Conserving the commons
What is common land?
The concept of common land goes back centuries, when individuals were given the right by the lord of the manor to collect firewood, fish, graze animals, cut peat, gather bracken andother rights subject to local need. In 1965 an Act of Parliament formalised these traditions.
Who owns common land?
All common land has an owner. The majority is owned by private individuals and organisations. Where there is no known owner, the relevant local authority has the right to protect the common from deterioration or misuse.
Who are commoners?
Commoners are usually farmers who possess the right to graze livestock (Registered rights of common). However, this right relates mainly to the property and not the individual which is why most rights of common are tied to farms lying close to the common land. The number and type of livestock each commoner is allowed to graze is set out in a legally binding commons register. This allocation, or stintage, states the maximum number of cattle, sheep, ponies or other livestock that can be grazed by each commoner. Only registered commoners have grazing rights, no one else is allowed to put stock onto the common.
Is common land open to the public?
Historically, most areas of common land in Wales have been open for public access with the consent of the landowner. The Countryside & Rights of Way Act (CROW) 2000 established registered common land, mountain, moor, heath and down as ‘access land’. The right of access introduced by the CROW Act is for open-air recreation on foot. These areas areclearly marked on Ordnance Survey Explorer Maps. Horse riding and cycling remain confined to bridleways.
Keeping the commons in good condition
Most of the common land around Blaenavon is precious semi-natural moorland habitat which has been managed by people for thousands of years. Grazing and annual management, including bracken control, cutting and controlled burning, are all important elements in keeping moorlands healthy.