|Beenham Village Design Statement (plain text version)
What is a Village Design Statement?
This Village Design Statement (VDS) describes Beenham parish as it is
today and highlights the qualities and characteristics that are valued by
its residents, as well as drawing attention to what is special about the
buildings, open spaces and surroundings. The aim is to provide a context for
new development, based on local character and sense of place. The purpose
is to manage change, whether that is major new development or just
cumulative small-scale alterations and additions.
The VDS endeavours to set out clear and simple guidelines for sustainable
development, so that it contributes to the local environment and is carried out
in harmony with its setting.
How it was produced?
This Beenham VDS represents the end of a process which began in September
2000 at an open meeting, called by the parish council to explain the idea. Ten
parishioners attended the meeting; four of them were sufficiently enthusiastic
to join a steering group with two parish councillors. A start was made on the
project with the assistance of the Community Council for Berkshire.
A second public meeting was held at the end of November 2000, to which
representatives of all 20 village clubs and organisations, such as the Friendship
Club, Women’s Institute, Youth Club and Working Men’s Club were invited.
They were told about the aims of the VDS, shown the Countryside Agency video
and were asked to promote the planned workshop.
The workshop, held on Saturday 20th January 2001 was facilitated by the
Community Council for Berkshire. Twenty seven people participated, their ages
ranging from 7 to 70. An initial exercise of mapping the village got people into
groups talking about the layout of the village, its landmarks and significant
features. Five groups were each allocated a part of the parish, preferably one
they were less familiar with. The aim was to try and capture the essence of
Beenham, by a variety of means, in words, pictures, smells, views, and
materials for example. After the groups returned from their investigative walk
and had warmed up, each reported to the whole meeting on their findings.
When the steering group had analysed all the material produced from the
workshop a small exhibition was mounted showing some of the photographs
and giving a brief explanation of progress. The exhibition was held on 12th May
2001 at the Pre-school Easter Fair in the Community Room and then
transferred in the afternoon to the Victory Hall for the village market. Once again
residents responded well by providing helpful comments. With the financial
support of the parish council, the steering group, who met on a monthly basis,
continued work to produce the final document. Throughout the exercise contact
was maintained with the appropriate officer at West Berkshire District Council.
West Berkshire District Council consulted statutory agencies, national interest
groups, relevant Parish/Town Councils, local interest groups and local
developers (or their agents) on the final Draft VDS for six weeks in April/May
2003. At the same time the VDS Group consulted with the local community in
Beenham. Comments were taken on board as appropriate. The final version of
Beenham Village Design Statement was adopted as Supplementary Planning
Guidance (SPG) by West Berkshire Council on 8th July 2003 and its
recommendations will be taken into account when planning applications are
How will it be used?
The VDS is intended to be a practical tool capable of influencing decisions
affecting design and development in the parish. Its main function is to assist
not only residents, builders and designers, but also the parish council and West
Berkshire District Council, when dealing with planning applications.The Berkshire Structure Plan provides the overall framework for development
in Berkshire. The general policies of the Structure Plan are explained in greater
detail in the Local Plan. Together these documents form the current‘development plan’ for the area. The West Berkshire District Local Plan (1991-
2006) was adopted on 14th June 2002. Councillors, both district and parish
and planning officers must decide whether a planning application is in
accordance with the Local Plan and take into account other material
considerations before arriving at a decision. As SPG, the guidance contained in
this Design Statement provides an explanation of the Council’s policy position
and while it is not a statutory document, it has been the subject of public
consultation and has been adopted by the Council’s Eastern Area Forum.
Compliance with the recommendations does not by itself guarantee planning
permission as each case is judged on its merits.
The character of the landscape setting of the parish
The parish is mainly situated in the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding
Natural Beauty (AONB) (see page 4). Beenham lies on the north bank of the
Kennet Valley mid-way between Reading and Newbury, 9 miles away in either
direction. The village of Beenham straddles a ridge of hills to the north of the
London to Bath road, the A4. The surrounding countryside is made up of fields
used for grazing and arable land interspersed by eleven ancient, semi-natural woods.
The Landscape Character Assessment for Berkshire indicates that Beenham is
covered by two landscape character types, which are further sub-divided into
landscape character areas:
Type B - Lower Valley Floor; landscape character area B1 Lower Kennet
Type H - Woodland and Heathland Mosaic; landscape character area H4 Cold Ash.
