Natural England - 69 Trent Valley Washlands

69 Trent Valley Washlands

Trent Valley Washlands full profile cover

Summary

The Trent Valley Washlands National Character Area (NCA) comprises the river flood plain corridors of the middle reaches of the River Trent’s catchment in the heart of England. It is a distinctly narrow, linear and low-lying landscape, often clearly delineated at its edges by higher ground, and it is largely comprised of the flat flood plains and gravel terraces of the rivers.

A washland is described as an area of flood plain that is allowed to flood or is deliberately flooded for flood management purposes. Thus the Trent Valley Washlands are strongly defined by the riverine environment and periodic inundation. The key ecosystem services provided are related to water, its availability and regulation of flow. Thick superficial deposits of alluvium and river terrace gravels dominate the Washlands’ geology. Variations in these, the resultant soils and the differences in elevation above and below flood levels have determined both settlement pattern and agricultural land use. Arable crops are by and large located on the freely draining soils of the river terraces and on the higher ground where fields are big and hedgerows are small with few trees. Pastoral farming generally takes place on the river flood plains, where soils are subject to frequent flooding or are naturally wet. Here fields are usually smaller and the hedgerows fuller with more tree cover. Overall woodland cover in the Washlands is very limited, although riparian trees, especially willows, provide an important component of the landscape.

The broad rivers, their riparian vegetation and the semi-natural parts of the flood plain form the main habitats of the Washlands, with flooded former gravel extractionsites introducing new wetland habitat into the area. Characteristic species are those associated with these wetlands such as grey heron, lapwing and kingfisher.

The rivers have attracted humans from the earliest times, especially the gravel terraces and crossing points. Traditional buildings are typically made of red brick with clay plain tile roofs with the occasional survival of some earlier timber-framed structures, while grander dwellings and churches are often built from sandstone.

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