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The Commons

Information on the Commons in Wortham & Burgate  

Click here to access the  Commons Booklet.

It includes guidance on the commons of Wortham and Burgate and  details of the byelaws applicable.

The Commons of  
Wortham and Burgate  
Published by Wortham & Burgate Parish Council Commons Committee  2003 A History Of The Management Of Wortham Ling
Wortham Ling is a registered common. A widespread misconception is that commons were traditionally areas of land with a universal right  
of use or access. In fact they were usually privately owned lands where  
the common rightholders, who generally occupied properties adjacent to  
the common, had associated rights. At Wortham Ling these were the  
rights of grazing, turbary (the right to cut turves) and estovers (the right to  
collect wood). Today commons do have free and full public access,  
though this is on foot only and no equestrian or vehicular access is permitted.
It is believed that up to 200 sheep grazed the Ling, but this practice gradually declined after the war and the last sheep were thought to  
have been removed in the late 1960s. Up to this time the Ling would  
have been a close cropped grassland with few areas of woodland or  
scrub. This grazing regime, though severe, and the Ling's unusual mix of  
acid heathland interspersed with chalk grassland encouraged a diverse  
range of plants to flourish.
Following  the end of the sheep grazing a dense thatch built up in  
the grassland and scrub began to encroach onto the Ling. This not only  
threatened the grassland and heathland plants but was also a fire risk and  
there were several serious fires in the mid-1980s. Suffolk Wildlife Trust  
started to take an interest in the Ling from 1982 and between 1985 and  
1993 large amounts of gorse were cleared. As the scrub began to be  
managed grazing pressure also increased as the local rabbit population  
multiplied, thereby providing a good substitute for the traditional sheep  
grazing. The Ling was notified as a Site of Special Scientific Interest in  
1990 and therefore enjoys legal status as a site that must be appropriately  
managed and must not be damaged.
Under an agreement with the owner the Trust manages the Ling  
through its reserve officer, warden and volunteers to maintain the predominantly open landscape and its botanical diversity. Wortham Ling today is how many Suffolk villages once looked and in this it is notable not  
just for its natural interest but also as a historical record.GUIDANCE FOR RESIDENTS  
The term 'common land' is widely misunderstood and misused.  
Common land' refers to land that has been registered under the Commons Registration Act 1965 and is subject to rights of common which must also be registered under the Act. Originally, the term was used to describe an area where villagers could graze their livestock or use the products of the land (turf, timber or  
fish) 'in common' and was not enclosed or fenced.  All common land, although  
it is usually privately owned, was formerly subject to 'rights of common' and  
much still is, allowing holders of these rights (commoners) to use it.  
Wortham and Burgate have over 250 acres (100 hectares) of Registered Common Land in 8 separate and distinct areas which are owned by separate Lords of the Manor.  
The areas of Common were originally unproductive, poor quality land,  
often wet and poorly drained, suitable only for grazing by geese and sheep.  
Each area has a unique character, recognised as having considerable landscape  
and conservation value. Most are now County Wildlife Sites.  
Common rights holders and the Parish Council  have continued to maintain the grassland grazing by annual hay cutting and this practice has retained  
much of the diverse flora and habitat which is now  such a rarity in Suffolk and  
which is so vital for the conservation of many rare species of plants, insects and  
Wortham Commons are now also managed under the Countryside  
Stewardship programme, which provides some funds for the routine maintenance of the Common, eg. the cutting of scrub, replacing old and damaged  
trees, draining and clearing ponds and main waterways.  
Land Ownership
The Burgate Commons, Stubbings Green and most of Wortham Long  
Green are owned by Mr Peter Holt-Wilson. Wortham Ling, The Marsh, The Magpie and much of Wortham manorial waste (i.e. Roadside verges) roadside wasteland are owned by David Wills.  
Wortham and Burgate Playing Field and Sports area is owned by the  
Parish Council.  These owners are the current 'Lords of the Manor'. Commons Management
The Commons are managed by a Committee of Wortham and Burgate Parish Council. (Details of members are shown inside the back cover).
