Bromyard Downs Common

Rising to over 700 feet, the Bromyard Downs dominate the local area and form an impressive backdrop to the little market town of Bromyard. Herefordshire Wildlife Trust is working in partnership with the Bromyard Downs Common Association to conserve this historic landscape and connect communities with this special place.

Bromyard Downs Common is a 114ha registered common. It has long been common land, manorial waste of the ancient Manor of Bromyard, and has for generations provided an agricultural resource for the local farming community, as well as a place of recreation, both formal and informal, for the local community and visitors alike. Indeed, the unimproved nature of the Downs attracts walkers from near and far who come to enjoy its peace and wildlife.

The Bromyard Downs are a dominating feature of the landscape, a long s-shaped hill, rising to over 700 feet, with a westerly/south westerly aspect. From its dramatic summit the whole of the ancient manor unfolds on all sides. It forms a key part of an important historic and ecological landscape being linked to the Brockhampton Estate (Registered Parkland) through Warren Wood, and to the nearby extensive Bringsty Common. As such it is part of an important living landscape that links into the nearby Suckley Hills and on to the Malverns. The Downs provide a stunning backdrop to Bromyard town, and have been an intrinsic, and inextricable, part of its history and development.

Check out this excellent film created by Angus Walker for the Bromyard Downs Common Project. It really gives a taste of the wildlife, people and traditional management on the common. 

History of the Downs

Illustration: Glow worm by Louise ScottThe Common has 88 registered Commoners who hold a range of rights: 86 rights of pasture – grazing rights – include sheep, cattle, horses, donkeys, goats, pigs, geese, hens and ducks. Other rights held include 26 of estovers – to collect underwood and small branches, bracken and gorse; and nine of turbary – to dig turf or peat to use as fuel.

Historically, the Downs have had a complex and chequered past, its heyday probably being in the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Very little is known about the ancient history of the Downs but it has long been common land, manorial waste used by local farmers for grazing their animals and, to a lesser extent, growing their crops in times of need. The open aspect of the Downs has been preserved because it is a Registered Common, but despite that there are over 100 properties around the hill, mostly built in the 1800s. A Scheme for the Regulation and Management for the common was approved in 1951 under s1 of the Commons Act 1899. The Scheme covers two other commons: Bringsty and Badley Wood. The common is owned by Herefordshire Council, but managed by a local committee.

But the Downs haven’t only been grazing land for local’s livestock. Over the years there has been quarrying, tile and brick making, drovers stopping points, rifle butts, a golf course, a Mercian Maquis resistance organisation operational bunker, a school and many pubs and cider houses! It has provided income, employment, education, refreshment and recreation for locals and visitors from near and afar. Perhaps the best known sporting feature was the racecourse which, during Victorian times, had annual meetings that attracted people from as far as Birmingham. It is thought that the racecourse was built by soldiers returning from the Napoleonic Wars in 1815-16, and had nearly a century of action.

Though much is known about the history of the area, there are still many unanswered questions that need investigation and exploration, for example who remembers the elephants that gave the local kids rides in the town, and where exactly is the World War II secret resistance organisations bunker and what remains of it?

Today the Downs are still a draw for thousands of people, and the local community value the Downs for the quality of life they bring. However, Bromyard Downs Common is slowly declining as a wildlife resource. Grazing, the traditional management has all but ceased and the hay/bracken cutting that is undertaken is done in a relatively haphazard way.


Managing the Common today

In 2012, after a major review of the management of the Common by the Council, a Commons Association in line with national good practice was established. This was formalised, through its publically-available Constitution, as a transparent, independent, democratic group - “balancing the rights and needs of members – the Commoners and residents of the Downs, as well as the interests of the many users of the Common from Bromyard and beyond; and the parallel need to manage the area for wildlife – recognising how important it is for animals and plants that are declining in the wider countryside.” The Bromyard Downs Common Management Association (BDCA) was formed.

To address its new responsibilities BDCA approached the Trust, having heard about the success of the Community Commons project. The Trust was more than happy to work in partnership to help secure the future health of the Common, and helped with the application to HLF.


FilenameFile size
bromyard_downs_summer_newsletter_2015.pdf1.92 MB
autumn_winter_2015_newsletter_pdf.pdf2.17 MB
bromyard_downs_autumn_winter_newsletter_2016.pdf3.39 MB

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