|
|OA5||the open areas that exist within, and surround, the settlements should be maintained for the enjoyment of future generations|
|OA6||the River Dever valley should be conserved as a wetland habitat and maintained as part of the strolling route around the villages|
|OA7||the recreational open spaces that exist are invaluable to the settlements and should be maintained and enhanced to provide additional sporting and recreational activities|
|OA8||the conservation of the open landscape character to the west of the ancient drover's track, that borders the edge of Black Wood is important. Large areas of tree planting or the placing of buildings or structures in this open land should be avoided|