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Common Land

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Common land forms an important element of the farming tradition in Wales, particularly as a grazing resource
Information on common land in Wales and what to do if you are planning to do work on, or take land out of, the common.
if you've seen a term you don't understand, please check here for an explanation.

It is generally thought that common land is so called because "everyone" owns it, but this is not correct.

Common land is usually owned by one person, namely the landowner.  It is called "common land" because historically the landowner has allowed certain other people to use it.  

What are 'rights of commons'

Most common land dates back to mediaeval times when land was owned by the lord of the manor. The lord would give his tenants the right to use pasture or waste land in particular ways.   This permission to use the “common land” was called “holding rights of common”, and rights holders were called “commoners”.  The rights were attached to the particular farmland or premises that were part of the manor.  On common land, commoners could undertake certain specified activities e.g. grazing livestock, gathering wood, turf or acorns, or fishing.

The practice has continued to the present day, even though the original manor may be long gone.  Nowadays, most rights are still attached to farms or premises.  The current owners or tenants can use the rights of common belonging to that property.

Common land in Wales

Approximately 8.4% of Wales is covered by registered common land amounting to around 175,000 hectares. Many small commons abut each other, making large areas of common land across Wales.  These small commons may have different owners and different rights holders.   Many commons are important for agriculture in Wales, providing grazing for sheep and cattle.  In addition, many commons are enjoyed for their leisure and environmental interests.  Some are in National Parks or are owned by the National Trust.  

Common land can provide important habitat for protected birds, wildlife and plants.