This strategic county wide assessment supports the review of the Berkshire
Structure Plan and builds upon the existing landscape character assessments
carried out by the former Newbury District Council for the District and by the
Countryside Agency for the North Wessex Downs AONB.
Geology and landscape
Beenham parish contains two distinct topographical areas determined by the
The upland area around Beenham village lies on Tertiary London clay,overlain by a discontinuous layer of Beenham Stocks gravel. This gives
rise to village place names such as Clay Lane and Stoneyfield.
undisturbed, with grassland where the woods have been cleared. These
woodlands provide "a significant structuring element in the landscape"
and "influence the overall character of the area".
In the Kennet Valley the London clay is underlain by the sands and clay
of the Reading beds. Both are overlain by Quaternary Beenham gravels
of the Kennet system. Where undisturbed, these soils still support rich
grassland and wetland close to the River Kennet. But where farmed,
they produce a landscape of large-scale arable fields. In particular, there
is a river terrace of Grade 1 agricultural land stretching from
Woolhampton to Englefield, below the ridge of hills, which still supports
intensive farming in Beenham.
Ancient, semi-natural woods are those that have been in existence since at least
1600 and still retain tree and shrub cover which has not obviously been
planted. These are generally the most valuable woodlands for biodiversity. Old
Copse is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). This wood was designated
in 1984 as a particularly important example of the unusual coppiced wet
ash/wych elm stand type and contains four other woodland types:
neutral valley alderwood
oak hazel ash
When designated, its ground flora was rich and varied. It still includes several
species indicative of ancient woodland, some of which are uncommon, such
as wild daffodil Narcissus pseudonarcissus and the sedge Canex stigosa.
Many areas of woodland within the parish are designated Wildlife Heritage Sites
by West Berkshire District Council because of their nature conservation
importance. Several of the woods have wonderful displays of bluebells in the
spring and later in the season honeysuckle creates a distinctive heady aroma
particularly at dusk. Some of the woods include areas of closely-planted
coniferous trees which can support unusual species of fungi and invertebrates
and provide a feeding ground for visiting birds, such as the redpoll and crossbill.
The good management of coppice woods helps to maintain the herb and shrub
layer and offers opportunities for a wider range of wildlife. According to English
Nature "the existing natural vegetation of ancient woods, the associated animal
life and the often undisturbed soil and drainage patterns .... comprise an
irreplaceable asset of great importance to nature conservation, which once
destroyed can never be recreated".
The main threats to woodland are development, lack of appropriate
management and neglect, often due to the loss of markets for traditional
Hedgerows provide safe corridors not only for small mammals but also for birds
and bats to fly along. Territorial songbirds will use intermittent trees as song
posts and feed from the berries in the winter months. Hawthorn and blackthorn
are major contributors to the hedgerows but analysis of one local farm shows
the presence of hazel, field maple, dog wood and spindle.
As with woods and ponds, hedgerows need to be sympathetically managed
and where possible cutting should be delayed until late February or March to
help them realise their potential for wildlife conservation. Creating an A shape
(i.e. with a wider base and narrower top) helps ensure that the bottom of thehedge does not die. It is also beneficial to encourage hawthorn planting within
hedges as it is the largest nectar supplying plant in the UK and provides food
for various species of birds and insects.
The Kennet Valley Countryside Project (KVCP) organised funding and
assistance with planting an in-fill hedge behind the church, to link it to the Old
Copse and Hall Place Farm hedge plantings. KVCP may also help with an
intended formal survey of hedgerows in Beenham. The local Wildlife Trust
(BBOWT) has given advice on the grassland management of the old
churchyard as well as on the restoration of the pond at Beenham School.
There are at least seven ponds within the parish which need sympathetic management and maintenance if their potential for environmental conservation
is to be reached. Many of them are over-grown but are likely to have
accumulated a complex plant and animal community. For example, species
such as the ringed plover and little ringed plover are attracted to the large area of surface water within Marley Tiles. Greylag geese, cormorants, more common
water birds and eight species of duck have been spotted at Marley Tiles lake. The pond adjoining the A4 and Grange Lane has the added advantage of having an island, thereby providing additional sanctuary for wildlife.The vegetation surrounding this pond provides good roosting and resting-places for ducks where willow trees have fallen into the water. As with some of the smaller ponds, gently sloping edges provide access for various visiting mammals.
