near Plaitford and West Wellow
Meet at Plaitford Village Hall car park
Grid Ref. GR SU280193
Client: National Trust, New Forest Northern Commons
The New Forest Northern Commons comprise of five commons cared for by the National Trust. Three near Ringwood are Hightown, Rockford and Ibsley Commons, while further north is Hale Purlieu. To the east is the fifth area, where we have most often worked, consisting of Bramshaw Commons and Foxbury. "Bramshaw Commons" is an encompassing term for various commons, including Half Moon, Cadnam, Penn and Plaitford Commons, which are owned by the National Trust. They each have their own characteristics, and have been subjected to different management practices over the years.
The earliest features on Plaitford Common are two Bronze Age burial mounds. There are also small ponds, thought to date from the Bronze Age. It is supposed that flints were heated in a fire then thrown in to heat the water, possibly for cooking. Equally doubtful are various linear excavations which may be ridge and furrow workings from the Iron Age.
Ancient grazing rights have had a major influence, since no settlements or farmsteads have been discovered on the common. According to the published history of Plaitford's Shoe Inn, the last New Forest highwayman, John Taylor was caught while drinking there and publicly hanged on the nearby Plaitford Common.
Deep and boggy mires surround a larger area of dry heath and acid grassland. Both the wet and dry parts are species-rich and home to some of the rarest mosses and lichens in Great Britain, including Reindeer Moss, actually a pale lichen, Cladonia rangiferina. The occurence of the leafy lichen Platismatia glauca is a good indication of a high quality heath. All 180 hectares are designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, which should help to ensure its continued value for wildlife. Major work was carried out in 2012, featured on BBC's Countryfile, using a floating excavator to clear scrub and trees from three hectares of mire, which would be very hard to access and work on by more conventional means.
Our first task here, on a rather wet day in February 2014, was clearing gorse that is invading the Common to restore the open heath and mire systems. Some gorse will be left to coppice up and provide cover for nesting birds and as a valuable food source. Thanks to Karen Minett for the task pictures.
We return in October for ride and glade management.
Meet at 10am in Plaitford Village Hall car park on the A36 at Partridge Hill. Plaitford Common can then be accessed through a set of double field gates opposite the Shoe Inn, which is about 300m further up the road. From the M27 J2 head north up the A36 towards Salisbury. Go straight across the small roundabout at West Wellow and the village hall is nearly a mile further on your right. Look out for our yellow flags.