The World At One (BBC Radio 4) is 50 this year and has invited people to offer suggestions for where Britain is best. We have sent in our idea: common land. This is what we wrote.
Common land goes back to before medieval times when land was shared and people lived off the land; then much of England and Wales was common, what now remains is a vestige of the original commons. They are all owned but others have rights there, to graze animals, collect wood or furze, or dig peat for instance. They occupy all landscapes and habitats from the moors of the North Pennines and mid Wales to the Norfolk coast and Surrey heaths. They have remained undisturbed through history and are rich places for wildlife, archaeology and enjoyment. The public has the right to walk on all commons and to ride on some. Commons are fun and they are places of tranquillity.
Other nations may claim to have commons but they are not like ours, and they know that ours are the original commons, survivors of the inclosure movement and now places of immense public value. Our history is written in our commons.
Coincidentally with WATO’s birthday it is also the 50th anniversary of the Commons Registration Act 1965, the first and only Act by which all commons in England and Wales were recorded on registers.