What is common land?
The concept of common land goes back centuries, when individuals were given the right by the lord of the manor to collect firewood, fish, graze animals, cut peat, gather bracken and other rights subject to local need. In 1965 an Act of Parliament formalised these traditions.
Who owns common land?
All common land has an owner. The majority is owned by private individuals and organisations. Where there is no known owner, the relevant local authority has the right to protect the common from deterioration or misuse.
Who are commoners?
Commoners are usually farmers who possess the right to graze livestock (Registered rights of common). However, this right is tied to a property and not an individual which is why most rights of common are attached to farms lying close to the common land. The number and type of livestock each commoner is allowed to graze is set out in a legally binding commons register. This allocation, or stintage, states the maximum number of cattle, sheep, ponies or other livestock that can be grazed by each commoner. Only registered commoners have grazing rights, no one else is allowed to put stock onto the common.
Is common land open to the public?
Historically, most areas of common land in Wales have been open for public access with the consent of the landowner. The Countryside & Rights of Way Act (CROW) 2000 established registered common land, mountain, moor, heath and down as ‘access land’. The right of access introduced by the CROW Act is for open-air recreation on foot. These areas are clearly marked on Ordnance Survey Explorer Maps. Horse riding and cycling remain confined to bridleways.
Common land registry
The register of common land is held by Torfaen County Borough Council
Keeping the commons in good condition
Much of the common land in Torfaen is precious semi-natural moorland habitat which has been managed by people for thousands of years. Grazing and annual management, including bracken control, cutting and controlled burning, are all important elements in keeping moorlands healthy.
For more information visit Natural Resources Wales website.
You can purchase hard copy Ordnance Survey Explorer maps from your local bookshop or alternatively buy online through the Ordnance Survey website.
Last Modified: 05/12/2018
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