Our Common Cause

Supporting the centuries-old heritage of upland commons by developing projects to re-connecting people with commons and improving public benefits.

Funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund has been secured to work with 12 upland commons in four of England's national landscapes; the Shropshire Hills, Yorkshire Dales, the Lake District and Dartmoor.

Here in the Shropshire Hills, we are focused on three commons; the Long Mynd, Stiperstones and Clee Liberty. 

View from Stiperstones Common with sheep in foreground

Working together with commoners and other partners the project aims to address the viability of commoning and the value of commons to society. 

  • to make commons more relevant to 21st century life
  • to support owners and commoners in managing them to safeguard their history and the wildlife that depends on them
  • to help people to discover and enjoy them
  • to help make commoning more viable for future generations


The project is managed by the Foundation for Common Land on behalf of a broad partnership of 23 organisations.  Project delivery is 2020-2023.  Due to Covid-19 the start of the project has been delayed until autumn 2020.  National Trust is the Accountable Body. 

For more information about our involvement in this project please contact Catherine Landles on 01743 254742 or email Cath through our contact page.

 

What are Commons, how do they work and why do they matter?

Common land has its origins in our ancient history and is managed collectively – by “commoners” who are often, but not always farmers. They have the right to graze sheep, cattle, horses or pigs. Each common has its own group of commoners, with the grazing rights usually linked to their home farm and often passing down through generations of the same family.

Common land is not owned by the commoners but by someone else – a local council, another farmer, the Lord of the Manor or a utilities company. For example, the National Trust owns 60,000 ha of common land in England and Wales.

Wimbledon Common is one you may have heard of, and commons account for 3% of all land in England with some of our most iconic mountains being commons e.g. Helvellyn and Blencathra. Here in the Shropshire Hills AONB, some of our most iconic landscape features are also commons, including the Long Mynd and Stiperstones.

As well as being a vital resource for farmers, commons are important for wildlife, are often valuable historic sites, and are somewhere that people can get outside and enjoy the fresh air, as everyone has a right to walk on commons.

But, as with many traditional farming practices, commoning (farmers using their grazing rights) is in decline; and as a result, commons’ natural and cultural heritage is being lost.

Introducing Tom Lloyd, commoner on the Long Mynd 

"I was born on to the family farm at Minton on the southern edge of Long Mynd. Since finishing education I have worked on the farm, farming sheep and beef cattle like my father and his father before him.

We generally run two flocks of sheep, one of which is predominantly lowland, these remain on the farm itself. The other is a hill flock which we graze on the Long Mynd using our grazing rights attributed to the farm here at Minton.

Tom Lloyd sat on quad bike with his sheepdogs on the Long Mynd

Our Long Mynd sheep are a self-replacing, *hefted flock of Welsh Mountain sheep. All the ewes in the flock have been born and reared on the Long Mynd itself and all of them have deep rooted ancestry here on the Long Mynd.

Working with this flock of sheep along with having a working relationship with the hill itself is a particular highlight of my job and being a commoner.

The most dominant job on the calendar currently is shearing, starting with our lowland ewes first and ending with the Long Mynd flock. The harsher environment and hardier breed means sheep on the Long Mynd won’t shear until mid-July.

With shearing on the Long Mynd comes the task of gathering all of our ewes with their lambs off the hill, this makes for a big job. With no internal fences on the Long Mynd we have to bunch our sheep together with a team of dogs and drive them through the valleys, often in hot conditions and thick stands of bracken, back to the farm. Two days later and minus their wool, the sheep are returned to the hill."

 

*Hefting refers to the ancient practice of habituating sheep to a location so they stay there without much need for fencing. The natural instinct of ewes to stay within their home range is passed down the generations, with experienced ewes teaching their lambs where the flock’s grazing boundaries are. Sheep born and bred on a particular heft also learn where the good grazing is, where to shelter and where to cross streams. All this makes hefted sheep a valuable asset and they are often sold together with a farm.