Survey of Village Greens and Recreation Grounds

Jacqui Hutson

Many Village Greens go back to the earliest days of the village as a human community and probably have never been ploughed so may harbour remnants of the species-rich grassland that was once widespread in the farmed countryside.

The aim is to identify the greens and recreation grounds that are of botanical interest so that the bodies that manage them can be informed of their value and that recommendations be made about their management.

Picture of a village green at Chailey
An unregistered village green at Chailey

Guidelines, a survey form and tables of Village Greens in both counties are available (see below). One table is from The Common Lands of England and Wales (Dudley Stamp, L. & Hoskins, W.G, 1963, Collins New Naturalist). It will be interesting to see how many of these greens still exist today. The other two tables are more recent and derived from the County Councils of East and West Sussex and Brighton and Hove City Council. I have also consulted maps related to the registrations held by The Keep in East Sussex and West Sussex County Council. The tables include grid and tetrad references, which I have estimated by comparing the register maps (which are often 50 years old) with modern maps. Changes in land use in the intervening years made this sometimes a challenging and instructive process.

Picture of a village green at Chailey
A registered green at Roeheath, Chailey on Cinder Hill
Roeheath (East Sussex VG39)

When I started the research I thought that all Village Greens needed to be registered as such. But this proved not to be the case. The lists are by no means comprehensive because they include only those registered by the respective local councils, and this is not obligatory. Even the list in The Common Lands of England and Wales is not comprehensive. Although it was based on the final returns made by counties to the Royal Commission on Common Land (1955-58) it was not complete because there were no records for some counties where greens were known to exist. So there will be many others to explore and we would like you to use your local knowledge to let us know about the Village Greens that are not registered.

Some greens on the lists will probably not be worth surveying in detail. Anyone or any organisation or local authority can apply to register a village green. It is only appears to be necessary to supply evidence that the land in question has been used for a period of at least 20 years for the purposes of lawful sports and pastimes, as of right, by local inhabitants. Given such criteria some village greens, especially those that have been registered only recently, are merely land covered with amenity grassland and perhaps with no botanical interest.

If you would like to help please contact me and let me know of the Village Greens and Recreation Grounds you would like to survey. The tables make clear which sites have already been surveyed or allocated. In the case of those in the two recent tables I can, for most sites, supply PDFs of maps with the location of sites outlined in green. I look forward to hearing from you.

Survey Guidelines

These guidelines are for members who would like to take part in this survey – and we hope that many members will do so.

  1. Please register your interest with Jacqui (jacqueline.hutson@btinternet.com). You could choose a site (or several) from the lists on the website but you may also know of sites that are not listed. The lists will be updated regularly but I will let you know if the site(s) you would like to survey are still available.
  2. On your first visit you may find that the site is not worth surveying: it may have been built on, or may be species-poor amenity grassland. Please let us know if this is the case – that is important information too.
  3. If you judge that the green/recreation ground looks promising in terms of botanical richness then make three visits through the season or as many as you feel necessary.
  4. Enter your records on the Excel spreadsheet (Excel Record Card v.1.7 (2017)) as usual but in the Comments column please assign each species a value as follows: D = dominant, A = abundant, F = frequent, O = occasional, R = rare. You could modify these values if you wish by adding L (Locally) to A or F. This will be more useful than an unannotated list and will help us try to assess the kind of vegetation community on the site.
  5. For the four other pieces of information required on the spreadsheet: Location – use village and name of site; Tetrad or grid reference – use Tetrad (and if the site falls in more than one tetrad please complete separate spreadsheets); Recorder – your initials as usual; and Dates of recording: use the form 00-00-2019.
  6. Please send the spreadsheet with combined records at the end of the season (by 15 September).
  7. There is a separate survey form for you to complete with as much detail as possible.