Small seasonal streams and springs are also important for specialised species.
These can be seen in Old Copse and Greyfield Wood, and in particular beside
Clay Lane. They provide important wildlife corridors in conjunction with the
various hedgerows which border and divide the surrounding arable and pasture
As new ponds can provide a valuable habitat for amphibians and other wildlife,
the school has decided to encourage the regeneration of its pond as an ongoing
project both for the benefit of pupils and of conservation in general.
Hall Place Farm, a lowland farm, producing arable crops and farming a mixture
of sheep, cattle, geese, ducks and seasonal turkeys, has taken advantage of the
Countryside Stewardship Scheme. This has involved taking part in a land
survey with the purpose of helping the owners to farm less intensively and
manage hedgerows and woodlands appropriately to reduce the use of
chemicals. Hall Place Farm has a wide range of tree and shrub species (over
30 in its hedgerows), diverse flora and fauna and a pond which is due to be
restored. The farm will also provide access for schools and other educational
groups under the scheme and allow them to use the land for fieldwork.
1.New development should conserve and enhance the biodiversity of the parish.
2.Native species of local provenance should be used for new and replacement planting in
the wider landscape in order to conserve and enhance the rural character of the parish.
3.Individual trees, woodland and copses, hedgerows, ponds and existing field patterns
help to form part of the landscape setting of the parish and should be conserved and
enhanced wherever possible.
4. The (re)planting, restoration and management of hedgerows is encouraged in order to
improve the habitat for wildlife.
5. Any development along the A4 should conserve and enhance views from and to the
wooded skyline of Beenham, through sympathetic siting, design and landscaping.
6. The impact of the siting, design and layout of future development, (such as large
buildings, prominent roofs and telecommunication masts) on the wider landscape
of the parish should be shown to have been carefully considered by developers.
7. The setting of Beenham in the wider landscape should be conserved and enhanced by
any future development, allowing the village to retain its own identity.
8. Any new development should respect the prevailing settlement pattern and character of
9 . In any new development important views into and out of the village should be respected
by developers. Those across the Kennet Valley and towards Bradfield are particularly
valued by residents. (see below)
10. Landscaping should be considered as an integral part of any new development.
11. The spatial effect of the road network (moving from narrow corridors to wide spaces)
should be retained by new development, (particularly Back Lane, around the old Stocks
pub, Church Lane, Clay Lane and Bourne Lane by the Six Bells).
12. The Recreation Ground, the greens in Stoneyfield and the swathe of verge by the school
are highly valued as areas of open space and should be conserved or enhanced by any
13. New development should respect the existing overall layout and siting of existing
development within the village.
14. New development should reinforce the grain and form of the village by continuing
to be designed in an alignment parallel to the road
15. Any new development should have due regard to the scale and siting of neighbouring
16. Any new development, however small, should respect the prevailing design features of
the parish. This does not mean that new or innovative designs will be rejected, indeed
they would be welcomed but they should display a thorough understanding of the style,
materials and vernacular of the area.
17. Developers should avoid mixing styles and historical references in the same building.
18. Extensions to existing buildings should use similar materials which match the original
development and should be sympathetic in style, scale and proportion.
19. Roofs should try to reflect the prevailing predominance of red clay tile and incorporate a
degree of complexity in their design through the use of hipped and half-hipped roofs.
20. Builders and developers should give careful consideration to the position, size and
detail of windows when designing roof conversions.
21. Where appropriate, the continued inclusion of chimneys, particularly those which are
potted and have brick corbelling, is encouraged in new development.
22. The inclusion of decorative fascias and barge boards is to be welcomed where suitable.
23. Guttering and downpipes should be discreet and appropriate to the design and age
of the house.
24. When replacing windows, the scale, style and materials used should match those
of the original building. This is especially important in older properties.
25. In new development, the size of windows should be in correct proportion to the facade,
preferably in "portrait" configuration and with frames predominantly white in colour.
26. To harmonise with existing buildings the use of traditional red brick is preferred.
Distinctive features such as decorative brick patterning are also encouraged.
