Landform and Drainage Pattern
7.2.8 The principal characteristic of the area is the gently undulating landform of the broad Chew Valley. The tributary valleys of the River Chew and, in the extreme south-west, tributaries of the River Yeo dissect the landscape leaving occasional hills. The old coal spoil heap at Pensford has modified the local landform in a dramatic way.
7.2.9 The land is mainly under grass and occasionally in places is used for cereals particularly eastwards from Chew Valley Lake and south of Keynsham. Horticulture is rarer and is found for example at Byemills Farm near Belluton. In the past apple orchards were common around the settlements as was typical throughout the area.
7.2.10 There are several historic parks that include Stanton Drew, Hunstrete, Stowey House and Sutton Court.
Fields, Boundaries and Trees
7.2.11 The medium and small fields are generally bounded by hedges and occasionally by tree belts and woodland. The hedges are typically trimmed and mostly contain trees. Mature oak and ash trees are characteristic of the area with occasional groups of Scots Pine particularly around the Chew Valley Lake. Many elm trees have been lost in this area and dead / dying elms are evident across much of the area. The hedges generally contain a diverse range of species.
7.2.12 The small fields in the western part of the character area are particularly characteristic of the Chew Valley and date back to the most evident period of enclosure of earlier open fields which took place in the late medieval period. Fields of this category are generally small in size, regular in outline and often the boundaries preserve the outlines of the earlier strip field system. Regional variations in field size and pattern do occur. For example there is evidence of medieval clearance of woodland on the slopes around Nempnett Thrubwell, south of Bishop Sutton and west and south of Chelwood. The resultant fields are irregular or organic in form; the smaller fields being more typical of piecemeal clearance and the larger and more regular fields characteristic of organised clearance.
7.2.13 Woodlands form an important component of the landscape and are particularly evident on the hills and slopes. There are many small woods giving the landscape a well-wooded appearance. Towards the east of the area there are a number of large woods such as at Lord’s Wood, Hunstrete Plantation and Common Wood.
Settlement and Communications
7.2.14 The area is well served by a dense network of mainly minor routes. The major routes are the north to south A37 linking Bristol and Shepton Mallet via Pensford and the west to east A368 linking Weston Super Mare and Bath. Numerous footpaths criss-cross the area including the north-south aligned Three Peaks Walk and the westeast aligned Two Rivers Way which cross near Chew Magna.
7.2.15 Chew Stoke, Chew Magna and Pensford are the main settlements. Each is located on the lower valley slopes at the junction of several routes. There are also several moderate to small villages such as Stanton Drew and Chelwood and a few distinctive smaller groups of mainly more recent houses arranged along a single road in elevated positions.
7.2.16 The traditional building material is white Lias Limestone; sometimes incorporating red sandstone or conglomerate, with red clay tiled roofs. Red Sandstone buildings are characteristic of the villages north of Chew Valley Lake such as Chew Magna. Many dwellings are also painted or rendered in shades of white, grey and cream. Historically houses were also built of Pennant Sandstone where it was locally available, such as in the area of Stanton Wick.
7.2.17 Farm buildings and settlements are generally nestled into the valley sides taking advantage of minor depressions in the landscape. They are generally well integrated into the landscape and are often nestled in amongst trees.
7.2.18 The landscape of the Chew Valley is distinctive and generally harmonious. It results from the balance of hedges, trees and woodland within the enclosed farmland and from the ‘well-treed’ setting of the settlements which are generally integrated well into the topography. This balance reflects the historical evolution of the landscape.
7.2.19 The undulating nature of the landscape gives rise to extensive views across the Chew and Yeo Valleys and across the Chew Valley and Blagdon Lakes to the Mendips, Dundry Hills and the plateau around Hinton Blewett. Well-wooded slopes form prominent elements within the view. The tributary valleys by contrast have a more intimate quality. They are enclosed by hedges, trees and the valleys themselves.
7.2.20 Features within this landscape include the Chew Valley and Blagdon Lakes bordering the area and at Blackmoor the distinctive chimney marking the remains of an engine house put up by Bristol Waterworks in 1859 to pump water from an exploratory well.
7.2.21 The varied topography has given rise to several notable sunken lanes sometimes bounded by high hedgebanks.
7.2.22 The line of the now disused North Somerset Railway runs south from Bristol crossing over the River Chew on the surviving distinctive viaduct at Pensford and on to Midsomer Norton. It is identifiable in the landscape from the scrub along its course and its gently curved alignment that forms the boundaries of fields.
7.2.23 The area around Pensford was an important mining area and the old tip is a prominent legacy. Patches of bracken within hedges and in fields of rough grazing are characteristic of this area forming distinctive fresh green fronds in spring and warm brown coloured dead leaves in autumn and winter.
7.2.24 The area includes a number of visible archaeological and historic features including the Stanton Drew Stone Circles Scheduled Monument, the Stowey Castle earthworks and Marksbury church tower. The mills of the River Chew, sometimes dating back at least to Domesday, are also an important feature whilst old quarries, limekilns and early field boundaries are now only evident as undulations on the ground.
7.2.25 The landscape is generally very tranquil with the silence broken only by occasional tractors, other vehicles, aircraft and farm animals. There are however less tranquil areas dictated by proximity to main routes and to local activities and land-uses.