Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Common Land

The part of the Cotswolds that I call home is almost completely surrounded by what is known as Common Land.

During the Medieval era of the Middle Ages, the use of land was governed by a manorial system. All land remained in the ownership of the local Lord of the Manor, a term which originated with the emergence of feudalism. The feudal system was established in England by the Normans following their victory at the Battle of Hastings. At that time all land in England was claimed by William the Conqueror which he then distributed amongst his Norman followers as their reward. Food was grown, animals grazed and fuel was gathered, but over time some local people were given rights of use over the poorer areas of land which became known as 'Common Land'. This historic feudal system has thus ensured that these areas of Common Land have remained much as they have always been down the centuries. The land has never been ploughed or fertilised only grazed naturally by free roaming cows, sheep and horses. The present day consquences for the Commons are that they are a haven for animals, trees, shrubs and flowers.

As I walked over the Common this past week I came across the dead body of a lovely fox
Judging by his fine bushy tail and small size he appeared to be a juvenile.
Sadly this handsome fox must have been hit by a passing vehicle not long before I stumbled across him. 


These Commons are some of the few remaining areas of the country that are registered common land and which still remain unenclosed. Many people enjoy walking, cycling, horse riding, having a picnic or relaxing and just enjoying the views. The Commons are within the Coswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and parts are designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), a Special Area of Conservation and an Ancient Monument. 
There are many rare and diverse species of butterfly to be found such as the Adonis Blue, which favours these limestone grasslands. There are 13 species of wild orchids thriving on the Commons along with the rare Pasque Flower which can be spotted growing on the Common around Easter. There are small Juniper trees, a slow-growing native conifer whose berries are used in gin, and which can live for up to 200 years. 
Grazing animals are an intrinsic part of this ancient grassland management. Without grazing, the Commons would soon become dense, scrubby woodland and the rich limstone grasslands would not exist, the consquence of which would be a loss of views and wildlife habitats. 
The people who are able to exercise the rights of grazing their cattle today are known as 'commoners'. These rights are afforded to them because they own property within the historic Manor. The rights are recorded in the deeds of their residential properties, and in the Commons Register held by the local County Council. 
  There is significant archaeology on the Commons, the most prominent being a defensive earth works running for over a mile across the Common, and forming the remains of a possible Iron Age settlement of the Belgic Dobunni tribe. There is a neothlithic long barrow, and indeed our own home sits on what was once a Roman Military Camp.

49 comments:

  1. Do you occasionally hear the Roman soldiers whispering around their fires at night? What a wonderful place to live.

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    1. We had thought we might find buried treasure when we first moved here - may be a Roman coin, but the garden sits on oothlitic limestone so sadly no Roman treasure trove here.

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  2. I have never understood the concept of a Common, Rosemary. Thank you for explaining it. I am fascinated by the beauty of the area, and also the idea of cattle grazing in unfenced land. I'm thinking of how their owners keep track of them, or find them. The village looks exquisite amid the Autumn foliage.

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    1. Dear Patricia - The cattle arrive on the Commons during the early part of May and are removed during November for the winter, and taken back to the various farms.
      As cattle are herders there is no problem keeping track of them as they hang out with their own 'tribe'. It always amuses us how they know their own group and don't mix with each other.
      One of the 'Commoners' acts as the overall livestock manager for the different herds, and is known as the Hayward. He keeps an eye on the cattle throughout the summer and is the point of contact in the event that the cattle need attention. There are always about six deaths each summer, mainly due to cattle crossing the road especially during the middle of the night. There are signs to warn motorist, but sadly some people do not take care. Incidentally we have a cattle grid across our entrance driveway to prevent the cattle getting in and eating up our gardens!

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  3. Hello Rosemary, The Commons are an amazing resource on many levels. It is nice that their historical uses have been continued. I have read of cases in the U.S. national parks where when formerly grazed hills were fenced off, supposedly to "protect" it, and the land just grew up scrubby and lost its traditional beauty and biodiversity.
    --Jim

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    1. Hello Jim - it is surprising how land that is not managed correctly alters very quickly. On the steep side slopes of the Common Belted Galloway cattle are used because they have very short stumpy legs which enable them to graze there, and they do a wonderful job of keeping it clear of unwanted scrub.

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  4. Such a beautiful area, I love the idea of Commons and having the right to graze written into your deeds.

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    1. Yes I agree, it must be nice to have the right to graze an animal on the Common even if it was only a few sheep or goats.

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  5. Such a lovely part of England and I've always enjoyed my all too brief visits there. This history, especially about the grazing rights, is so interesting Rosemary - thanks so much for explaining in such detail.
    Beautiful photos!!! The fox was handsome with such a clean red coat, very sad he didn't make it!
    Happy autumn days, Mary

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    1. I was sad about the fox Mary - such a good looking fellow who looked so fit and healthy too.
      Hope that you are all feeling well after your alarming accident the other day especially your granddaughter Jasmin.

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  6. Dear Rosemary,

    I have always had a vague idea of what "Common Land" meant. You have so eloquently, with your beautiful photographs, explained the finer points of this interesting system.

    I love all of your photographs but that first photo is extra special.

    We have a similar systems here in America. Grazing rights are honored from year to year on our Public Lands and areas within our National Parks are enjoyed by all.

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    1. That is interesting Gina that you have a similar system in America.
      I am glad that you enjoyed seeing the photos - fortunately we have just had a lovely week, chilly after Sardinia but lots of sunshine in which to walk and enjoy.

