Celebrating Village Greens




The Open Spaces Society,(1) Britain’s oldest national conservation body, has today (29 February) published a new book, Village Greens, to celebrate the fascinating village greens(2) of England and Wales.  It is written by the society’s chairman, Graham Bathe.(3)

The book appears at a time when our green spaces have never been more threatened—by development, sale by local authorities, commercial abuse, neglect and lack of funding.  Yet paradoxically they have never been more important for informal recreation and games, and as a boost to our health and well-being in an increasingly urban world.  Our town and village greens, which have survived through history, have a special place in our culture.

Says Graham: ‘There can be few more evocative images than the traditional village green.  Greens have been part of our history for over a thousand years as places of recreation and celebration.

‘I hope that people will enjoy reading about the fascinating story of our greens, and exploring the opportunities that still exist today to establish and protect village greens.’

Village greens are, in law, land on which local people have enjoyed informal recreation, without being stopped or asking permission, for at least 20 years.  The Open Spaces Society advises its members and the public on how to apply to register land as a village green, to secure the rights of local people to enjoy the land for informal recreation, and to protect it from development.

In England the law was recently changed to outlaw the registration of land which is already scheduled for development.  The society urges communities to identify now any land which might qualify, to collect evidence of use over a 20-year period, and to make an application to register the land before it is too late.

The book tells the story of greens through history, explains their distribution, variety and different uses, and records their festivities and wildlife.  It gives an outline of the laws which protect greens and encourages readers to think about creating new greens for the future.

The book(4) is available from the Open Spaces Society http://www.oss.org.uk/what-we-do/publications/ .


Notes for editors

1          The Open Spaces Society was founded in 1865 and is Britain’s oldest national conservation body.  It campaigns to protect common land, village greens, open spaces and public paths, and people’s right to enjoy them www.oss.org.uk.  Last year it celebrated its 150th anniversary.

2          There are an estimated 3,650 registered village greens in England and 22 in Wales.  They are associated with settlements, usually villages, and although they are found across most of England and Wales the highest concentration is in an area extending from south-east England to the River Severn, and in north-east England especially around County Durham.  There are fewer in upland areas.

3          Graham has 40 years’ experience in access and countryside, working for government agencies, local authorities and charities in Britain and overseas.  He led English Nature’s work on the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 from passage in Parliament to implementation, reconciling access and wildlife on 500,000ha of sites of special scientific interest.  From 2005 to 2011 he spearheaded Natural England’s work on the Commons Act 2006.  Graham served on the Wildlife and Access Advisory Group, National Countryside Access Forum, Defra’s Commons Act Project Board, and New Forest and Hampstead Heath committees.  He is a former director of the Foundation for Common Land.

4          Village Greens is a 32-page paperback, lavishly illustrated in colour throughout, and published in conjunction with Pitkin (The History Press).  It is available for £5 including p&p.  Last year the society published Saving Open Spaces and Common Land (each also £5).  The three books can be purchased for £10.


The Open Spaces Society

25a Bell Street

Henley-on-Thames RG9 2BA


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