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Extracts from Canterbury Landscape Appraisal - November 1998
2.3 Stour Valley - Wincheap and Thanington

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  2.3 Stour Valley - Wincheap and Thanington
The broad character area of the Stour Valley extends along the length of the valley from Ashford to the Chislet Marshes. It is characterised by the flat alluvial floodplain of the River Stour and clayey soils affected by groundwater. Traditionally this area was managed for grazing. Its low lying and waterlogged nature mean that settlement and arable crops are not typical on the valley floor. Grassland is often poor and the agricultural land classification is Grade 3. Meadows around Canterbury are noted in the Domesday survey in 1086. This landscape remained largely unchanged until the introduction of the railways in Victorian times.

In the Twentieth century gravel extraction, modem agricultural practice and the growth of the City have destroyed much of this historic landscape. It is these recent developments that have brought about local changes particularly in land use that subdivide the Stour Valley.

This section describes the section of the Stour Valley to the south west of the City from Thanington to the urban edge. The continuation of the Stour Valley to the north east of the City is described in the following section.

Landscape Description

To the west of Thanington areas of former gravel workings form large waterbodies surrounded by mature wetland vegetation. The Stour passes Thanington tight to the eastern edge of the urban area with the floodplain extending to the west. There are attractive views of the higher ground around Harbledown from the valley floor.

The Stour Valley is an important link between the City and the countryside and throughout history it has been an important transport corridor. Today the A2 cuts across it, and the A28 from Ashford, the Ashford to Canterbury railway and the Faversham to Canterbury railway all follow the valley into the City. The Ashford to Canterbury line and the disused Elham Valley Railway both cross the valley floor on embankment.



These embankments and railway architecture are significant features in the valley, enclosing views and subdividing the area. The brick viaduct over the Stour creates a focal point in the landscape and allows glimpses of the floodplain beyond.

Approaching the City north of the A2 the valley feels more enclosed as the land rises steeply above Whitehall Road to the north and the built environment tightens around the valley. Dominant commercial buildings and the gasometer at Wincheap encroach onto the valley floor. Along with playing fields and allotments these introduce an urban fringe character to this area, In contrast these playing fields and allotments also have an important role of bringing the green space into the heart of the City.

The Stour winds its way across the meadows creating a passive landscape despite the introduced features in the valley.


Views of the City

To the south west the valley narrows and is contained by the North Downs, This, combined with the screening effect of dense vegetation around the gravel pits, restricts views along the floodplain. Views of the city start to the east of the A28 crossing of the Stour and increase on the approach to Thanington.

There are intermittent views along the valley floor of the City and the Cathedral. To the south of the A2 these views are partly blocked by the road on embankment although Bell Harry Tower rises above this providing a strang focal point, North of the A2 there are views of Bell Harry Tower rising above the vegetation but the clutter of the built development tends to distract from the valley setting.
  Key Characteristics

  • Flat alluvial floodplain with deep waterlogged soils divided by the channel of the River Stour and associated ditches.


  • Grade 3 agricultural land managed as wet meadows.


  • Lakes created from former gravel pits enclosed by mature wetland vegetation.


  • Transport corridor containing railway and road embankments enclosing views and subdividing the area.


  • Clumps of wetland tree species associated with river and ditches with mature trees established on the railway embankments.
  Views of the City

  • Views along valley floor of Bell Harry Tower rising above the vegetafion and road and rail infrastructure.


  • The view of retail and commercial development does not relate to the landscape character of the Stour Valley and impinges on the quality of the view of the City.


Condition

The visual unity of the Stour Valley is interrupted by the introduction of elements within the valley. It is also strongly influenced by features on the edges of the valley and on the valley sides. Detracting Features in the valley include the gas holder and mobile homes. with educational and commercial establishment on fringes, In addition the A2 and railway embankments are contrasting introduced elements in the landscape.

The ecological integrity is strong. There is a good network of ditches, floodplain pasture and scrub. The extent of semi-natural habitat is good but stops abruptly at the urban edge. The tree cover associated with the ditches and railways embankments has a diverse age structure and the ditch field boundaries are generally regularly managed although some are in decline. This retains the traditional pattern of enclosure and encourages ecological diversity. Recent industrial archaeology in the form of railway heritage is evident in the valley floor, particularly where the remnant embankment of the disused Elham Valley Line curves across the floodplain.

Settlement is not traditionally characteristic of the floodplain, however there is a significant impact from recent commercial and retail development encroaching into the valley floor.

Sensitivity

The strength of character of this landscape is considered to be moderate. The traditional pattern of ditches and meadows is distinct over much of this part of the Stour Valley, allthough some is lost to gravel extraction and recent development. Where it is intact the intrinsic pattern of the landscape has remained largely unchanged for many centuries.

The flat valley floor with its limited tree cover creates a very highly visible landscape. Overall the Stour Valley is a highly sensitive landscape.









Guidelines

The analysis shows that this part of the Stour Valley is sensitive to the introduction of new features. This sensitivity has not been given due respect in the past and the condition of the valley has deteriorated. Guidelines that encourage the restoration of the open valley landscape are required.
  • Restore tradltiona! drainage pattern where it is in decline.


  • Restore traditional field pattern between the Ashford to Canterbury Railway and the urban edge. Soften the impact of the retail and industrial development to the east by encouraging a seasonally wet woodland buffer.


  • Restore wetland grazing on the east side of the Stour to recreate the valley floor setting of the river.


  • Restare green links into the heart of the City.


  • Remove detracting features within the valley where practicable.


  • Restore the quality of views of the Cathedral by mitigating the impact of the built up areas and protect from further intrusion.


  • Soften the impact of the built development by using planting appropriate to the local landscape.
  Summary of Analysis


  Condition: Moderate
  Pattern of elements           coherent
  Detracting features           many
  Visual unity                        interupted
  Cultural integrity                modified
  Ecological integrity           corridors
  Functional integrity           coherent


  Sensitivity: Moderate
  Distinctiveness                   distinct
  Consistency of pattern      distinct
  Distinctive features            some
  Continuity                            historic
  Strength of character         moderate
  Landform                             dominant
  Extent of tree cover            open
  Visibility                              very high



  Guidelines: Restore
  Sensitive to change

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