>> Silchester Common
Silchester Common lies between the villages of Silchester and Pamber Heath and is part of a large Site of Special Scientific Interest which covers 306 ha. This extensive and diverse area is of great value for the recreation of local residents and has long been recognised for its rich flora and fauna. The varied habitats of the area support a corresponding variety of plant and animal life, with many rare species present, making this one of the best sites of its size in Hampshire.
Silchester Common itself is 56 ha in total and is one of a few surviving tracts of heathland in the Thames Valley region of North Hampshire. It is owned and looked after by Silchester Parish Council. An internationally endangered habitat, approximately 90% of the heathland in north Hampshire existing at the end of the 18th century has been destroyed. The area covered by Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council has lost 98% of its former heaths and currently half of the remaining 160 ha are now severely degraded by abuse or neglect. In an attempt to recover from this position the common is now actively managed by the Council.
Silchester Common is owned and managed by the Parish Council. In recent years there has been a policy of active management of the common to maintain the unique features which have resulted in its SSSI status. There used to be a formal subcommittee of the Council to carry out the management function at arm’s length from the main Council but since 2016 the Council have directly managed the common with advice from the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust. The effectiveness of this arrangement is being kept under review and a small working group of parish councillors is taking this forward with advice from the local wildlife trust and Natural England.
Funding to manage the Common comes principally from Natural England where the Council have a High Level Stewardship scheme that runs until 2021. This has enabled the Council to employ contractors to cut down gorse and shrubbery to return the land to heathland. Funding also comes from the Rural Payments Agency to help fund the cattle whose grazing also helps keep down excessive vegetation.
The use of contractors is supplemented by an active volunteer scheme where once a month during the winter season work parties are held. Further details are provided here. New volunteers are always welcome and if interested please contact the Clerk.
A number of historical documents are listed below: