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 2006 - Registration and deregistration

    This fact sheet tells you about the registration and deregistration of common land and town or village greens, in England and Wales, under Part 1 of the Commons Act 2006. .

  • Protecting commons, greens and open spaces training course

    Learn the fundamentals on this comprehensive course to include definitions, registration/designation, protection and management.

  • 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 Defra 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.

  • Our Common Land

    This seventh edition has been revised and updated to include the many changes in the law which have taken place

  • 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 and Wales

    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

  • Preventing vehicular access to common land or town and village greens (dragon's teeth)

    How to prevent vehicular access to common land, town or village greens using dragon's teeth.

  • 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

  • The origins of sections 193 and 194 of the Law of Property Act 1925

    A comprehensive paper from Open Spaces Society Trustee Bernard Selwyn

Our latest posts about commons

Our latest local correspondents’ conference

Fourteen of our local correspondents (about one third) gathered, with our chairman Phil Wadey and five members of staff, at Hillscourt conference centre, on the edge of the Lickey Hills near Bromsgrove in Worcestershire, for a two-day event.  It was an opportunity for us to update each other on the law and guidance, and to…
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Common land saved at Bracelet Bay beauty-spot, Swansea

We are pleased that Swansea City and County Council has withdrawn its application to deregister [1] common land at Tutts Head, Bracelet Bay, Mumbles.  This is a popular beauty-spot, and deregistration would have made the land vulnerable to development. The council had applied to itself to deregister the land on the basis that the land…
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An interview with the IASC

Our general secretary, Kate Ashbrook, recently spoke to the International Association for the Study of the Commons to give a history of Open Spaces Society and our work. The article below appeared in the IASC newsletter. I am Kate Ashbrook, and have been the general secretary (chief executive) of the Open Spaces Society since 1984. …
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How to use MAGIC

Do you want to know about the location of sites of special scientific interest, the distance between two places on a road or footpath, registered common land boundaries or to measure the area of a plot of land – we could go on? But the answer is almost certainly to be found in MAGIC. MAGIC…
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