The Responsibilities
The responsibilities of the Commons Management Committee are  
to supervise all areas of common lands, to implement the local bylaws, to  
prevent the  misuse of commons, to encourage sympathetic management  
for quiet recreational use and for the grazing of appropriate livestock and to  
encourage the enhancement of the local environment as a wildlife habitat,  
where these requirements do not compete.
The Committee in conjunction with the owners and Mid Suffolk  
District Council is responsible for investigating possible encroachments on  
common land and the unauthorised dumping of garden or household rubbish
The Committee is responsible for the resolution of day to day difficulties which can arise from ignorance of the law relating to the use of the  
It must be emphasised, however, that the Committee is not a substitute for the Parish Council or the County Police authority. Committee members only have the same powers of law enforcement as any other parishioner.  M.S.D.C. are responsible for enforcement of the Bye Laws issued by  
them under the Scheme of Management.
These are the broad responsibilities of the Committee;  but  remember that you too have responsibilities for safeguarding our commons  
- the Committee needs your full support if it is to function effectively.
Volunteers are frequently needed to assist with maintenance tasks  
on the Commons. If you are able to help in any way, please contact the  
Reeve or the Project Officer for the Upper Waveney Valley Countryside Project, which also undertakes a lot of maintenance work for the parish or Suffolk Wildlife Trust.
A brief reminder of what your responsibilities are, would perhaps be  
appropriate.   First, do read and comply with the Byelaws (See  appendix)  
authorised by the Wortham Scheme of Management; although these are not  
strictly applicable to Burgate commons, they do serve as a good guide as  
to what is permitted and what is not.If you require further clarification of the legal situation, please contact  
your local Reeve or Parish Counsellor or Mid Suffolk District Council.
Please do not dump your garden refuse or other rubbish on  
the Common  or behind the bushes where you think it will not be seen; it can  
be very dangerous apart from being anti-social.
If you see someone else doing it, have a word or let your Reeve have the details.  Please collect any rubbish, bottles etc. and place in suitable containers  
for collection by the dustmen.
Builders' rubbish or other building materials are also a nuisance and an eyesore so please do not dump it on the Common - the land in front of your property  
is not your exclusive common so please do not abuse it.  Set a good example  
for others to follow and act responsibly. Builders materials should not be stored  
on the common even for short periods without specific permission from the  
The burning of waste or bonfires is not permitted on Common  
Land (see Byelaws).
Trees & Shrubs
Trees and or shrubs should not be planted on common land, nor  
removed from it, without the written permission of the Landowner.  
If your house or property has a boundary with Common land make  
sure that you know, and can prove, the precise limits of your land ownership  - if necessary examine your property deeds and find out - it may well avoid problems for you later on, when you come to sell your property.  
The ditches forming the boundaries to the Commons are of great historic interest and important for drainage.  You should not fill in ditches, ponds  
or other watercourses, without first consulting the landowner and, for Wortham  
Commons, the District Council as Manager of the land. You will also need  
consent from the Environment Agency and, in certain circumstances, you will  
also need planning permission. You will need to seek professional advise to  
ensure that any drainage proposals are adequate for the purpose they are  
intended and will not cause future drainage problems on the Commons.Maps detailing the boundaries of Wortham & Burgate Common are held  
and maintained by Commons Registration Officer, Suffolk County Council.  Copies of the area maps are also held by land owners and the Management Committee of the Parish Council. Most Common land is now  also registered with the  
Land Registry, a centralised, national government agency.  
Grazing of Livestock
Most "commoners" have their officially authorised grazing rights registered with the County Council and are thereby legally entitled to graze the appropriate livestock numbers on Common land.   In general these rights are for the  
grazing of sheep and goats, cattle or geese but not horses.  Other residents are  
permitted to graze livestock including horses on a  "grace and favour" basis,  
granted by the Lord of the Manor for a small fee.   Requests for such grazing  
should be made in writing to the Lord of the Manor. Light grazing by horses will  
normally only be permitted from 1st April to 31st October, dependent upon prevailing, seasonal weather conditions.  
