On my walk last night I noticed that a couple of new signs have gone up at various entrances to the common land that makes up my local patch. Most of these were the normal ones that you would expect to see including no camping and no fires, but it was this large typed notice that caught my attention.
As you can see the title of this document is “The Manorial Waste of The Seigniory of Gower”. I read it and the proceeding paragraphs several times and was still none the wiser about their meaning, mainly as a result of not being fluent in legal jargon. As a result I have just spent the last hour or so researching and think I have finally worked out what the notice is trying to say. First a few definitions:
- seigniory – position, authority or domain of a feudal lord. In this case we are referring to the domain of Gower, whose past lords have included Oliver Cromwell himself and whose current owner is the Lord of Beauforts estate.
- manorial waste – the land associated with a Manor that was neither the Demesne land of the lord of the manor, nor granted out to tenants. It often comprised hedgerows, verges, and scrubland of little agricultural value.
- demesne – in general land retained by the estate owner and not granted out to tenants. The term usually referred to the land of a feudal overlord which he retained for his own personal use.
What we end up with is a simple, if less elegant, title “The Common Land of the Gower Estate”. In the UK common land is typically owned by a single person, but everyone has the right to at least access it. Often traditional rights such as grazing cattle, collecting firewood or cutting turf for fuel also apply. Bryn-bach Common of which I write regularly is one such area where people are free to let their animals graze or to simply enjoy the land for their own pleasure.
Section 193 of the Law of Property Act 1925 covers these rights but also includes provision for restrictions to be put in place to protect the land for those that use it and to conserve flora, fauna, geological or physiographical features and any object of historical interest. It is the addition of new restrictions (listed from a to j) to the areas detailed at the start of the document that I believe has prompted the appearance of these notices. Item (j) is particularly curious as it prohibits the molesting of cattle. Is that something that people really need to be told not to do?
Whilst trying to decipher various legal documents in the course of writing this post I stumbled across a news item concerning a biodiversity project that is being implemented across part of my patch. This is to be a three year effort whose main aims are to reduce invasive natives such as bracken and soft rush, reduce invasive non-natives including rhododendron, rebalance grazing, reduce illegal off-road use, reduce illegal fly tipping and deliver appropriate conservation management. This is great news but something that does not appear to have been publicised locally. I for one would be very interested to hear what the plans are and to get involved if possible. The project information, limited though it currently is, can be found here.