Copyright © Southampton Common Forum - 2019

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The image below shows a montage  of aerial photographs of The Common taken in 1926 (thanks to Simon Hill), and Google Earth ™  satellite images from 1999 and 2015 (© Google Earth) showing changes in the area covered by  woodland over time. We will be adding more images and maps as time permits. Click on the image for an enlarged view.


Historically, The Common was open ground with small areas of woodland and planting, and was kept that way by grazing by animals owned by Commoners. Once grazing ceased (early eighteenth centuary), The Common relied on direct human intervention to maintain the nature of the land. As a result of management policies and reduced Council staffing levels, over the past 50 years the nature of The Common has changed hugely, from 30% wooded to over 70% wood and scrub, resulting in a very large loss of open public space (some 130 acres!). Moreover, much of that encroachment has been by poor quality, invasive, self-set saplings like holly, laurel and sallow with a dense, scrub undergrowth including much bramble and ivy, which makes much of the wooded areas impenetrable and of poor quality. Historic features like the Carriage Drive on Little Common have also been changed significantly by uncontrolled vegetation.

There is now a groundswell of public opinion concerned to try to redress the balance and reclaim open space for City residents. A group called Common Sense, founded by Highfield residents has been working on Little Common for several years, trying to re open areas with great initial success but much of that effort has been undone by the failure of Council to maintain the cleared state.SCF is now also actively involved in practical work parties to improve access and habitats.

Other concerns include householder encroachment onto the margins of The Common, essentially fencing parts f it off for private use, and damage to the historic perimeter bank

One of the initial aims of the Forum is to help write a management plan for The Common, which, amongst other aims, would identify which areas should be cleared to recreate open space, and which should be managed to promote the development of higher quality, more diverse and biodiverse woodland with better access for visitors to enjoy and appreciate it.

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