The Chilterns Conservation Board Commons Project holds an annual Commons Day, a get-together for all the Chiltern communities with common land (there are 191 registered commons in the Chilterns). This year it was held on Moorend Common at Frieth in Bucks.
The common is owned by Lane End Parish Council. It is a site of special scientific interest, designated in 1972 and renotified in 1985. The reasons for designation are the open, unwooded parts of the site which are acidic and marshy grassland. The Natural England-funded Wildlife Enhancement Scheme expired in March 2012, and the management plan runs until 2016. The Commons Day provided an opportunity for the Moorend Common group to obtain the thoughts and advice of those present.
We split into two groups. Our group walked through mixed woodland where John Morris from the Chiltern Woodlands Project explained how the trees had been located with GPS and tagged so there was a record of each. We wondered whether there should be some clearance of secondary woodland to give the mature trees more space and light to flourish.
There is an 11-kv power line across the common and the electricity company, SSE, has to visit regularly to cut back trees as they approach the wires. We thought it would be better to cut a wide ride under the line, with the added benefits of providing public access, a wildlife corridor and more grassland.
We reached North Meadow, an open area of acid grassland (unusual in the chalk Chilterns), where the Devil’s-bit scabious was flowering in profusion. Botanist Alan Showler pointed out Bitter-vetch to me too.
In 1948 the common was much more open, now it is being encroached upon by scrub and bracken. Local people objected to bracken spraying because of the effect on the Heath-spotted orchid which thrives here. One option might be grazing but there are legal complications and, of course, the question of fencing which would be undesirable in this open landscape.
The public has the right to walk on the common. In addition the parish council has created an all-weather path around the edge to enable children to walk between Frieth School and Lane End off the busy road.
We were only able to study a small part of this beautiful and complicated common in the time available, and there are many dilemmas to resolve – not least where the money comes from. The advice in A Common Purpose could be useful in finding solutions from the community.
We repaired to Middle Meadow for an excellent lunch.