All animals grazing  on the Common must be prevented from straying on  
to the public highways or adjacent land and gardens by adequate temporary  
fencing or shepherding.  Secondary feeding is not allowed on the commons  
When electric fencing is used it must not prevent the freedom of  
access to public footpaths, bridleways, or access tracks and be well clear  
of the public highway (ie. by at least 2.5m from the roadside verge); suitable warning signs should also be erected on such fencing.
Owners of grazing animals should ensure that they have adequate  
third party or public liability insurance cover in case of accidents. The welfare of  
livestock grazed on the common is the responsibility of the animals' owner at all  
Haycutting should be delayed until after the 1st July, to allow  
reseeding and regeneration of the natural flora.
Should further information be required, contact MSDC for  
'unauthorised grazing' leaflet.Water Drainage
The landowner wishes to retain and restore the ponds and drainage ditches on the Common as far as possible.
Drainage from the Common must not be impeded in any
way by the infilling of ditches. The authority of the landowner, Management Committee, the Environment Agency also M.S.D.C. may be required.
When infilling is authorised eg. for vehicle access to new developments, adequate drainage must be provided by the installation of pipe  
work with minimum diameter of 46cm and be fitted with appropriate rubbish guards which should be regularly cleared to prevent blockage .
The boundary ditch is not only of great historic interest but the centre  
lines provides a clear marker for the boundary of the commons with adjacent  
General Points to Note  
The removal or dumping of turf or top soil, the lighting of bonfires,  
shooting, or the frequent exercising of horses in one place (which can seriously  
damage the turf) are prohibited under the Commons Bye Laws. Dogs should be  
kept under control at all times and not be permitted to foul public footpaths or  
on the Wortham Playing Fields areas.  
Please, always clear away any dog "mess" left by your dog anywhere  
on public footpaths or common land. It is an offence not to do so. It is particularly offensive to allow dogs to foul the children's play areas.
The erection of house signs or other notices is not permitted, without the written authority of the Parish Council and Landowner.  Similarly  
the riding of motor cycles on the Common is prohibited.
Vehicle Access over Common Land
The following paragraphs cannot be substitutes for professional legal advice and are intended only for general information.  A  
number of basic statutory procedures exist for safeguarding the interest  
of the wider community, the commoners and the land owner as follows:
a. 1972 Road Traffic Act (Section 36) makes it an offence, withoutlawful authority, to drive a motor vehicle on common land except where the  
vehicle is not more than 15 yards from the highway, solely for parking or in  
an emergency.  
b. 1925 Law of Property Act (Section 194) prohibits the construction of  
any "works" (including the making of a metalled track or roadway) unless the  
consent of the Secretary of State for the Environment has been obtained.  
c. The 1899 Commons Act and the Countryside and Rights of Way  
(CROW) Act 2000 cover access to common land, including vehicular access  
over commons, under which the Parish Council and MSDC exercise their  
rights of management. These Acts provide the legal  framework for the byelaws prohibiting encroachment on common land by the construction of new  
tracks or roadways. Routine maintenance of existing tracks and pathways may  
be undertaken using non-permanent materials, eg: hogging, crushed concrete etc.  
You are not permitted to drive a vehicle over Common land, even if it  
is to reach your own property, without a legal "easement" authority from the  
land owner, ie the Lord of the Manor.   Because of environmental and development pressures on our Common land, new access tracks will only be permitted under very exceptional circumstances.  
If you do not have a legal "easement" over the Common to your  
property, you would be well advised to obtain one. Don't wait until you need to  
sell your property.  
Before putting your property up for sale, you should obtain an  
appropriate Deed of Grant from the Lord of the Manor.  
