Be part of Norfolk Commons Week: Saturday 6 July to Sunday 14 July

Common land is precious habitat for declining wildlife across Norfolk. With partners across the county, we at Norfolk Wildlife Trust are committed to putting commons on the map, to secure their preservation and good management.

In living memory — just about — commons were a way of life. But with the decline of commons and the decline of commoners’ rights, we have lost not just a sustainable way of life; we also lost a lexicon of words to describe it.

The ancient right of pasturage allowed a commoner to turn out a defined number of certain animals to graze grassland or heath. Even those with no other commoner’s rights might hold Lammas rights, allowing them to graze livestock after harvest, between Lammas Day and April. In the case of pigs, turned onto wooded land in autumn to forage for acorns, there were specific terms: pannage or mast.

"Wild in the orchids" by Julie Smart

A commoner with the right of estover could collect agreed wood products from the common: small timber such as fallen branches, or light wood for hurdles and for making charcoal. These products might fall under more specific rights, such as firebote, allowing a commoner to gather sufficient firewood for household use, and housebote, the right to gather timber for house repairs.

The right to dig for soil, stone or minerals was often called marling, as reflected in countless marl pits across Norfolk. Meanwhile the right to dig turf or peat, for household burning rather than the massive-scale peat industry which created the Broads, was known as turbary.

These words, as charming as they are, are important too. They describe the practices which made our Norfolk commons what they are and created the habitats in which, to this day, green-winged orchids and great crested newts thrive. While estover and pannage may no longer feature in our lives, newts and orchids do, and it is our responsibility to preserve our commons for them and for all their wildlife.

Come and join us for a week of talks, activities and events to celebrate our heritage of common land, from Saturday 6 to Sunday 14 July. Commons Week will explore the history, wildlife and landscape of our commons, on walks, talks and activities.

Each common has its own fascinating story to be discovered. Stories about local history, language, heritage, about how the landscape in Norfolk has, and is, changing, and about the wildlife that makes common land its home.

Commons Week is part of a wider, ‘Wildlife in Common’ project supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Essex & Suffolk Water Branch Out, The John Spedan Lewis Foundation, The Wildflower Society and other funders.

The full programme of events is on our website.

Commons Photo Competition!

To coincide with Commons Week, we are running our second Wildlife in Common photo competition. It's open to all, to submit wildlife or landscape pictures taken on Norfolk's wonderful commons.

Once again prizes have been provided by generous sponsors and NWT Investor in Wildlife Jessops and Cley Spy, and include binoculars, canvases and prints and the latest digiscoping equipment.

"I've got my eye on you" by Mark Pogmore

Last year’s winner was entitled “Wild in the orchids”, by Julie Smart, taken at Roydon Common. In second place was “I’ve got my eye on you”, a stunning barn owl photo taken in Boughton last year by Mark Pogmore. Third place went to “English Longhorns at Thompson Common” by Lynsey Doughty.

David North, Head of People and Wildlife at Norfolk Wildlife Trust said: “The entries were a stunning reminder of how diverse Norfolk’s commons are – from heaths to cattle-grazed marshland. We are fortunate that these places have survived over centuries and it’s vital we make sure that these treasures are cared for. We hope for more amazing entries this year, which really showcase why our commons are so special.
Share this