The Commons

Common lands date back to Medieval England, when in 1065 the people held rights over various pieces of land. Staines Commons, Shortwood, Knowle Green, Leacroft, Lammas Lands and the Moor have been used for over a thousand years by the people. Staines Moor is the largest Commons in the area, 289 acres,

Today Commons are open for ordinary people (Commoners) to graze their animals, to walk and to watch the wildlife and natural ecosystem that abound there. A Commoner of Staines was someone whose house smoke could be seen from St. Mary's Church.

In 1965 all Commoners had to register their common rights and over 200 people in Staines did so.

The Commons have been under threat through the years, the most recent being from the then owner, and the Greenham Sand & Ballast Company who wanted to extract gravel from the Commons land that had not been dug in any way for over 1,000 years. It was lucky that people fought it and the local Council refused permission. However local people are still worried in case one day that decision may be overturned.

I went with a group of children from my grand-daughters school on a field trip to the Commons a few years ago, and I along with them learned a lot about the area. We checked to see that the water was not getting polluted and that the ecosystem was still thriving. We passed cows grazing, saw swans swimming and encountered lots of birds and insects as well as all the wild flowers and plants growing there. I had a group of girls with me and I believe we all enjoyed the day.

After the day I wrote a little booklet to give to each of the girls to remind them what they had seen and learned. I will add a couple of the essays here so that you can see what we did there.

The Flowers We Found

Of course the good old Dandelion is top of the list and we found lots of those. Dandelion leaves are good to eat in a salad.
We also found the following plants: Vetch, forget-me-not, red campion, daisy, ivy, the pretty wild rose, winter cress and sedge grass.
We found white dead nettles too and I told you that they did not sting, unlike their cousin the stinging nettle. They just pretend to be stingers. The stinging nettle is good to eat instead of greens, just pick the tops off, they don’t sting so much…….use gloves though. The juice after cooking the nettles is good for you too and it tasted quite nice. Not like Pepsi though!
In the water we found algae which cleans the air, water lilies and rushes, and we also found some yellow water iris’s. Do you remember the dragonfly’s and the spider nest, especially you Rebecca! I can still hear those screams today!
Oh yes we also found Teasels, which I told you the Indians used to brush their hair in America.
What's In Our Patch
We had to mark off an area and see how many plants , insects or animals were in that patch. We found quite a few.
Clover, (red clover is good for cancer) parsley, camomile, (good for a soothing drink) chickweed (always growing and can be eaten for survival in the wilderness), primrose, pink and blue campion, and of course grass.
A wasp visited our patch, as a rabbit had the previous night! There was also a spider, ants, a grub of some description, and a beetle. We also saw a leatherjacket which we named George for some weird reason.

We looked at trees on our travels, including those on the walk to Moorlane. We saw Horse Chestnut, (conker) trees in bloom, Ash, (who cares for the keys) Willow, (the ladies tree) Sycamore, Elder, (the berries make wine, and the flowers make a wonderful juice that is good for the tummy) Elm, Beech, Rowan (The old Witches tree) Silver Birch, (beautiful white, silvery bark) and of course the strong powerful oak tree showed itself to us too.
The Hawthorne tree was still in bloom, this is also called the May tree, and was used in the old old days for a head-dress on May day, which was a celebration done before the Romans invaded Briton.

Today the Association for the Preservation of Staines Moor works to make sure the Commons stay untouched and free for everyone to use. For more information please see the book written by them,
'The Commons of Staines, The Facts.'

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Site created in 2002 by Pipestone Spirit Design now Dragonfly Dezignz

Copyright Gloria Hazell-Derby

All information on this site was researched using the following sources:
Borough of Spelthorne Council, Spelthorne Museum, 'Up Pontes' by Christine Lake, 'Staines an Illustrated Record' by M.M. Smithers, 'Snapshots of Staines' by J.L. & D.M. Barker, 'Middlesex within Living Memory' by the Middlesex Federation of Women's Institutes, 'The Commons of Staines, The Facts' by the Assn for the Preservation of Staines Moor, 'Staines in Old Picture Postcards' by Barry Dix, 'Doomsday Book - (Midelsexe) Middlesex' translated by John Morris and Sara Wood. Memories and experiences of Gloria Hazell.