Such a  Deed of Grant (for access over the Common) is normally only  
applicable to the property or business for which it is issued - if the property is  
split, ie new dwellings are built which also require access over Common land,  
even if this right of way is over an existing track then these new properties will  
also require a separate "Deed of Grant".  Similarly, if business premises are  
materially altered so as to change the nature of traffic over the Common,  
these new businesses would also require additional authorisation for access.  
When property is sold, the Deed of Grant for access rights must be  
transferred to the new owner and it is therefore advisable to ensure that this document is retained with the property deeds.  Normally a Deed of Grant will  
not have a time limit or expiry date attached to it and it is therefore, a once only  
Planning approvals,  or consents for new developments do not provide  
a legal authority for vehicle access over Common land, even though such consents or approvals may agree to the use of existing tracks for access -the law  
requires a specific " Easement" authority from the land owner, or the Secretary  
of State for the Environment.  
Section 194 of the Law of Property Act also requires you to obtain the  
approval of the Secretary of State before constructing a metalled roadway over  
an existing track and such authority is unlikely to be granted for normal domestic or business use.  
If you wish to improve or widen the track or existing roadway to your  
property you should forward your request to the Parish Council. With the agreement of the Parish Council and landowner (and provided that you have proper  
authority for access) you will normally be given approval with recommendations to use only loose hardcore, shingle or granite chippings, all of which materials may be considered to be impermanent works, permissible under the Bye  
The existence of some concrete / metalled tracks on the Common  
which are not authorised in law cannot be cited providing a legal precedent for  
new work.  
Port funding for this booklet was given by SCC locality budget, via Cllr. Charles Michell. Illustrations drawn by Jane Durant.HOLT-WILSON FAMILY.
The Burgate Commons, Stubbings Green and most of  
Wortham Long Green are owned by Mr. Peter Holt-Wilson,  
whose family have been major landowners in the area since  
Anglo Saxon times. Although the bulk of records of the family's  
history were sold to the University of Chicago in the early 1920s,  
a significant number of items covering the period 1 770 to 1870  
have been retained by the family and catalogued by  the  
Redgrave History Group as part of an ongoing research project.  
When John Holt-Wilson (1900 - 1963) took over the  
running of the estate in 1928, the obligation to pay two sets of  
death duties in four years had taken its toll on holdings already  
diminished over the previous century, and the decision was  
taken to sell Redgrave Park, then the centre of the estate. Photographs taken at the time (early 1930s) show a stunningly beautiful landscape of mature and veteran trees and the expanse of  
the lake, all planned some 160 years previously by  the legendary "Capability" Brown.  
In the event, Redgrave Park was not sold until 1971,  
thus ending more than 750 years of continuous ownership by  
the Holt-Wilson family and their ancestors, and leading to the  
destruction of wood pasture with Anglo Saxon origins. The Park  
is, however, still in agricultural use, although modern agribusiness makes very different demands on the landscape whilst  
continuing the long and fascinating history of the interaction of  
people and their environment in this corner of Suffolk. NEW OWNER OF WORTHAM LING
David Wills purchased the Lordship of the Manor of  
Wortham Hall in 2002, thereby becoming the owner of Wortham  
Ling and common land at Magpie Green and Marsh Lane.  
A local man, born in a house on Wortham Ling, and a
founding partner of Anglia Autoflow, David Wills is anxious to  
maintain the integrity of the commons and work with local and  
district organisations to ensure that the character and amenity of  
the commons is secured and enhanced. His purchase of the lordship of the manor is a personal venture, not connected in any way  
with Anglia Autoflow or his many other business interests.  
For ten years previous to David's purchase of the lordship of  
the manor, it was held by the De Lancey De La Hanty Foundation,  
which contracted with Suffolk Wildlife Trust to manage the Ling,  
which is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). It is  
David's intention to continue with this arrangement with the aim of  
doing everything necessary to maintain and improve  the heathland.  
