Saving our commons
The Open Spaces Society is the guardian of all common land in England and Wales. Many areas of common land have names such as Clapham Common while others are simply known locally as ‘the common’.
Such is the recognition of our role, we are notified of all applications for works on, and exchanges of, common land. Read about some of our recent campaigns to protect commons here.
One of the most famous commons we’ve ever saved is Wimbledon Common, but we’re here for all commons and for the people like you who want to enjoy them.
The public has the right to walk on all registered commons, subject to certain restrictions, and on many commons there is also a right to ride a horse.
Does your local common need protection?
Commons are very special because of their unique physical features and rich history. They are a remnant of medieval or perhaps even earlier times when people relied on access to commons to take away vital natural resources for their own necessary use. These people were called commoners and held specific rights which were usually attached to their property. Depending on the physical character of the common, they might hold rights to graze their animals or collect wood and dig peat for fuel. These rights still exist in many places, although they are not always exercised as they were in the past.
There are 1.3 million acres of common land in England and Wales, registered in over 9,000 separate units covering all types of landscape and habitat. A staggering 88 per cent of all commons in England have a national or international designation – for wildlife, landscape or archaeology.
How can you protect your local commons?
An effective way to protect a common that matters to you is to join the Open Spaces Society. Here are some examples of cases where we have given guidance to individual, group and local authority members.
As a charity, we depend on public donations to fund our vital campaigning and legal work.
As a member, you can count on the support of our expert team based at our head office in Henley-on-Thames.
Depending on where you live, you may also have a local Open Spaces Society correspondent (our name for volunteer) who may be able to help you.