27. Doors which are appropriately designed for the age and style of the property are
28. Developers/householders should carefully consider the visual impact of the location
and design of garages and other ancillary garden buildings on their surroundings
and the wider street scene.
29. Property boundaries should be rural in character and content. Traditional styles of
brickwork and hedging are preferable (see Appendix 2 for list of suggested suitable
domestic garden hedgerow species). Emphasis should be given to achieving a more
cohesive effect, especially where boundaries are viewed from the road.
30. Driveways are characterised by loose gravel materials. Future developments should
try to match these, using bound natural materials.
31. When considering new footways, the character of the narrow winding lanes which
predominate through much of the parish should be carefully considered. The materials
also need to be appropriate to the rural setting, for example, granite setts are used
extensively as curbing.
32. When new signs, of any type, are introduced, existing poles should be used where
possible. Where appropriate every opportunity should be taken to amalgamate or
reduce the number of signs.
33. Street furniture should be sited with sensitivity and grouped to reduce visual clutter.
34. Street lighting is considered to be an urbanising feature in this rural location and its
necessity should be very carefully considered before inclusion in any new development.
In areas where street lighting is essential, the use of cut off lanterns would be
35. Any industrial or security lighting, particularly along the valley bottom and the A4,
should be carefully designed and sited so as not to increase light pollution.
36. In the interests of conserving and enhancing the rural nature of Beenham, all new
cabling should, where possible, be laid underground.
37. Where appropriate, new development should incorporate and signpost rights of way
which link into the existing network of public rights of way.
Patterns of development in the parish
The earliest records for the parish show the grant of the Church and the Manor
of Beenham (Bena’s Hamme or Bena’s Homestead or Manor) by Henry I to the
Abbot and monks of Reading Abbey. After the dissolution of the monasteries by
Henry VIII in 1539, records relate only to the larger farms in the area. Many of
the older listed buildings in the area, for example Park Farm, White Cottage,
Oakwood (formerly Fodderhouse) Farm and Malthouse Farm and those on
Beenham Hill were estate farms and workers’ cottages belonging to an
expanding Beenham Estate. The Beenham Estate and its farms preserved the
area from industrial development taking place, unlike the situation in the valley
below, where the development of the coaching road (A4), the construction of
the Kennet and Avon Canal (1716) and the spread of the railways (18301860)
are evident. The population of Beenham in 1801 was only 381, falling
even lower after the Inclosure Award of 1811 and only increasing to 508 in
1901. The sale and break up of much of the Beenham Estate in 1914 meant
that land which had previously been protected became available for
development. Most significant house building happened after World War II.
Industrial development within the parish has been concentrated along the
valley floor and the A4 road. For instance, since World War II, the sand and
gravel deposits have given rise to the development of gravel extraction works
and an associated roof tile plant. Marley is one of the largest European
manufacturers of roof tiles with extensive storage yards which have security
lighting 24 hours a day. Grundon, a large, privately-owned waste disposal and
recycling company, has a large site adjacent to the A4 which is currently being
used for landfill. Methane from the filled pits is partly used to fire furnaces at
Marley and some is converted to electricity and fed into the National Grid. There
has been sporadic mixed development along the A4, and there is a small
industrial area (Grange Lane). The industrial and commercial development
along the A4 is quite separate from the village settlement some 100m up on
the ridge above.
Farming in the form of livestock rearing on the upland areas and arable in the
valley still predominates. Recent national changes in farming policy have led
some farms to cease dairying; Oakwood and Malthouse Farms have become
horse riding and horse breeding establishments respectively. Horse grazing is
an increasing use for upland pastures. Nevertheless Beenham still has working
farms which form a critical part of the surrounding landscape.
The population of Beenham parish (estimated in 2001 by West Berkshire
District Council to be about 982) is mainly concentrated in the village of
Beenham. The Village Envelope (see page 10) as defined in the Local Plan, has
acted as a constraint on housing development within it. It is possible the Village
Envelope may be revised as part of the Local Plan review in 2006. The
population total does include some 200 people living in new houses at
Aldermaston Wharf. These houses were built in 1998 on a brownfield site
vacated by the Sterling Greengate cable factory. This site includes some
affordable housing. The Aldermaston Wharf development is geographically
separate from the main bulk of the village and despite being in Beenham parish
forms part of a small settlement which straddles three parishes Beenham,
Aldermaston and Padworth, at the canal crossing. This small canal-side
community has an identity of its own which may benefit from a separate study.
