Harpenden Common


Size: 94 Hectares (233 Acres)

Designation: Common Land, Conservation Area and Local Wildlife Site

Habitats: Acid Grassland, Heathland, Woodland & Scrub, Ponds

Accessibility: Good accessibility across the majority of the Common, however seasonal changes can reduce accessibility in places

Facilities: Car park, football pitches, cricket clubs, golf club, nature trails, benches.   

Walking time: 2 – 3 hours

 

Harpenden Common is a place of natural scenic beauty.  A Green Flag Award winning site since 2007, the Common stretches almost two miles over 233 acres of land from the centre of Harpenden southwards and provides residents and visitors alike with an unsurpassed amenity and recreational resource.  The Common is home to over 400 species of flora and fauna and is recognised as a County Wildlife Site.

 

History

Over the decades Harpenden Common has had varied uses including grazing for sheep, horseracing, hunting, ice skating, athletics, football, cricket, golf, circuses, fairs and more recently hosting the Harpenden Farmers' Market to assist with social distancing. Commons are a remnant of the manorial system which in medieval times was the basis of the country’s economy. In Harpenden, the Common was held by the Lords of the Manor of the Rothamsted Estate, including the families of Gubion, Noel, Cressy, Wittewronge and Bennet Lawes. Commoners during this time had rights to graze livestock such as sheep and geese on the Common. In the 1930s, the Lawes family sold their estate and Harpenden Urban District Council obtained large tracts of the Common. Today, Harpenden Common is now managed by Harpenden Town Council for the benefit for the whole community.

 

Why is Harpenden Common Important?

Harpenden Common is a tiny fraction of approximately one and a half million acres (600,000 hectares) of common land in England and Wales, and provides unrestricted access to the residents of Harpenden and visitors to the Town. This large area of land is also a vital refuge for the many species of plants and animals that call the various habitats on the Common home, providing opportunities for foraging, shelter and movement. This large area of land is also protected from potential development as a result of its designation, which secures its spot as a vital part of Harpenden’s green spaces.

 

What can you do on Harpenden Common?

Harpenden Common is open to the public and an ideal space for walking, exploring and informal recreation. It is a great place for individuals or families to enjoy scenic views and to experience nature. Here are just a few things you can do when you visit:

  • walk through one of several nature trails running across the open space and discover the many habitats the Common has to offer
  • cycle or ride your horse on our designated routes and bridle paths
  • enjoy a picnic with family and friends just a stone's throw away from the Town centre
  • join us at one of our organised events – keep an eye on our events calendar!
  • help us keep the Common in great shape and volunteer with our Green Spaces Team; a fabulous way to take some outdoor exercise, meet new people and contribute to our community.

We hope you enjoy Harpenden Common and all that it offers, please act responsibly and read our Common Bylaws to check what you can and can’t do.  

 

Habitats

Acid Grassland

Acidic grasslands occur on soils with a pH of 5.5 or less and support an array of specialist species that can only thrive in these types of grassland  Nationally, areas of acid grass and heathland are recognised as scarce and fragmented habitats that are gradually succumbing to scrub and woodland encroachment and shading, as well as development pressures and changing agricultural practices.  The grassland on Harpenden Common is managed sensitively to ensure that the wildlife value is maintained and this requires a yearly cut and removal of vegetation across much of the Common to maintain the acidic characteristics of the soil.

When exploring the grasslands keep an eye out for bumblebees, Green Winged Orchids, Harebells and Slender St Johns Wort.

 

Woodland

The woodland on the Common is of secondary origin.  The cessation of grazing has allowed tree seeds to germinate and grow on previous meadow areas to produce the largely oak-dominated woodland that occurs today. As the woodland was largely left alone as it established, it now requires some management to ensure that its potential for wildlife and people is maximised.  The key issues are the prevention of scrub encroachment into grassland and the introduction of structure into the woodland and scrub.

When exploring the ponds keep an eye out for bats, woodland flora, fungi and Nuthatches.

 

Southdown Ponds

The Ponds originated as drainage ponds and to take road run-off from the Town. In 2006/7 they were drained and re-lined. An oil interceptor was installed to improve water quality, and marginal vegetation was planted, following a planting plan devised by Hertfordshire Biological Records Centre. The Ponds, although human-made, provide a valuable refuge for waterfowl, amphibians and nesting birds. With ample seating, the Ponds are a tranquil location to enjoy nature.

When exploring the Ponds keep an eye out for Mallards, Wrens, reeds and frogs.

 

Harpenden Common Golf Course

The Golf Course occupies the southern end of the Common.  Although the fairways, tees and greens are managed, there is plenty of good remnants of characteristic acid grassland and heath along the edges and in the roughs along with copses and small woodlands to explore. Ongoing projects here are to conserve, enhance and increase areas of heather and characteristic heath vegetation by extending, linking and restoring the areas of acid grassland on the margins of the playing areas, and to encourage a more natural landscape of gorse bushes and heath to develop. All users should keep on the paths and bridleways wherever possible.

When exploring the course keep an eye out for heather, gorse, Green Woodpeckers and Marbled White Butterflies.

Harpenden Common Primary Featured Image Harpenden Common Secondary Featured Image

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