VILLAGERS who bought their own “community herd” to restore an overgrown village common near Bicester have won an award.

For two decades Brill’s 30-hectare common – the equivalent of roughly 28 football pitches – was neglected and overgrown.

Fed-up residents decided to take action and commissioned a report to find out how the land could be managed sustainably.

Mechanical machinery was ruled out because of the bumpy ground at the former clay quarry which lies three miles from Bicester.

So villagers went back to nature and raised £2,500 themselves to buy a seven-strong herd of Dexter cows in 2008 to keep the grass and weeds under control.

Now 360 people have shares in the Brill Village Community Herd, which is the only one of its type in the country. Last month the village was awarded the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) mark for ‘protecting and enhancing the countryside’.

Chairman David Dilly said: “This has become a truly marvellous example of what can be achieved when a community works together in a co-operative spirit for the common good.

“Our objective was to undo the damage done to Brill Common by many years of neglect and restore the wide range of flowers, birds, insects and invertebrates previously present.”

The cows live outdoors all year and are cared for by a small army of villagers. They are moved around the common to graze different sections and penned in by portable electric fences.

Founding board member Patricia Stone said: “For 20 years the ancient common of Brill had been neglected and became overgrown with rank grass, brambles and scrub.

“A lot of people in the village felt that something should be done.

“The Dexters have grown used to sharing the common with villagers and visitors and have now become very much part of the character of the village.”

Brill Village Community Herd Society was formed in May 2011 following a successful three-year trial. Anyone can join and membership costs £5, which includes a nominal £1 share.

The group was one of three projects given the award by the Buckinghamshire branch of the CPRE.

Executive member David Jarman said: “This project was chosen because of its conservation aspects and the fact that local volunteers from the community were involved.”

  • The group is currently fundraising for equipment to help with the project and anyone interested in sponsoring the scheme should email