Greens and commons

In this map, modified from Hodskinson's map of 1783, it is evident that there are many village commons and greens (outlined in green) on either side of the hundred boundary (in red). Only the three greens at Stoven are to be found today. Greens usually occur on poorly drained clay soils and their present distribution in Blything mirrors that of the hundred boundary. They are usually found at the points in the community most remote from the main places of primary settlement and are probably the remains of family competition for remote resources and therefore a late development of the communities in which they are found. Some greens have 'wood' in their names suggesting that they were the outcome of excessive community use of common woodland or wood pasture. Indeed, the distribution of greens along the hundred boundary is correlated with that of patches of ancient woodland. Some of these woods are often named 'Spring Wood', which is taken to mean that they were orginally a seasonal coppice resource for the community. Titsal Wood, which is shared by Brampton and Shadingfield (the shared hundred boundary runs through the wood), is also shaded in Hodskinson's map because it is the only wood from his time that is represented on the modern map. Regarding woods that have been planted since the 18th century, Stoven Wood straddling the Soven/Brampton boundary is the largest, but there are many others on either side of the hundred boundary of a substantial size. Stoven Wood more or less within its modern boundary is first represented on the 1839 Tithe Map. However, Hodskinson's map marks a small portion of the wood alongside the Stoven to Brampton road to the west of Stoven Hall. Was this a mistaken under-estimate of the actual size of Stoven Wood in 1783 or was a much smaller wood developed between 1783 and 1838 as a large-scale plantation?

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The following map is part of the Stoven Tithe Map of 1839. It shows the full extent of Stoven Wood at this time. Although the wood is described as part of Brampton Wood, it is clearly situated to the east of the parish boundary with Brampton (red line). stoven_wood.jpg

Only a very small narrow strip is actually in Brampton.

The wood is bounded to the east by a banked track (dashed green) which connects Further Green with the Stoven to Brampton Road. On the modern map this is marked as a right of way that begins at the roadside cottages about a quarter of a mile west of Stoven Hall.

Naughton's Spring is shown on the modern map as a small wood.

Although there are now many rides in Stoven Wood, which divide it up into plantation compartments, it does not seem to have been created by planting up an old field system from Hodskinson's time.

Its irregular shape, its position on the parish boundary, its continuity with Further Green, its proximity to Naughton's Spring ('Spring' indicating an ancient coppice wood) and its ownership by the lord of the manor (Lord Stradbroke in 1839) all point to Stoven Wood once being a common village resource.

Towards the end of the 20th century there was much agitation to ensure that common land was conserved and kept for public access. Common land is land, usually in private ownership, that now or in the past has had common rights over it. Under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 the general public have access to open countryside, including access to registered common land. This law does not relate to town or village greens.

The Countryside Agency have published maps showing the land (including commons) to which the public have access.

Rights of common can include:

  • common pasture (right to pasture cattle, horses, sheep or other animals on the common land)
  • common piscary (the right to fish)
  • common turbary (the right to take sods of turf)
  • estovers (the right to take sufficient wood for the commoner's house or agriculture)
    The people who are able to exercise the rights listed above are generally known as “commoners”. Common land and rights are a very ancient institution – even older than Parliament itself. They are part of the fabric of life in England and Wales and have their origins in the manorial system. Most common land and rights came to an end over the centuries and it is mainly in the more remote areas that common rights have survived.
    Statutory Protection of Common Land
    Common land is protected under several Acts of Parliament. These include the Law of Property Act 1925, the Law of Commons Amendment Act 1893, the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960 and the Road Traffic Act 1988. Section 68 of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 permits the grant of statutory easements for vehicular access over land (including common land and village greens) where it is currently an offence to drive a vehicle, subject to certain qualifying criteria being met. Regulations now made by the Secretary of State include provisions for the grant of easements, compensation to be paid by the property owner to the landowner, dispute resolution procedures, etc.
    What is a Town or Village Green?
    Town and village greens share a similar history to common land. However, they are defined separately for the purposes of the Commons Registration Act 1965 and the Commons Act 2006. Village greens are usually areas of land within defined settlements or geographical areas which local inhabitants can go onto for the exercise of lawful sports and pastimes. Typically these might include organised or ad-hoc games, picnics, fetes, dog-walking and other similar activities. Whilst land forming town or village greens may be privately owned, many greens are owned and maintained by local Parish or Town Councils.
    Statutory Protection of Town and Village Greens
    Village greens enjoy statutory protection under two 19th century Acts – the Inclosure Act 1857 (section 12) and the Commons Act 1876 (section 29). Section 68 of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, referred to above, applies to town and village greens as well as to common land.
    New Village Greens
    Since 1990 it has been possible to register town or village greens that had not been registered before 1970. Any land not registered by 1st January 1970 ceased to be common land or a town or village green. However it is now possible to register town or village greens once again, provided they have been used for at least 20 years and meet other criteria. .