Caring for Southampton Little Common…
…by keeping the area along Highfield Road as a mainly open landscape that feels safer, more welcoming and attractive for the many people who use the area for walking, cycling, playing and relaxing
Key tasks include
- Clear vegetation in and on sides of the Carriage Drive ditches
- Complete clearance around underpass approach, including stump grinding, to allow grass cutting under selected hawthorns/birches
- Clear holly and brambles around oaks near Highfield Avenue
- Widen grass sides of circular path through woodland
- Cut ivy potentially threatening canopies of hawthorns and oaks
- Thin woodland west of Carriage Drive to promote heath species
- Remove obstructions for flailer/grass-cutting machines
- Remove saplings/encroachments opposite nos. 1-5 Highfield Roadand along Oakmount Avenue – The Avenue path
What can you do?
- Come to working parties – a free sociable outdoor work-out!
- Tell friends and neighbours about the Action Plan and encourage them to comment, come to working parties and get involved
- Express your view to us: firstname.lastname@example.org and/or the Council Leader & local councillors (see SCC website)
Background to Common Sense and the Little Common Action Plan
The Little Common, east of The Avenue, of about 30 hectares, for centuries was mainly open heathland, with some woodland. Grazing maintained the openness. When that ceased at WWII, parts became increasingly overgrown, but others were maintained for many years by regular grass-cutting. New managers in the 1990s encouraged more areas to become covered with brambles, holly and other trees – contrary to the 1992 Common Management Plan (CMP). Once open areas became impenetrable and paths, well-used for centuries, impassable. In addition, the Common Ecologist planted a dense hawthorn hedge along most of Highfield Road. That contravened law which forbids impeding access to a common. The hedge grew to an oppressive 3-4m high, blocking sight of and access to the Little Common from most of the Road. With other overgrowth behind, it made the locality feel unwelcoming, less safe and less useable. It also looked unkempt, harming the area’s character and the Avenue Campus setting.
Local residents petitioned the Leader of the City Council (SCC) and the group Common Sense formed under the auspices of the Highfield Residents’ Association (HRA). SCC’s newly instructed senior management endorsed the 2008 and later Little Common Action Plans, which proposed removing the hedge and other recent vegetation – in line with the CMP – on about 3 hectares most used by the public. In the last 9 years, over 60 volunteer working parties, several days of professional tree work, (funded by the HRA, SCC and Southampton University) and help from Council ground-staff/machinery have largely restored the 3ha. However a new manager’s decision in 2016 to let parts again grow over and keep the Carriage Drive (CD) covered in recent gorse, rather than as an historic grass ride, could have negated much of the community work. SCC’s top management intervened and restored areas are again now being maintained in accord with the CMP. The CD is now cleared for grass to re-establish – thanks to HRG Tree Services generously doing the work for the community free of charge.
Finishing restoration and keeping openness needs continuing volunteer work by hand, together with regular Council and occasional contractor work. Working parties are mainly in winter months to avoid undue disturbance to wildlife.
Hover your mouse pointer over image to view magnification:
Key to zones:
- 1a & b Maintain open corridors of mown grass 1-2m min. to sides of path, & around lights & old wall.
- 1c Remove saplings/holly, widen grass edge to path/cycleway. Maintain 1-2m wide open grass verge.
- 1d Remove encroaching saplings on woodland edge/restore grassland ‘mini-green’. Maintain as short grass meadow.
- 1f Clear understory/most saplings /grind roots on slopes/sides of underpass & bus-stop approach restore separation of cycles/walk- ers in underpass. Maintain grass under selected hawthorns/birches.
- 2a Clear overgrowth east of log pile ready for machine flailing/ grass-cutting, remove stump of fallen oak with grinder, clear fallen braches etc. obstructing machines. Reposition suitable logs as seats in 2a, 2b & 2c. Maintain as park grass-land, under beech, oaks, hawthorn & (coppiced) hazel, trimmed close to stems to preserve openness.
- 2b Clear under-storey near paths to improve open-ness & visibility; restore gravel path; repair seat; restore cycle deterrents on diagonal path. Maintain as park & amenity grassland.
- 2a, 2b & 2c road-side bank Cut back/remove hedge stumps ready for mach-ine strimming/ flailing. Maintain 2a & 2c as long grass/wild flower bank; 2b closer-strimmed, as now.
- 2d Create welcoming Common entrance, aligned with recently installed road crossing and gravel path, funded by the SCC 2016 Small Projects Bid award. Maintain all-weather gravel path & attractive entrance/interpretation board
- 2e Clear under-story, save haw-thorns & widen path ride. Maintain as amenity/ park grassland.
- 3a Install/repair continuous gravel path (as 2d) & sleeper bridge midway over eastern ditch. Maintain open ditches each side of Carriage Drive & grass ride in between.
- 3b Thin oaks & under-story – remove/treat laurel & holly – to pro-mote heath species, incl. heather, gorse & birch; widen path sides.
- 4a Semi-ancient wood; maintain biodiversity & forest landscape.
- 4b Restore selected paths. Maintain paths & manage maturing woodland/ some thinning.