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  7. Your photos are gorgeous, Rosemary, and take me back to our all too short visit to your area in 2016. You've explained so very well the concept of common land and its importance in ecology and economy. I read that in the southern Cotswolds, the hilly terrain is different from the flatter commons in other parts of the country, yet still very productive grazing land. The views from our little walk through the high woods in the Slad Valley were certainly steep. The herdsmen would be very fit!
    Thank you for this post that sparked memories of a wonderful visit.

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    1. The Slad Valley is literally 2 or three miles away over the hills seen in the first photo Lorrie.
      If you ever come again then do let me know as it would be lovely to see you.
      I am pleased that this post rekindled memories for you.

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  8. What a wonderful part of the country. Fascinating about how the commons started and now work. Such a beautiful fox. So sad. B x

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    1. The Commons are a wonderful resource around here both for young and old alike.
      I was very sad about that lovely fox and he was such a fine specimen too.

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  9. How lucky you are to live somewhere so beautiful. I haven't explored the Cotswolds as much as many other areas, and had no idea there was so much common land. Aren't we lucky in England? Commons are perfectly fantastic, and I am grateful to those who have fought to preserve them over the ages. My parents were in Hungerford, Berks, which also has a large common, and some of the older houses in the town are still sold with commoners' rights.

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    1. We are fortunate here that this part of the Cotswold is not on the tourist routes.

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    1. I was sad to stumble across that handsome fox

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  11. Interesting to read your detailed explanation of the Commons. A lovely place to walk and enjoy beautiful scenery.

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    1. It is lovely having this all on our doorstep.

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  12. Lovely photos. I had a few holidays down there in my 20s walking and cycling with my friend Sarah who used to live in Kent, largely inspired by Cider with Rosie and A Child in the Forest (forest of Dean area also used in Pennies from Heaven) so books and films were a big draw in our travels across England when picking new locations to explore. Where I grew up used to have fields of dairy cattle but its now just a dense jungle so amazing just how quickly the land can grow wild without four footed lawn-mowers around the place. I love rolling countryside like that and Renfrewshire is my local Cotswolds here. (not such nice villages but far less tourists)

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    1. Using literature for your journeys was a great idea, and it is also of good way of putting the locations read about into context.
      Luckily in this part of the Cotswolds we are not on the tourist trail so mainly just locals here.

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  13. Dearest Rosemary,
    Your very first photo is such a wonderful tapestry of autumn colors in a lovely, rolling landscape!
    The statement that Common Land never has been fertilized is not correct. All those animals that graze there do fertilize the land, while grazing there! A perfect balance and their hoofs do also a little of the plowing.
    So sad to find such a juvenile fox!
    You do live in a gorgeous area and a feast for taking excellent photos.
    Sending you hugs,
    Mariette

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    1. Dear Mariette - Thanks for your comment and of course you are correct about cattle fertilising the ground, that of course is natural and as nature intended. I should have made myself clear and said that no commerial fertilisation had ever been used and also mentioned that pesticides have never been administered either.
      We feel fortunate to have all of this beautiful countryside on our doorstep.

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  14. You really have taken some wonderful shots there, Rosemary - it is a lovely part of the world and you have shown it off beautifully, accompanied by an excellent narrative.

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    1. Thanks for visiting and your kind comment Mike - generally speaking blogging seems to be on a very slippery slope so it is really good to see some old friends here.

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  15. It looks so beautiful especially at this time of year. I was well aware of the New Forest having lots of common ground, I didn't realise that Common Ground can be found elsewhere too. Sarah x

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    1. We have five Commons immediately surrounding us, and there are others too within just a few miles.

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  16. Ever so pretty Rosemary.
    Love the autumn colours and light, the houses with their steep roofs rarely seen here.

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    1. That is very observant of you Margaret - steep roofs are a venacular architectural feature in this area.

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  17. What a privilege to live in such a beautiful area , gorgeous nature and I read your text avidly .

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  18. How wonderful to have common land in your area. We call these public lands. Our little town in Colorado is 96 per cent public land. I love that there are no fences stopping you from taking hikes.
    Your photos are award winning Rosemary!

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    1. That is very generous of you to say Janey - beautiful areas that are free to roam are so beneficial to us all.

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  19. Fabulous photos, especially the first one, and fascinating history. What a beautiful neighbourhood to live in!

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    1. Thank you for your kind comment Teresa - I am pleased that you enjoyed seeing the neighbourhood.

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  20. You live in such a lovely place, Rosemary. The first photo seems to tell all about your neighborhood. I learned about Commons and Commoners in historical context for the first time. It’s good to share the natural resources and maintain them healthy. Unenclosed Commons reminded me of Nara Park where grass is kept beautifully and healthy by deer’s’ grazing, their droppings, and bacteria.

    Yoko

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    1. Thank you Yoko - I am pleased that you found the historical context surrounding Common Land and Commoners of interest. This part of the UK is known for being 'quintessentially English' with its hills and valleys and stone venacular architecture and landscapes.

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  21. So sad! Poor fox... You live in such a beautiful area, Rosemary. Your pics are like paintings. Stunning. Happy weekend!

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    1. Glad you enjoyed the photos Satu - yes poor fox it made me feel sad too.

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  22. I just love every picture! Poor little fox...
    A great post Rosemary!
    Love from Titti

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    1. It is sad to see a young wild animal still in its prime no longer with us - thank you for your kind comment Titti♡

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  23. A beautiful post. It is good to see the common system still operating, we also have some around here, although some others have been fenced in. I haven’t been receiving your blogs for some time, I will have to sign up again.

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    1. Hello Brian - it is lovely to see you and thank you for your kind comment. I think that you live quite near to Malvern? where there is also a lot Common Land.

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  24. I cannot find a follow by email button, I have moved to Wordpress, which is why I don’t now see my blogspot reader.

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    1. If you use Blogloin' it is possible to follow on that - hope to see you again soon.

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