Social and recreational
In common with many English parishes, changing social and economic
patterns have impacted on Beenham, notably with the loss of some village
facilities such as one of the pubs and the village shop. Nevertheless, village and
parish activities are strongly supported in Beenham by long established
villagers and newcomers alike.
There are at least a dozen activities listed in the monthly church
magazine which, together with the Parish Council Newsletter, is a
reliable source of information for all parishioners both in the village and
at Aldermaston Wharf.
St Mary’s Church organises activities such as the annual carol and
Christingle services, a Harvest Supper and Rogation Day walk. It also
has a very successful team of bell ringers.
The Victory Hall (built in the 1920’s) hosts dances, functions and a
monthly market for local produce, plants and crafts.
The school houses the community room and school/community hall
under the same roof. They are used for children’s and after-school
activities and sports clubs, such as badminton.
An active Parent, Teacher and Friends Association raises funds for extra
school equipment by running fairs, quizzes, auctions and fetes.
In recent years very successful village events have been organised on
the recreation ground including a V.E. Day fair in which 1940’s dress
featured, a millennium fancy dress parade, fair and bonfire and annual
summer concerts by the revived Beenham Band, a band which is
growing in popularity.
There are also adult education classes organised by Newbury College
and West Berkshire Council held weekly in the Victory Hall.
A group of villagers formed the Beenham Investment Group (BIG) to buy the
lease of Greyfield Wood in order to preserve it as a village amenity. Shares in
the company have been bought by villagers.
The settlement area - its relationship with the surrounding landscape
The larger settlements in this area "favour ridge-top locations, having developed
along lanes which exploit the natural grain of the landscape". The village of
Beenham follows this pattern. Although it is situated at the top of a ridge of hills
it does not feel exposed; in the adjacent farmed landscape, the amount of
planting-woods, trees and hedgerows, contribute to its sense of containment.
Originally the village began as three separate settlements:
* at the eastern end, around the former Stocks public house
* another, just over half a mile away at the western end, clustered near
The Six Bells public house
* the group of old houses on Beenham Hill
A mix of Victorian houses, twentieth century houses and bungalows and a
small council estate, built in the early 1950’s, have linked the older eastern and
western settlements together (see page 10). The primary school, built in 1985,
and the Victory Hall/ Beenham Club buildings form the focal centre mid way
between the two ends of the village. Much of the village is only one house deep;
many houses back directly onto fields.
The parish church of St Mary’s, (part eighteenth century and part Victorian),
the adjacent Church Cottage (Grade II listed) and the site of the old village
school, now occupied by two houses, are slightly separate from the village,
down Church Lane. From the church and the burial ground there are striking
views across the Kennet valley. The white facade of Beenham House, set below
the ridge, is one of the few large buildings visible from the A4.
Shape and form
Travelling through the village the route closes and opens. The Warings, a small
recent development of affordable housing promoted by the parish council and
the Rural Housing Trust, is one of the first areas seen when reaching the top of
Beenham Hill. In places the village is almost sub-urban: for example
Stoneyfield and Back Lane where semi-detached houses which are not very
sympathetic to the local vernacular were built in the 1950’s. They were built to
a standard design and layout that failed to reflect the complexities of the older
houses of the village which are much closer to the road.
The road narrows along the single track section of Back Lane, by Butlers Farm,
with high hedges on both sides. It opens again just before the school with wide
grass verges. This linear village has a number of focal points along its length;
the agglomeration of the school, Victory Hall and Beenham Club at the junction
of Picklepythe Lane with Church Lane is one of them. The village closes again,
past the school, a relatively narrow road with bungalows on one side and
houses on the other. The road twists through the village with a number of sharp
blind bends which prevent distant views. New short vistas open up at each
In general, the more recent developments in the village, such as The Strouds,
have introduced regularity and depth, which was not previously present in the
irregularity of the older houses. Modern estate roads, albeit quite short, and cul-
de-sacs, have altered the simple one-building-deep characteristic of the older
parts of the village.
