New book to celebrate our commons

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We have published a new book, Common Land, to celebrate the ancient common land of England and Wales. It is written by our chairman Graham Bathe.

Minchinhampton Common, Gloucestershire

Minchinhampton Common, Gloucestershire

Says Graham: ‘Most of us are familiar with commons. We may have played on them when young and visit them with our own children. Commons are woven into our culture and are of great beauty and grandeur. They are relics of the magnificent landscapes that once covered much of the countryside. They stretch back into history, to the very dawn of farming itself.

‘Now commons provide many opportunities for enjoyment, and because they extend from cities like London and Newcastle to the great moors of the Brecon Beacons, Lake District and Dartmoor, nobody is ever far from a common’.

Graham continues: ‘We want everyone to know just how special and valuable our commons are. We have the right to walk over them all and to ride on many. They are immensely important for their wildlife, archaeology, folklore and traditions. Upland communities still depend on them for their livelihoods; they are essential for the grazing of stock’.

The society is anxious to ensure that our commons are not taken for granted. Says Graham: ‘Contrary to popular belief, all commons are owned properties, and their future cannot be guaranteed. The laws that protect them are inadequate, and commons and village green are probably under greater threat today than they have been for decades.

‘We know that the Ministry of Defence is trying to remove a massive 16 square miles of commons in Cumbria from the commons register. The water company United Utilities has applied for six miles of fencing across the Thirlmere commons in the Lake District. We have recently fought plans to build a motorsports development on a common in south Wales.

Rydal Water, Lake District

Rydal Water, Lake District

‘And more insidiously, commons are constantly being eaten away by unlawful encroachments, fencing, car-parking and rubbish-dumping. Unfortunately no public body has ever been given a specific duty to protect our vulnerable commons.

‘The Open Spaces Society has existed for 150 years to defend our commons from encroachment and development. We hope that our book will help to make people aware of the value of our commons and that this Easter they will get out there and explore their local common.’

The book is available here.

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