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YateleyCommonGrazing1

Page history last edited by PBworks 13 years, 5 months ago

What is the relevance of Common Rights today?

The fact that we still have common land today is because the land has remained open over many centuries so that most householders could graze their domestic animals. Because of the underlying geology the grazing of the commomers' own animals in this area resulted long ago in the vegetation we now call lowland heath. Thus common land has always been a mad-made landscape. When that management by man largely ceased, because of changes in affluence and changes in agriculture after WW2, Yateley Common started to be taken over by trees and scrub, thus ending perhaps 6,000 years of open landscape consisting of dwarf shrubs such has heather, gorse and dry grassland.

 

Two EU Directives have decreed that lowland heath is a biodiverse ecological system that must be conserved. The EU Directives state that this habitat most be returned to 'favourable conservation status.' A report for English Nature and the Countryside Agency (now Natural England) by Entec UK Limited looked into the causes of why common land in SE Enland failed to reach favourable status. The main reasons given were inappropriate scrub control, inappropriate forestry and woodland management, and undergrazing.

 

It seems logical to me that the only real reason is lack of grazing, the other reasons are consequences of lack of grazing. If grazing was reintroduced then there would be no inappropriate forestry and woodland management since management of woodland would not exist. Inappropriate scrub control would not exist since either the inappropriate young scrub would be grazed, or removed to make grazing possible. The Entec Report states:

Ecologists often see grazing as the most appropriate tool for managing this habitat (dwarf shrub heath), which is the most important vegetation in nature conservation terms on many SE SSSI commons. However other management mechanisms, notably burning and cutting, may sometimes be more appropriate than grazing for practical or other management reasons.

The fact is that winter burning and cutting were management tools used to improve the heath for grazing animals.

 

It is logical therefore that in order to improve the habitat to favourable conservation status, the optimum management method must be to return to the way the landscape was formed in the first place - that is grazing, and the management methods which improved grazing.

 

Those who believe that common land is, in the modern world, mainly for recreation -- legally 'the taking of air and exercise' -- should reflect on the fact that if there had been no commoners, and no laws protecting common land, the common around here would have been built on long ago. The fact that Yateley Common is still open to all is the result of 23 commoners insisting on maintaining their common rights, supported by the Town and County Councils, and a financial benefactor.

 

There are two big questions concerning the future of Yateley Common:

  • what happens if there are no longer any commoners maintaining their rights?
  • what happens if the conservation status of the common fails ever to reach 'favourable'?

 

 

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