A common question

On my morning run last week I was stopped by a friend up the road who drives a pony and trap.  This was welcome as it gave me an excuse to catch my breath.  He wanted to know if it was OK to drive his pony over Southend Common.  I explained that he did not have the legal right to do so.  But surely if it’s a common no one owns it, he said.

Well no–but it’s amazing how many people think that the name ‘common’ means that the land is commonly owned.  All commons have an owner, whether local authority, the National Trust or private individual.  In some cases the owner is not known, but it is owned by someone somewhere.

As for rights, we have the right to ride on many commons, and we have the right to walk on all of them.  Sadly these rights do not include driving a pony and trap unless this is done by common rightholders in connection with the exercise of their rights of common–collecting wood or bracken for instance, as illustrated in the photo below.

Gathering bracken on Chailey Common in East Sussex in 1936. Photo:Open Spaces Society collection, the Museum of English Rural Life, University of Reading.

If you want to know more about common land and your rights there, visit the Open Spaces Society’s website.


About campaignerkate

I am the general secretary of the Open Spaces Society and I campaign for public access, paths and open spaces in town and country.
This entry was posted in common land, common rights, People, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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