Commons

The Open Spaces Society is the guardian of all commons in England and Wales.
We’re here for all commons and for the people like you who want to enjoy them.

Saving our commons

The Open Spaces Society is the guardian of all commons in England and Wales.

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.

Does your local common need protection?

Commons are very special because the land is unique. It is historical land, which has remained largely undisturbed through the centuries, a remnant of medieval times when people relied on commons for their survival.

It is land where the owners of nearby properties have rights to graze animals, collect wood and bracken or dig peat, for example. Those rights still exist, although are not 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.

Rydal Water, Cumbria

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.

Further resources about Commons

  • Commons Act

    The Commons Act 2006 is arranged in five parts: registration, management,  works, miscellaneous, finally supplementary and general.

  • Common land training course

    Our full-day training course will provides an introduction to commons and why they are important, including relevant legislation...

  • How to take action against unlawful encroachments and works

    This fact sheet tells you how to protect your common from unlawful encroachments and works in England.

  • Vehicular access across Common Land and Town or Village Greens

    This provides guidance about vehicular access across common land and town or village greens following the repeal of section 68 of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000.

  • A charter for Wales's open spaces

    Read our August 2020 charter for the promotion and protection of open spaces so that everyone in Wales can benefit.

  • A Common Purpose Guide

    Download the Foundation for Common Land guidance on how to engage with local communities for those contemplating management on common land.

  • An approach to the re-registration of commons

    Our commons re-registration officer Dr Frances Kerner shares our approach to research and application preparation

  • Registered common land and highways

    Registered common land may also be part of a public highway, and evidence that land is registered common land or part of a highway is of little or no value in demonstrating that the land is not the other.

  • A charter for England's open spaces

    Read our August 2020 charter for the promotion and protection of open spaces so that everyone in England can benefit.

  • A commons’ conference companion

    The Countryside and Community Research Institute of Gloucester University (CCRI) has published a Commons e-book

  • DIY guide to registering lost commons

    The Commons Act 2006 provides a new, time-limited, opportunity for you to rescue some of those commons which failed to be registered under the Commons

  • Buildings, fences and other works on common land in England

    A practical guide for those wishing to carry out a lawful operation on a common and those wanting to defend a common against unlawful or undesirable operations.

  • Commons Act 2006 Part 1 Implementation

    A pioneer implementation of Part 1 of the Commons Act 2006 commenced in seven registration authorities in England on 1 October 2008.

  • Frequently Asked Questions: Commons

    Frequently asked questions about commons

  • Unclaimed land and adverse possession

    Unclaimed land and adverse possession: protecting commons and other open spaces with no known owner

  • Finding common ground

    Integrating local and national interests on commons: guidance for assessing the community value of common land

Our latest posts about commons

1871 poster

150 years ago today – the story of the Wanstead Flats landmark demonstration

150 years ago today, on 8th July 1871, thousands of people gathered in Epping Forest to mount a protest. A campaign was beginning – one that the renowned environmental historian Oliver Rackham has called “the origin of the modern British conservation movement.” This campaign, to preserve Epping Forest and other commons from unchecked housing development…
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Hampstead Heath in summer

Hampstead Heath’s milestone Act of Parliament

Today, 29 June, is the 150th anniversary of the Hampstead Heath Act 1871, which empowered the Metropolitan Board of Works (MBW) to purchase the Heath for the people.  Now the Heath belongs to the City of London Corporation and is managed for the benefit of the public. We are proud to have played a major…
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Government’s response to Glover Review is lacklustre

The Open Spaces Society is disappointed at the government’s initial response to the Glover Review on England’s protected landscapes.  This response is long overdue. The report, written by a panel led by Julian Glover, contains ambitious proposals.  It was published in September 2019 and the then environment secretary, Theresa Villiers, welcomed the findings.  Today the…
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Illustrative photo of the mast from the developer’s design and access statement

We fight ugly mast on Pumlumon common

We have objected to plans for an ugly mast on Eisteddfa Gurig Common, on the slopes of Pumlumon in Ceredigion. The society is supporting the Cambrian Mountains Society (CMS) which has also submitted a strong objection. Lluest y Gwynt Wind Farm Ltd applied for an 80-metre-high, steel, meteorological monitoring mast and associated paraphernalia, for three…
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