Lambs in Macey's Meadow

Worksheet EN2: The town and wider countryside

Sub-section: Links between town and countryside Edit

Q1 What is the location and impact of any natural or man-made features such as rivers, canals, roads or railway lines that physically or visually link the town and country?

West Malling is a small, nucleated market town surrounded by countryside. The major features linking town and country are the roads and paths which radiate like the spokes of a wheel from the High Street market square area. One of the attractions of the town is that if you walk in any direction from the square you can be in open countryside in five minutes. The railway station is on the Victoria-Ashford line, and East Malling also has a station.

Q2 Are there unique design elements found in both the town and the surrounding countryside?

Ragstone boundary walls are a common feature of the town (Abbey and Monastery, Brome House, Went House,) and the country (New Barns, Hermitage?) Use of ragstone in buildings in both town and country has occurred since very early times e.g. St Leonard's tower, St Mary's parish church, Abbey gatehouse (Insert dates for these buildings) Half timbered jetted houses are found in King Street in the town, and in the Wealden houses on St Leonard's Street.

Q3 What are the memorable views either from the town to the countryside, or from the countryside to the town, and where can they be seen from?

The West Malling Conservation Area study refers to a number of points at which views from the town into the countryside should be protected.

  • Town Hill across to Leybourne Woods and Woods Meadow
  • Top Town Hill to North Downs; Norman Road to North Downs.
  • Southern end of Offham Road at "Carpenters" across fields to Offham, Mereworth, and St Leonard's Tower.
  • By-pass generally towards town, especially from area of Tower roundabout.
  • Windmill Lane to Manor Park and town.
  • Manor Park to church.
  • Churchyard towards North Downs.

Q4 What historic commercial links such as market halls, a corn exchange, mills, wharves, market squares between the town and country are still evident?

The wide section of the High Street was used for a market, the charter for which was vested in the Abbey. The remnants of a market cross exist in the wall of the Bakery Restaurant (?) Tithe barns exist in Water Lane for the Abbey and Brome House (for the parish church?) The St Leonard's stream was used at several points for producing goods using local materials. In Swan Street opposite the Cascade, the Abbey Brewery produced beer using local hops. It had its own pub called the Brewery Tap, now converted to residential use as is the rest of the Brewery. The stream then runs alongside Frog Lane (once called Skin or Tan Lane?) where tanneries once existed. Early maps indicate medieval fishponds created by damming the stream between Swan Street and London Road. The site of a large circular fishpond existed at Fishpond cottages. The water was also used here by Leybourne Laundry. Recent excavation on the site of the Domesday Leybourne Mill revealed a complex system of mill ponds and races produced from the waters of this stream and the Lillieburn, to power the flour mill which was part of the Leybourne Castle estate. There was a second mill on this estate at Ryarsh. There are oast houses at Eden Farm, and Manor Farm, where local hops were dried for the brewing industry. All are now residential buildings.

Q5 Does the character of the surrounding countryside become less distinct the closer it gets to the town edge?

The surrounding countryside is mainly under arable crops and orchard, with some fields immediately alongside residential areas e.g. Fartherwell Avenue and Ewell Avenue. There is some sheep pasture, and widespread horse paddocks and stabling, particularly near the margins of the town.

Sub-section: Countryside landscape character Edit

Q6 What are the unique characteristics of the local countryside?

The area is characterised by productive arable fields, orchards and pasture separated by hedgerows. Particular local crops include strawberries, apples, pears and cherries. Could we include Landscape Map from KCC or TMBC? Sunken lanes which are typical of Wealden Greensand landscape character areas exist at Lavenders Road, Ryarsh Lane, Fatherwell Lane, Sandy Lane, and Church Road Offham.

