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Outney Common

posted on 24 June 2009 | posted in Blog

Outney Common
To the North of our town lies Outney Common – 400 acres of beautiful heath and fenland, records for which date back to the 15th century when it was manorial land. Cattle (and at one time donkeys) have always grazed on the common and, in the late 19th and early 20th century there was horse racing there too, the subject of a number of paintings by Sir Alfred Munnings. In fact there was racing on the Common for nigh on 200 years, with the last meet in 1957. Why did they stop?

The right to allow ones cattle to graze were known as "commonages". Rights owners sub-let their commonages into "goings", with each going representing one head of grazing cattle, for which farmers paid a rent. (I wonder – is this where the term "the going rate" comes from?). Fen reeves were appointed to manage the common on behalf of the "commoners" . The common today is owned by the Common Owners who have granted townsfolk the right to roam across it (avoiding the golf course, rent for which is paid to the Town Council, itself a Common Owner). There is still controversy over this and there are still some townsfolk who firmly believe that none of the common owners have the right to collect rents from the cattle grazing or the golf club (there has been a golf club on the common since 1889) and that the Common is truly common land.

I love to read about the history of the place but more I love to roam on the Common, where, at the further reaches where it is bounded by the river, you are completely surrounded by nature with birdsong and the breeze rustling the leaves in the trees the only sound and where butterfies and bees dart and dance among the wildflowers. The golf course is well away from here.

Today was the first really warm day for a while and, having been cooped up slaving over a hot computer and feeling the need to de-stress, husband and I decided to take a stroll there. The summer solstice has just passed so the days are still long. We set off at 5pm: rush hour. But we were soon away from the busy road and lost in Bungay"s own little piece of paradise.

The wildflowers we could see, on this glorious June day, were varied, some names I know (bird"s foot trefoil, betony, red campion, rosebay willowherb, cow parsley, vetch), others I have to look up. There was one little patch of tiny white flowers, something like a wild alyssum, not as compact as the garden variety but with a similar honey scent, that was particularly charming. The flowers, bright yellows, whites, purples and pinks at this time of year, have got me thinking… a wildflower collection? Citrines, rose quartzes, amethysts, white jades…


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