Situated between the valleys of the Exe and the Culm, this is an area of quiet, peaceful countryside, largely undisturbed by the roads and settlements on its periphery. Its steeply undulating hills and serene valleys have seen relatively few modern changes. Sunken lanes and tracks, a colourful patchwork of hedged fields, and numerous historic farmsteads remain a part of the fabric of today’s landscape, giving the area a strong sense of changelessness and time-depth, despite its proximity to Exeter. The red soils and sandstone buildings give the area a colourful and warm quality which is enhanced by the deciduous trees in hedgerows and alongside streams.
This area runs north-south and contains the middle reaches of the River Exe, extending westward to include the lower parts of two of its tributaries. To the west is the higher land of the Cruwys Morchard Wooded and Farmed Valleys; and to the east the higher land of the Bampton and Beer Downs and the Cullompton Rolling Farmland. To the south is a more gradual transition from the wider Exe Valley floor into the Yeo, Culm and Exe Lowlands. To the north is the county boundary with Somerset, although the character of the Exe Valley continues beyond it.
Constituent Landscape Character Types
Constituent LCTs: 1E: Wooded Ridges and Hill Tops, 3A: Upper Farmed and Wooded Valley Slopes, 3C Sparsely Settled Farmed Valley Floors Part of NCA: 148: Devon Redlands
- Underlying geology of Carboniferous Culm Measures (mudstone, sandstone and limestone) beneath the western part of the area, and Permian red sandstone beneath the eastern part.
- Steeply rolling landform containing numerous small valleys, often with convex side-slopes.
- Numerous small streams (flowing west into the Exe or east into the Culm), often spring-fed.
- Short stretch of the Culm Valley (between Cullompton and Bradninch), consisting of a broad, meandering river within a wide floodplain.
- Copses and small blocks of deciduous woodland with occasional mixed or coniferous plantations (e.g. Hillersdon Wood); numerous hedgerow trees giving a characteristic well-treed appearance.
- Fertile red soils of medium-high quality supporting a mixture of pastoral and arable farming.
- Numerous surviving orchards, particularly in the Burn River valley, and in the southern part of the area.
- Small to medium-sized fields, mostly irregular to semi-regular in shape; extensive areas of surviving medieval and ‘Barton’ field enclosures (dating from the 15th to 17th century), particularly around villages.
- Fields divided by deciduous hedgerows with frequent hedgerow trees, some hedges remaining thick whilst others have been closely flailed.
- Semi-natural woodland, copses and streamside habitats as well as tree, hedgerow and verge habitats.
- Parkland estates (e.g. Hillersdon) locally influencing landscape character.
- Historic features including lanes, tracks, fields, bridges, farms, churches together with mills in the Culm valley forming intrinsic parts of the contemporary landscape scene.
- Sparse settlement, generally limited to scattered farms and hamlets; larger settlements on the peripheries of the area including the towns of Tiverton and Cullompton and the villages of Silverton and Bradninch.
- Vernacular building materials (including cob, thatch and local red sandstone) displayed in domestic and agricultural buildings such as barns and linhays.
- A network of tracks and narrow lanes often following ridge-tops, suggesting considerable antiquity; tracks and lanes often steep and sunken, running between high hedge-banks with flower-rich verges.
- Major transport routes including the London-Exeter railway line and the M5 in the Culm valley to the east.
- Occasional views from high land westwards over the Exe valley and eastwards towards the Blackdowns.
- A quiet, peaceful landscape with little traffic (except on its eastern boundary) and a sense of seclusion and remoteness in valleys, contrasting with the long views from higher land.
Special Qualities and Features:
- Long views from high land: southwards towards Exeter; westwards over the Exe Valley; northwards over Tiverton and eastwards towards the Blackdowns.
- Extensive wet woodland at Rode Moors designated a CWS.
- Occasional small patches of ancient semi-natural woodland.
- LNR at Charwell Wetlands, near Bradninch, allowing public access into the countryside.
- Conservation Areas covering the historic cores of Silverton and Bradninch, plus historic buildings and structures such as farms and bridges throughout the area.