The Recreation Ground, the second focal point, is the main public open space
and focus for the village. Edged by listed lime trees, ‘the rec’, as it is known,
has children’s play equipment, a small football pitch for informal games, a
basketball net and two picnic tables. The rec is an important open space used
for band concerts, community events and informal play. Views from the road,
which runs along beside it at a slightly lower level, are important. This
significant open space represents an historic ‘green lung’ in the heart of the
Beyond the rec the village closes in again. The older triangle of houses in Clay
Lane is closely packed together creating an interesting complexity of planes and
spaces. The old houses and cottages which are loosely centred around The Six
Bells public house front almost directly onto the road with very small gardens.
Beyond a short single track section by The Six Bells the road dips and curves
down to the River Bourne, this narrow section marks a pinch point, a sense of
closure which indicates the end of the old village. There are further houses
beyond but this is where the village effectively stops. Due to recent hedgerow
removal views have been created from this corner across the countryside. Local
opinion is divided, some liked the sense of containment of entering the village
from Bucklebury through a tunnel of trees and hedges, and others appreciate
the new views.
A detailed analysis of randomly selected photographs of houses taken during
the workshop (20th Jan 2001) was undertaken. Objective results obtained from
the analysis have proved to be useful in describing the unique character of
Any new development (including extensions and alterations) should take its cue
from what already exists; however, the opportunity to be creative and innovative
is available too. Opportunities should be taken to learn from the past; what
designs work in a particular situation and what does not. The VDS is not meant
to be prescriptive but aims to provide guidelines which can act as a springboard
to creative design.
The incorporation of energy efficient measures in the design and construction
phase is particularly welcome; as is the integration of sustainability into the
whole development process.
Most houses, and consequently building lines, are sited close to the road, (65%
within 0-10m). Older houses are closer to the road with smaller or non-existent
front gardens and newer ones tend to be set further back with larger front
The alignment of houses, relative to the road, is predominantly parallel (72%),
and facing onto the road. Many houses back onto fields and/or woodland which
contribute to the perceived linear nature of the village.
In the main houses are of two storeys. However, there are a significant number
of bungalows (11%), which tend to be grouped in particular areas (e.g. Church
View, The Strouds and Picklepythe Lane), leading to distinct zones.
The prevailing roofing material is red tile (89%), with predominantly red clay
tile (a warm orange-red) on older houses, and concrete-compound tiles
(reddish brown or dark brown) on newer houses. Some slate and asbestos tile
is to be found, a few thatched roofs occur, and two houses, unusually, have
Roof design varies with 69% gabled and 31% hip-roofed. Again, there is a
tendency for these features to be grouped. Some new houses have successfully
incorporated these features into their design.
A significant number of properties have had roof conversions, which have
resulted in full or partial dormer windows (42%), and roof lights (9%).
Chimneys are also a characteristic of Beenham, 93% of them are potted and
many exhibit some degree of distinctive corbelling. There are fine examples in
particular on some of the older houses. Good brick detailing would mark new
houses as being particular to Beenham.
Gutters, fascias and bargeboards
Old cast-iron guttering is being replaced by plastic. On newer houses there
tends to be a wide variety of styles, colours and profiles. Black guttering
predominates conferring a less obtrusive appearance allowing other structural
features to be more prominent. 10% of gutters are white; but these can be
prone to visible algal and grime staining.
Prominent fascia boards are found on over a third of properties, and
bargeboards on 14%. Of all of these, 55% are white and 30% are brown. Most
are plain in character, but there are a few which are decoratively styled.
Older houses have timber window frames. As alternatives became available,
some houses have been fitted with steel frames, then subsequently aluminium
frames, and finally uPVC frames. Many newer properties started with timber
frames but a large proportion of householders have opted for uPVC ones.
Overall, nearly 66% of all window frames are white; brown and black account
for the remaining third.
While 75% of windows are rectangular and of portrait configuration, over half
of house walls are glazed to only 1/5 of the total wall area. Large picture
windows were popular for a while but concerns about security and insulation
are bringing a return to smaller windows.