Although David is now semi-retired, he continues to live locally, in Roydon, and remains Chairman of the Board of Anglia  
Autoflow. The Wildlife of the Commons  
The commons are havens for wildlife. This is because they  
have been managed in the same way for hundreds of years by  
light grazing and cutting the grass for hay. Herbicides and fertilisers have never been applied so many scarce meadow plants have  
The Ling is the only area of heathland for many miles  
around. Heather is common and there are also unusual plants  
such as Wild Thyme, Meadow Saxifrage and Devil's-bit  
Scabious. There are good populations of Grayling and Green  
Hairstreak, both typical heathland butterflies. The Ling is a Site of  
Special Scientific Interest and is managed by Suffolk Wildlife Trust  
as a nature reserve.  
The Marsh and Long Green support at least 7 species of  
orchid including some very showy hybrids that appear every year  
near the playing field. Several other uncommon plants can found  
such as Dyer's Greenweed, which produces both green and yellow dyes, and the strange Adder's-tongue Fern. The ponds hold  
Great Crested Newts and the anthills are visited by Green Woodpeckers.  
Burgate Great and Little Greens are very different. The  
Great Green is marshy with acid soils and typical plants include  
Marsh Pennywort, and two unusual grasses; Mat Grass and  
Heath Grass. Little Green is dryer with slightly chalky soils and is  
covered in Cowslips in the spring. A few plants of Sulphur Clover  
grow here; this is very much a local speciality as it is only found in  
East Anglia.  
All the commons, with the exception of Magpie and  
Stubbing's Greens, are County Wildlife Sites. They  are also  
being managed under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme  
(administered by the Department for Environment, Food and  
Rural Affairs), which provides funds to restore and maintain  
these historic landscapes for wildlife and local people. BYELAWS
BYELAWS made by Hartismere Rural District Council with respect to Wortham Commons in accordance with the provisions of paragraph 9 of the Scheme for the Regulation and  
Management approved by the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries on the tenth day of February 1934 under the Commons Act 1899.
1 . Throughout these byelaws the expression "the Council" means the Hartismere Rural  
District Council
Or, in the event of the power of enforcing these byelaws being at any time hereafter delegated  
by the Rural District Council to Wortham Parish Council, Wortham Parish Council; and the  
expression "the Commons" means the pieces of land with ponds, streams, paths and roads  
thereon commonly known as "Wortham Ling", "The Marsh", "Magpie Green" and "Long  
Green" situate in the parish of Wortham in the county of Suffolk.
2. No person shall wilfully, carelessly or negligently remove any scat, shelter, pavilion, fence  
or other thing put up or maintained upon the Commons by the Council.  
3. No person shall post or paint any bill, placard, advertisement or notice upon any tree,  
fence or erec- tion on the Commons.
4. No person shall, without lawful authority, catch birds, or set traps or nets, or lay snares for  
birds or other animals, or take birds eggs or nests, or shoot or chase game or other animals on  
the Commons.  
5. No person shall, without lawful authority draw, drive or place upon the Commons any  
carriage, cart, caravan, truck, motor vehicle, motor cycle, aeroplane, flying machine or other  
vehicle, or erect or permit to remain on the Commons any building, shed, tent, fence, post,  
railing or other structure, whether used in connection with the playing of games or not.  
6. No person shall, without the consent of the Council (except in the case of a fair lawfully  
held), place on the Commons any photographic cart or any show, exhibition, swing,  
roundabout or other like thing.  
7. No person shall, without lawful authority, light any fire on the Commons.  
8. No person shall, without lawful authority, fire or discharge any firearm or throw or  
discharge any missile on the Commons.  
9. Where the Council set apart any part of the Commons as may be fixed by the Council and  
described in a notice board affixed or set up in some conspicuous position on the Commons  
for the purpose of any game specified in the notice board, which, by reason of the rules or  
manner of playing, or for the prevention of damage, danger or discomfort to any person on  
the Commons may necessitate, at any time during the continuance of the game, the exclusive  
use by the player or players of any space in such part of the Commons, no person shall in any  
space elsewhere on the commons play of take part in any game so specified in such a manner  
as to exclude persons not playing or taking part in the game from the use of such space.  
