What is unimproved grassland?
Brill Common consists of approximately 30 hectares of common land, comprising unenclosed grassland crossed by two roads, adjacent to the village of Brill in Buckinghamshire. The Common is much used by villagers and also by visitors from across Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire who come to visit the historic windmill and then walk, picnic and fly kites on the Common.
The geology of Brill Common is a complex of Portland Limestone, acidic Lower Greensand and Kimmeridge Clay. There is a history of industrial activity; the Common was heavily quarried for clay until the end of the 19th Century resulting in an undulating landscape, making the area quite unsuitable for mechanical management.
What is Common Land?
Around 3% of the land area of England is recognised as common land. In general terms, common land is owned by one person over which another person is entitled to exercise rights of common, one of which is the right to graze animals.
Clearing years of neglect prior to grazing
Brill Brick & Tile Company
Unimproved grassland, such as Brill Common, is permanent grassland which has not been cultivated or received artificial fertiliser for many years. It is the single most threatened type of grassland habitat in the UK and has suffered the greatest loss in the last seventy years.
The Common was designated a Local Wildlife site in 1997 due to its ecological interest. At about this time grazing on the Common ceased, a story repeated on most other commons in this country, and for the subsequent years lack of management resulted in an overgrowth of scrub, bramble, tree seedlings and rank grass, nearly destroying the precious and increasingly rare unimproved grassland. The thatch of dense cover all but swamped the botanical interest for which the site was previously known.
In 2009 a professional ecologist recommended that in time the common could be restored by conservation grazing.
Click to look at some of the flora and fauna that, thanks to careful management, are now able to be seen on the Common