Restoring Brill Common, the story so far
Last shepherd retires and grazing ends
The common is designated a Local Wildlife site by Bucks County Council. However this designation comes with no funding or practical support.
A report by Hyder, commissioned by Bucks County Council suggests grazing with cattle grids and minimal permanent fencing. Village opinion supports grazing but rejects cattle grids. No further action is taken.
The common deteriorates further and is dominated by nettles, rank grass and brambles. Some hollows left by clay working become filled with brambles.
A small group of volunteers start to maintain a limited area on South Hills.
The Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act (NERC) becomes law. This places a legal obligation on the Parish Council to manage the Common so as to maintain and improve its biodiversity.
First ‘bramble bashes’ take place on North Hills organised by a newly formed village group ‘Friends of Brill Common’.
A local grazier puts four cattle on the common to test the feasibility of grazing and the resulting public reaction.
Friends of Brill Common commission a report on the state of management on Brill Common from the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG). Report presented to the Parish Council. No action taken.
A village consultation document "Brill Common - the way forward" is prepared and circulated
Open evening to discuss the options.
Results of consultation are published. Majority (70%) in favour of grazing.
Many Villagers sign a statement expressing support for a community herd.
Village Open meeting at which FWAG consultant explained to a 'full house' the environmental stewardship scheme which is dependent on grazing the common. Unanimous decision to proceed.
An application is made to enter the government financed Higher Level Stewardship scheme, which would provide £8000 with which to support restoration of the common
Throughout the winter of 2010/2011 volunteers carry out a work plan devised by the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group, while awaiting decision on Higher Level Stewardship application.
Founding Chairman of Brill Village Community Herd, David Dilly, works with the Co-operative hub (a division of the Co-op) and the Financial Services Authority taking advice on the extensive procedures to be completed to set up the Brill Village Community Herd as a formal ‘Society for the benefit of the Community’, the first time in the country that this vehicle has been used for a community herd.
Application to enter Higher Level Stewardship is turned down by Natural England due to changing criteria.
A new application to enter the Entry Level Stewardship scheme is made and is successful. This attracts a grant of £848 anually for 5 years for carrying out 'conservation grazing'
A five year Common Management plan is prepared by FWAG
Brill Village Community Herd (BVCH) is formally established with the Financial Services Authority and the Co-operative hub approval. Our Board members are appointed.
Shareholder applications are invited, and reach 300 by the year end.
Seven Dexter cattle, owned by BVCH community shareholders, graze various areas of the common, following the grazing suggestions in the FWAG five year plan.
A professional herd warden is employed part-time to monitor health and well-being of stock.
The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) present BVCH an award for ‘protecting and enhancing the countryside.
BVCH receives much television and newspaper coverage for its conservation work.
To reduce the heavy work involved in moving fence posts and metal gates an innovative scheme of socketed fencing and simple retractable gates is devised and implemented.
BVCH volunteers start to check cattle , their drinking water and the security of the fencing on a daily rota.
The first move of cattle, fencing and gates to a new grazing area takes place with BVCH volunteers.
Radio 4 broadcast a full length programe featuring BVCH
‘Common Explorers.’ A trial of an educational programme for children is held on the common and pronounced a success by the participants.
A BVCH member leases the Society an area of land adjacent to the common to store equipment
FWAG produce a review of progress in restoration of the common.
Representatives of the City of London, who manage Hampstead Heath and Burnham Beeches visit to gain information and are particularly impressed by our innovative Society model and fencing system.
BVCH obtains a copy of the FWAG 5yr. Management plan 'Interim Progress Report'; although there is much positive progress noted, the ecologist comments that the size of the herd is not sufficient to make the desired progress. BVCH Board will discuss the implications.
BVCH Board commit to increase the herd in response to the FWAG 'Interim Progress Report
January. - BVCH assist Brill Parish Council in their application for Higher Tier Stewardship. This included capital grants for permanant water troughs, scrub clearance and Invisible Fencing (IF)
New stewardship agreement confirmed. This will provide ~£5000 per annum for five years. However the grazing element of the scheme (~£2000) was assured for ten years. (Unfortunately the capital grant for the invisible fencing component was withdrawn nationally.)
December. - Contractors employed to remove large area of scrub together with FOBC in order to satisfy the HLS agreement. Four permanant water troughs installed on Common
July. - FOBC flail area of bramble and scrub to encourage areas of new grass growth on North Hills (as the extremely dry summer had resulted in very little growth).
November. - FOBC continue North Hills scrub clearance through to February 2019