10. A person resorting to the Commons and playing or taking part in any game for which the  
exclusive use of any space on the Commons has been set apart shall:-  
(i) not play on the space any game other than the game for which it is set apart, (ii) in preparing for playing and in playing, use reasonable care to prevent undue interference with the  
proper use of the Commons by other persons;(iii) when the space is already occupied by other players not begin to play there on without
their permission;
(iv) where the exclusive use of the space has been granted by the Council for the playing of a
match, not play on that space later than a quarter of an hour before the time fixed for the
beginning of the match unless he is taking part therein;
(v) except where the exclusive use of the space has been granted by the Council for the
playing of a match in which he is taking part, not use the space for a longer time than two
hours continuously, if any other player or players make known to him a wish to use the space.
11. No person shall on any part of the Commons which may have been set apart by the  
Council for any game play or take part in any game when the state of the ground or other  
cause makes it unfit for use and a notice is set up in some conspicuous position prohibiting  
play on that part of the Commons.
12. No groom or other person shall, without lawful authority, at any time break in or exercise  
any horse on the Commons.  
13. No person shall, without lawful authority, turn out or permit to remain on the Commons  
any cattle, sheep or other animals.  
14. No person shall wilfully, carelessly or negligently soil or defile any part of any wall or  
fence, or any part of any building, barrier or railing, or any fixed or moveable seat, or any  
other structure or erection on the Commons.  
15. No person shall in any part of the Commons wilfully obstruct, disturb, interrupt or annoy  
any other person in the proper use of the Commons.  
16. It shall be lawful for any officer of the Council, after due warning, to remove from the  
Commons any vehicle or animal drawn, driven or placed or any structure erected or placed  
thereon in contravention of these bye laws or to exclude from the Commons any person who  
within his view commits, or whom he reasonably suspects of committing an offence against  
any such bye law or against the Vagrancy Act 1824  
17. No person shall hinder or obstruct an officer of the Council in the exercise of his powers  
or duties under the scheme here inbefore referred to or under any byelaws made thereunder.  
18. Every person who shall offend against any of the foregoing byelaws shall be liable on  
summary conviction to a fine not exceeding twenty pounds and in the case of a continuing  
offence to a futher fine not exceeding two pounds for each day during which the offence  
continues after conviction therefore.  
The Common Seal of Martismore
Rural District Council was hereunto (L.S.) affixed this third day of July 1972 in the
presence of:-
The Secretary of State this day con- firmed the foregoing byelaws and fixed the date on which they are to come into operation as the date here- of.
An Assistant Under Secretary of State, Home Office, Whitehall. 16 November 1972. This is a true copy of the byelaws as confirmed.GUIDANCE FOR GRAZING HORSES ON THE COMMONS
The commons are important places for wildlife and have been designated  
as County Wildlife Sites by Suffolk Wildlife Trust and the County Council. They  
have also been entered into the Countryside Stewardship Scheme, run by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), to provide funds for  
positive management.
Light grazing of the commons is essential if their character and value are  
to survive. However, in order to comply with the Stewardship agreement, protect  
wildlife and ensure that the commons are maintained in a good condition for everyone to enjoy, please follow these simple conditions.
The commons have naturally poorly-drained soils so are often very wet  
or waterlogged. It is therefore important to avoid over-grazing and poaching at  
all times. This means that horses should be moved before poaching occurs. In  
addition, please do not graze your horses between 1 November and 31 March,  
when the ground is most likely to be poached.
Please avoid supplementary feeding as this encourages poaching.
Do not apply any organic or inorganic fertilisers
Please do not apply any herbicides. Thistles and rushes can be controlled by topping but avoid disturbing ground-nesting birds.
Do not alter the drains or drainage of the commons.
Electric fencing must not prevent access to footpaths or access tracks  
and should be well clear of the public highway (i.e At least 2.5 metres from the  
roadside verge). Suitable warning signs should also be erected.