Naturalists back move to save Common plants

Rare plants and animals which are now being forced off Galleywood Common could be saved by new laws being backed by Essex Naturalists Trust. Plants are threatened because The Common, along with hundreds of others across the country, is not being managed in the ‘traditional’ way any more. It means that scrubby coppices are growing up and changing the habitat says ENT conservation officer, Dr Chris Miles.

The Trust and its parent body, nationally, the Royal Society for Nature Conservation is supporting a bill planned by the Countryside Commission. This wants proper teams of management to be established for all Commons, and to give public access to the four fifths of Common land which currently has no right of access. Among the Galleywood plants that could disappear are the bog bean, lesser scullcap, and star sedge he believes. ‘Today, with no particular bodies responsible. common land tends to become scrubby and valuable heathland disappears. Attempts by groups such as ours to reverse the process can often be misunderstood, especially by local people who come to take Commons as their own. Proper management committees could take account of all views on how common should be managed.

In the past commons have been kept in balance by estovers-collection of wood for fuel and bracken for bedding; pannage – allowing pigs free to roam to eat acorn and beechmast and turbary- peat and turf cutting. Dr Miles reckons that the proposed laws will reverse the decline , even with its intention of allowing greater public access. There is no evidence that allowing the public to enjoy the amenity of common land has any adverse effect on wildlife. Certain reserve areas such as for ground nesting birds can be set aside but you cannot encourage public concern for wildlife by keeping then away from it.