Villagers quizzed on ancient grazing right

Oxford Mail: Commoners committee chairman Michael Buck Commoners committee chairman Michael Buck

A SURVEY of Wolvercote residents is being held in order to allow the village’s common to be used for the whole community.

The Wolvercote Commoners committee is tracking down all of the people who hold rights over the ancient piece of land to find out whether they are making use of them.

Since the 1960s government reform meant only some of the residents have had the so-called ‘rights of common’ over the land which means they can graze their cattle there.

These rights are tied to the houses rather than to residents, but not all of the people of Wolvercote use them and a survey is being carried out to find out how many do.

There are an estimated 100 or more houses in Wolvercote which have ‘rights of common’ attached to them.

Committee chairman Michael Buck said: “We are encouraging people to make use of their rights and put animals on the meadow themselves, which for many years some people have not done.

“We are now asking people who have rights and aren’t using them whether we can make collective use of them.

“It will mean we will really be looking after the meadow for them and people who don’t have rights can get involved by joining our meadow-share scheme.”

Grazing on Wolvercote Common, which is north of Port Meadow, has been recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086.

The people of Wolvercote have had the right to pasture cows, horses or geese on the common for centuries and the commoners have fought a number of legal battles over the years to maintain those rights.

As part of the meadow-share scheme the commoners buy cattle from a local dairy which are then put on Wolvercote Common and shared by the community who all chip in to pay for them.

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Commoner Sheila Cameron, who lives in Godstow Road, said: “I think it is great to get the whole community involved and realising that the common is their asset as well.

“In a way, having the grazing rights is rather trivial nowadays because not that many people want to exercise them.”

Mr Buck said the commoners committee had been asked by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to formalise its scheme.

This will allow all those without rights to work on the meadow by formally asking all rights-holders who didn’t use their rights whether they could be pooled for the community.

He said: “We are going door to door talking to people.

“It is good in a way because there are bound to be some people out there who don’t know about their rights.”

Defra declined to comment.

Comments (1)

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9:48am Mon 18 Feb 13

Alfie Nokes says...

Shame our forebears didn't have the foresight to establish grazing rights for the people themselves instead of their cattle, they might then be enjoying walnuts, pears, almonds, plums, and more from an established community orchard. Still not too late if they have the will I guess.
Shame our forebears didn't have the foresight to establish grazing rights for the people themselves instead of their cattle, they might then be enjoying walnuts, pears, almonds, plums, and more from an established community orchard. Still not too late if they have the will I guess. Alfie Nokes

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