The visible surface of most houses in Beenham is brick (64%). The
predominant brick colour is a warm red (over 75%), with which many of the
older cottages have been built. More recent housing has introduced other
colours, but lately greater efforts have been made to replicate local brick colour,
with a degree of success e.g. The Warings. Over 33% of properties have some
decorative brick patterning (e.g. the Old Shop and Hillside), not only
demonstrating the bricklayer’s craft but also adding distinctive character to the
village. Some of the cottages have been rendered (28%), and then painted;
over 75% of these are white or cream in colour, while a few of the older
buildings are of part-timber construction.
Doors and porches
Most front doors have some form of weather protection with either a canopy
(51%), or a porch (19%). Most doors appear to be of timber (70%), but, as
with window frames, replacement doors are increasingly made of uPVC;
security and durability are probably the main considerations bringing about this
change. A large proportion (66%) of doors have some element of glass relief in
them. As with windows, doors are critical features in the overall design and
outward appearance of the house.
Boundary fences and hedges
Most properties have clear boundaries, although they do take a variety of forms:
* fences (42%)
* hedges (28%)
* walls (12%)
A wide range of materials is used in each category. However, there is a lack of
uniformity or cohesion in the substance and style of boundaries which results
in a jumbled patchwork, particularly around the older properties. The Strouds
and The Warings tend to have open-plan gardens with boundary materials
appropriate to the age and style of the properties. Hedges are not always
practical due to their maintenance implications (see Appendix 2 for list of
suggested suitable domestic garden hedgerow species). Well designed walls
and fences can be attractive.
The overall impression from passing through Beenham is one of greenness.
This is achieved through the presence of field hedgerows and remnants of them
in property boundaries. There is a fair level of domestic planting too, many
gardens having trees in them (nearly 50%) and this is combined with a
predominance of evergreen hedges (59%). Rural character is enhanced by
holly, yew and privet plantings, affording all-year screening and privacy.
Beenham has a number of trees which are locally significant. Some of them
have Tree Preservation Orders on them (see Appendix 3), others, however, such
as the old orchard on Beenham Hill and the holly tree near St Mary’s
Farmhouse, have no statutory designation but are viewed with affection by
Gravel driveways predominate (nearly 66%), in strong preference to
tarmacadam and brick/concrete ones (just over 33%).
The street scene
Footways are scarce in the parish of Beenham due to its rural nature. In the
village, fewer than 20% of properties have a footway adjacent to the boundary
and only about 20% have a grassed verge. In recent years a footway was put
inside the trees along the edge of the rec to make it safer for pedestrians.
However, there is a general reluctance to introduce further footways except
where necessary for the safety of pedestrians.
A variety of traffic signs are located along the road verges throughout the parish;
there are also rural footpath signs. There are "Beenham" village name signs at
either end of the built up area and large directional signs on the A4.
Outside the Victory Hall is the only public telephone in the parish, housed in a
traditional red phone box. There are three bus shelters in the parish; one is
situated in Stoneyfield, (an urban glass design), the others are on the A4 and
are of brick construction. There are a number of litter bins and benches
strategically placed throughout the village.
Street lighting has been installed only in The Strouds, part of Church View and
the new Aldermaston Wharf development. A poll undertaken on behalf of the
parish council over 10 years ago showed a majority of people in favour of
restricting any further introduction of street lighting as it was felt to be
inappropriately suburban. The A4 is illuminated, as is the Marley site which
operates a continuous production cycle. These lights are visible from the village.
Most electrical and telephone distribution throughout the parish is by overhead
lines. The possibility of changing this is slight due to the high cost. Modern
housing estates such as Aldermaston Wharf and The Strouds have power
supplies which have been placed undergound and wirescape does not exist;
this is preferable. Mount Pleasant, in particular, would benefit from the removal
of unsightly wires and poles.
The main metalled road up to Beenham village from the A4 runs across the
Kennet Valley floor and past Field Barn Farm. There are striking views towards
the wooded ridge, with distant views of Beenham House and its parkland. The
road, called Beenham Hill at this point, climbs steeply past eighteenth century
houses and older thatched cottages to a junction with Webbs Lane, which runs
east to Admoor Lane. The main road continues west along the hill ridge through
the village, changing its name from Back Lane to Picklepythe Lane. It then
becomes The Green and finally Bourne Lane, before dropping down to the
River Bourne which marks the parish boundary. The road continues north up
to The Avenue, Bucklebury. Admoor Lane leaves the A4 and forms one side
(eastern) of the parish, linking through to Bradfield. The other two north-south
lanes are unmetalled for part or all of their length. Church Lane, which
eventually turns into Grange Lane, is classed as a bridleway (although it is
actually metalled) and Clay Lane is a by-way. This results in a degree of
isolation for Beenham which helps to maintain the ‘village’ feel.