Q7 What areas are covered by national, regional or local landscape, conservation or wildlife designations such as:

  • National Parks
  • Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB)
  • Special Protection Areas
  • Special Areas of Conservation
  • National Nature Reserves (NNR)
  • Local Nature Reserves (LNR)
  • Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
  • Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation

The following national, regional and local landscape, conservation or wildlife designations exist in the parish of West Malling and the nine adjoining parishes: North Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Metropolitan Green Belt Leybourne Woods Ancient Woodland Leybourne Woods Public Open Space Areas of Local Landscape Importance Historic Parkland Conservation Areas: West Malling Town, St Leonards Hamlet including English Heritage St Leonard's Tower, New Barns Hamlet. Green wedge local designation

Q8 Areas of historic importance:

What areas of historic importance have concentrations of:

  • Listed Buildings
  • Conservation Areas
  • Historic parkland
  • Scheduled Ancient Monuments (SAM)
  • Areas of Archaeological Importance

St Leonard's Tower, Abbey and Monastery including Priests House Banky Meadows as Plague Pit. Whole Conservation Area of town is based on outstanding architectural value of townscape, based on medieval houses with Georgian frontages added. It contains many listed buildings. George Inn harboured rebellion soldiers. Swan St Bank links with Dr Johnson and Swan Pub with Pickwick Papers? Cricket Meadow site of first recorded cricket match in Kent and therefore the world? High St property of Dr Banks? Historic parkland at Hermitage, Douces Manor.

Sub-Section: Countryside Landscape Quality, Use & Management Edit

Q9 Land:

What are the proportions of agricultural land at Grade 1, 2 or 3a?

The agricultural land around the area is good quality orchard, arable and grazing land.

Q10 What areas of the countryside are being managed through national agri-environment schemes?

Current schemes are:

  • Countryside Stewardship Scheme = Macey's Meadow - Countryside Stewardship Scheme
  • Environmentally Sensitive Areas
  • Nitrate Sensitive Areas
  • Habitat Scheme
  • Moorland Scheme
  • Organic Aid Scheme
  • Countryside Access Scheme

Q11 Groups:

How do community and voluntary groups participate in the management of the local countryside?

  • Macey's Meadow: Macey's Meadow advisory committee is formed of volunteers who manage the activites of the Maceys Meadow volunteers. They have been responsible for the clearance,hedge laying, tree planting, fencing, pruning and mowing of the 20 acre site which is the subject of a Countyside Stewardship Agreement. BTCV group involvement with Macey's Meadow, and tree planting in the town. Medway Valley Countryside Partnership also involved in hedge laying and training in hedge laying projects on Maceys Meadow.
  • CPRE active in defending local countryside, for example via Bypass Inquiry
  • Leybourne Lakes volunteer conservation group
  • activities organised by Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council (though unclear as to what extent any of these activites within West Malling hinterland).

How do they contribute to the town and surrounding countryside’s conservation?

  • Malling Society contribute comments to all planning applications, conserve, restore and publish the Freda Barton collection of photographs of WM and surrounding area
  • In partnership with Parish Council embarking on establishment of Heritage Centre.
  • Clout Institute Trustees maintain the Clout Institute given to the town to prmote work with young people.
  • Ad hoc working parties for Litter Clearance, bulb planting, clearance of undergrowth, arranged by Parish Council.

Q12 Is there a horticulture or market gardening industry on the outskirts of the town which supplies the town markets?

Local horticulture and market gardening now very limited throughout adjoining parishes

Q13 How many local agricultural or horticultural produce businesses are certified organic producers or members of other environmental standards schemes?

A Farmers Market is held on the fourth Sunday of each month in the Market Square. Producers are limited by the conditions of the National Scheme and the following producers have stalls at the market.

Q14 Changes:

Are there plans for future major change on the urban edge? What are they and when are they planned for? What landscape impacts might they to have?

Plans for major change to the urban edge of West Malling

Metropolitan Green Belt to the west limits development, but 750 houses planned at Leybourne Grange site. Landscape impact of Leybourne development should be limited since housing is limited to footprint of former hospital site which is surrounded by screening parkland. There will be a new access from the site onto London Road.

The new route of the Leybourne and West Malling bypass encloses several parcels of land which may be targeted by developers. Attempts to prevent this by extending the green belt to the West Malling section of the bypass were not supported by the County Council, and were not included in the Structure Plan.

Land between London Road and the Railway line to the west of Town Hill is likely to be developed further during current Local Plan period, continuing a trend of successful applications for development of rear gardens of properties on London Road.

Bypass has been connected to West Malling Railway station by means of a slip road. The slip road encloses land in private ownership which is planned to be developed for a 200 plus space car park. However, development has been delayed due to lack of agreement with the rail authorities on right of access from the slip road to the station. Negotiations are underway to reach agreement.