CommonSense is a group of local volunteers whose aim is to assist with the upkeep of Southampton Little Common, for the benefit of all those who use it. Formed in 2008, its current vision is to increase public access to the whole of the Little Common.
Southampton Little Common is part of Southampton Common, the historic communal grazing area used by the citizens of Southampton from at least as far back as the 10th century up until WWII. The Little Common is separated from the larger, western, part by the A33 trunk road – “The Avenue”- which is the historic route in and out of the city.
Southampton Common is owned and maintained by Southampton City Council. Recently, a users group, the Southampton Common Forum, has been established to represent users of the Common as a whole, building on the activities and objectives established by CommonSense.
The Little Common differs from its larger sibling to the west in several significant ways. Unlike the main (western) Common, it does not form part of the SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) established in 1987 for the protection of several species of newt that breed in its ponds and lakes. Also the Little Common has none of the facilities to be found on the main Common, including several bodies of water, informal sports grounds also used for a variety of open-air events, a pub (“The Cowherds”), a brand-new children’s play area, open-air fitness equipment, and The Hawthorns education centre and café. While the main Common is visited by a wide variety of people from all over and outside the City, attracted by its facilities, the Little Common is predominantly used for informal recreation by residents of its two adjacent suburbs, Highfield and East Bassett, as well as by cyclists and pedestrians using the underpass under the A33 which connects with the main Common.
During its first decade of existence, CommonSense has been attached to the Highfield Residents’ Association and has focused its activities on the central area of the Little Common, the part bordered by Highfield Road. Between 1990s and 2007 public access to this area had been progressively impeded by the planting of a hawthorn hedge along Highfield Road and by increasingly impenetrable undergrowth covering areas that had previously been kept open. Since CommonSense, the hedge has been removed and much of the new undergrowth cleared, making the whole area look more attractive to visitors, and improving access considerably.
CommonSense produced an Action Plan endorsed by the City Council, aiming to restore the condition of the Little Common to that shown in a plan originally drawn up by the Council in 1992. To date, the areas opened-out are largely those bordering Highfield Road to the east, which is the main pedestrian access; the heathland and dense woodland nearer to The Avenue is being left largely as they are, to act as a barrier to traffic noise and pollution and to promote biodiversity.
Worldwide, city parks such as the Little Common are becoming recognised as essential to healthy lifestyles –see here. Common Sense aims to ensure that residents and visitors alike can continue to enjoy ready access to attractive green areas for informal recreation, complementing the facilities provided by the main Common.
Little Common Working Party 24 February 2018