Rights of way
Beenham has a network of bridleways and rural footpaths which evolved when
walking was virtually the only means of travel. Most bridleways are along old
estate roads. Footpaths are now used mainly for recreation, although some like
Church Path and the path to Douai Abbey are used as short cuts to avoid roads.
Some footpaths have a hard surface (see page 18).
On-street parking is perceived as a problem by some residents, particularly
outside the normal working day and in particular parts of the village. However,
it can also have the effect of reducing traffic speed which many residents
welcome. There are three privately-owned car parks which belong to The Six
Bells public house, the school, and the Victory Hall/Beenham Club; the
hall/club car park conveniently adjoins the school and is used at busy times of
the school day. The school playground is also used for parking when necessary.
Proximity to the A4 and M4 and to main line rail services has meant that
villagers commute to London, Swindon and further afield. However, many
villagers are employed locally in service and manual industries and travel by car
each day to Newbury, Reading and Thatcham. This traffic puts pressure on the
existing road network, particularly at peak hours and at the time of the schoolrun.
Most families have their own car(s) and use supermarkets at Calcot and
Thatcham, while older villagers tend to use the weekly buses to Reading and
Newbury on market days. Support for the shop and post office dwindled to a
point where neither was viable. The nearest post offices and shops are two
miles away or more at Chapel Row, Southend Bradfield and Upper Bucklebury.
Doctors’ surgeries serving Beenham are at Chapel Row, Bradfield and Theale.
Minor roads through the village are narrow and were originally built for horsedrawn
traffic. They have been widened where verge width would allow. The
roads have to accommodate wide commercial and farm vehicles and also horse
boxes, particularly during the working day. Significant numbers of horse riders
use village roads to connect between bridleways. Roads within the village are
mostly subject to a 30 mph speed limit.
Cycle lanes do not exist in the parish. However, cycling occurs as a recreational
activity and (if there were better provision) potentially, as a method of
commuting or connecting to the railway stations at Theale and Aldermaston.
Although recently improved, bus services serving the parish and in particular,
Beenham village, are limited in their frequency and some are circuitous in their
routes. Beenham currently has a Monday to Saturday day-time and early
evening bus service from Newbury to Calcot. It connects with the rail service
at Theale and other bus and coach services at Calcot. There is also a bus
service from Beenham to Reading on Wednesdays and a Thursday market day
bus to Newbury where volunteers help passengers who are aged or infirm to
board (the "Help Aboard" service). This bus travels by a roundabout route
which is different from the daily Newbury bus route and serves several villages
to the north west of Beenham.
Great Western Trains operate services from Aldermaston Station, Theale and
Pangbourne giving connections to the north, London and the west. There does
not appear to be much co-ordination between train and local bus services.
A volunteer car service, supported by Beenham Parish Council, is available for
parishioners without transport, to carry them to and from the doctors surgery at
Chapel Row. It also collects and delivers medicines and prescriptions.
The nearest taxi services are in Theale and Thatcham.
Beenham is a mixed parish incorporating industrial and commercial
development, concentrated along the A4 in the Kennet Valley and
housing development mainly in the village on the ridge to the north
side of the valley. The village has evolved over the centuries and exhibits a
wide mixture of housing types. The village itself will never be of the‘chocolate box’ variety. Nevertheless, the aim of this VDS is to retain what
is special about it and to enhance that particular quality through any new
development which may occur. Innovative design solutions are welcomed
where they respect the local design vernacular and materials. Beenham will
continue to grow and evolve, and any improvements to its outward
appearance which result from this VDS will be very welcome.
We would like to thank the following for their help and support:
Paula Amorelli, West Berkshire Council, Planning & Transport Strategy
Beenham Parish Council, village organisations and parishioners
Community Council for Berkshire
Sally Wallington, Kennet Valley Countryside Project
Tony Knight: line drawings
Ken White, Allan Konya and Roger Palmer: photos
Ken White: maps
Children of Beenham School: drawings
VDS Steering Group:
© June 2004