- Network of quiet lanes and publicly-accessible tracks providing access into the area, but a limited footpath network, particularly in the central part of the area.
Past and Current
- Past agricultural intensification e.g. loss of hedgerows and hedgebanks; increased land in arable production; increased use of fertilizers etc. changing the character of the landscape.
- Current agricultural practices also affecting the landscape, including the use of fleece and plastic on fields to protect crops, and the construction of large, modern farm buildings which can be visually intrusive.
- Loss or poor management of orchards leading to a loss of landscape diversity and biodiversity.
- Past planting of small coniferous plantations introducing new elements into the landscape.
- Loss of hedgerows, hedgebanks and hedgerow trees which are essential to retain the landscape’s vegetated ‘patchwork’ appearance.
- Loss of flower species diversity in hedgebanks and verges, partly as a result of increased traffic (including wide farm vehicles).
- New pests and diseases (e.g. Phytophthora) affecting trees and woodlands, potentially leading to loss of important features in the landscape.
- Invasive water-borne species such as knotweed and Himalayan balsam affecting native riparian habitat.
- Loss of tranquillity and dark night skies as a result of proximity to Exeter and main transport routes, particularly the M5.
- Telecommunications mast at Christ Cross – a prominent built structure in an otherwise largely undeveloped landscape.
- Peripheral development of settlements such as Tiverton, Silverton and Bradninch creeping up valley sides and becoming increasingly prominent in the landscape.
- Changing levels of agricultural funding and grants, potentially affecting stocking levels and upkeep of traditional features such as hedgerows and traditional farm buildings.
- Continued development pressure from settlements on the periphery of the area.
- Demand for renewable energy schemes, including wind turbines on higher land, solar arrays and biofuel crops which will potentially change the appearance and pattern of the landscape.
- Climate change affecting seasonal weather patterns (e.g. summer droughts and winter floods), potentially affecting choice of agricultural crops, and causing loss of drought- and water-intolerant species.
- Increased magnitude and frequency of storm events as a result of climate change, resulting in loss of or damage to trees and woodland.
To protect and enhance the landscape’s locally important scenic quality and its undeveloped rural character. Farmland is well managed, with thriving hedgerows and woodlands. The biodiversity of the area is increased and its resilience to climate change strengthened. The area’s historic field patterns, roads, tracks and buildings are protected, and any new development (including in settlements on its periphery) is sensitively designed and sited.
- Protect remaining hedgerow trees, replanting as necessary to ensure their continued presence within the landscape.
- Protect historic lanes and tracks and manage their hedgebanks and verges to encourage a variety of native plant species; resist unsympathetic signage and highways works.
- Protect historic landscape features such as field patterns, bridges, and the mills in the Culm valley.
- Protect and manage surviving orchards.
- Protect historic buildings and the sparse settlement pattern of scattered farms and hamlets, ensuring that any new development is of an appropriate scale, carefully sited to fit with traditional settlement form, and respects traditional building materials and styles.
- Protect floodplains in the Culm valley from development, to ensure that they retain their function as floodplains and reduce flooding downstream.
- Manage agricultural land to enhance its biodiversity, e.g. through the retention of grass buffer strips around the perimeters of arable fields.
- Manage hedgerows using traditional techniques, replanting gaps and lost hedgerows where necessary.
- Manage trees, woodland and copses (using traditional methods such as coppicing and pollarding to maximise age- and species-diversity); educate the public in avoiding spread of infectious tree diseases.
- Manage footpaths to ensure that they remain passable, and consider enhancing the footpath network in the central part of the area.
- Manage and control or eradicate if possible invasive water-borne weeds.
- Plan to encourage learning of traditional agricultural techniques such as hedgerow management.
- Plan to link woodlands, copses and wetlands to increase their wildlife value and resilience to climate change.
- Plan to research effective treatments and preventative measures against Phytophthora pathogens (sudden oak death).
- Plan to encourage the development of new orchards, possibly as community projects.
- Plan to minimise landscape impacts of future development in surrounding settlements through careful siting, design and screening.
- Plan to reduce light spill from Exeter, Tiverton and road junctions.
- Plan to improve access links between Tiverton and the countryside to the south of the town.