Heritage as radical space – Minchinhampton and Rodborough Commons.

In the middle of 2022’s dry, bright, and occasionally alarmingly hot spring and summer, I chose a week of glum skies and drizzle for my field trip to visit Gloucestershire’s astonishing commons. My visit to the celebrated Minchinhampton and Rodborough Commons was on the glummest day of all – and yet the place crackled withContinue reading “Heritage as radical space – Minchinhampton and Rodborough Commons.”

Slipping through the membrane at Epping Forest

Epping Forest is one of the most famous the UK’s commons and a great deal of ink has been spilled about it. It slices through East London from Zones 3 to 6 between the Central line and the Lea Valley, stretching around fourteen miles from Wanstead Flats in the densely populated area around Forest GateContinue reading “Slipping through the membrane at Epping Forest”

Grovely Wood: the Motion Picture

So what of Grovely Wood, that extraordinary finding, so rich in mood, myth and history, which was to be the centrepiece of my PhD? In July, just as temperatures were starting to hot up to the terrifying heights of the 19th, I went on a visit with Adrian Stewart, Grovely’s ranger. And, sorry, but noContinue reading “Grovely Wood: the Motion Picture”

Newcastle Town Moor: an exemplary c.21st common.

Newcastle’s Town Moor is the UK’s largest urban green space; at 985 acres, it’s 142 acres larger than New York’s Central Park. It’s also a mosaic of land uses – much continues to be given over to grazing, but there are also allotments, playing fields and a golf course; also on the common are anContinue reading “Newcastle Town Moor: an exemplary c.21st common.”

The Malverns – trailblazing conservation since 1885

At up to a billion years old, the igneous intrusion known as The Malverns is the oldest rock in England and Wales. The Malverns emerge, almost apologetically majestic, among gentle hills and the Severn plain farmland which surround them and more than worthy of their Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty status. I’ve itched to climbContinue reading “The Malverns – trailblazing conservation since 1885”

Castlemorton Common – ‘avin it large in Worcestershire

Castlemorton, Shadybank, Hollybed and Combe Green Commons are a single unit of registered common land, to the south of Great Malvern, Worcestershire, covering 681 acres. It’s still used by commoners, who have rights to graze livestock – mainly cattle and sheep – as well as (in smaller numbers) to fish, set pigs out to forage,Continue reading “Castlemorton Common – ‘avin it large in Worcestershire”

Cheese-rolling, Orwell and Orchids – beechwood and grassland commons in the southern Cotswolds

The Cotswold Commons and Beechwoods National Nature Reserve (NNR) is, as one might expect, a network of beechwoods and commons which extends over 1644 acres of ridges and scarps around the Painswick Valley, Gloucestershire. West of Gloucester and south of Cheltenham, it’s an important asset for a substantial urban population and is today managed byContinue reading “Cheese-rolling, Orwell and Orchids – beechwood and grassland commons in the southern Cotswolds”

River transport as right of common along the Avon and Severn.

At the end of the dead-end Gabb Lane near Apperley, Gloucestershire, between The Coalhouse Inn and the Severnside Caravan Site and Boat Park, is a patch of cropped grass with room for six or seven cars. The Severn Way walking route runs past it, though you have to peer through a thicket of willow toContinue reading “River transport as right of common along the Avon and Severn.”

Cleeve Common: bryophytes amongst the golf tees

Cleeve Common is both the highest point on the Cotswolds and its largest expanse of both open and common land. It’s a SSSI due to its rare grasslands and for the quarrying which has revealed the greatest stretch of the Cotswold limestones’ geological record. Quarries are surprisingly often, it turns out, SSSIs for exactly thisContinue reading “Cleeve Common: bryophytes amongst the golf tees”

Tewkesbury’s commons: two meadows, four rivers and a weir.

In the present day, Tewkesbury is famous for just one thing. In July 2007, two months of rain fell on Gloucestershire in just 14 hours, causing widespread catastrophic flooding. Tewkesbury, where the Avon meets the Severn, was particularly badly hit, effectively becoming an island and resulting in the loss of three lives. This was perhapsContinue reading “Tewkesbury’s commons: two meadows, four rivers and a weir.”