Ilketshall St. Andrew & St. John
A County Wildlife Site and area of historic importance
At the beginning of this century the Commons of Ilketshall St. Andrew and St. John were the site of a number of illegal encampments of modern day travellers. These encampments which consisted of as many as 40 vehicles plus horses, dogs etc. were having a detrimental effect on life in the villages. Not only did residents have to suffer the rubbish and filth left by these people but the encampments, and hence the Commons, became no-go areas because of anti-social and threatening behaviour.
It was recognised that the prevention of such encampments could only be achieved by creating physical barriers, i.e. ditches, to the Commons. To that end members of the Commoners Association and the Parish Councils of Ilketshall St. Andrew and St. John formed a Land Management Company (LMC) which was incorporated on 19th April 2004. An application was presented to the Secretary of State for consent to ditch and to manage the actual work if approved. Permission was granted in October 2005 and ditching work together with the addition of vehicular and pedestrian access points, was carried out in the winter of 2005/2006. All this was initially financed by donations from residents and local businesses and a grant for creating our well known walks from Discover Suffolk. Since then no illegal incursions have occurred.
In 2006 the LMC was offered the chance of funding from two agricultural subsidies namely the Single Farm Payment (thence Basic Payment System) and an early Stewardship Scheme - in return for carrying out a Farm Plan, drawn up by Suffolk Wildlife Trust, for enhancing the biodiversity and value to wildlife, of the Commons.
In 2000 the Crow Act granted all persons free access to common land, so the views of the residents of our two villages, became a vital consideration in how the commons should be managed in the future. It was therefore decided to ask all commoners if they would agree to relinquish their rights to the subsidies, in favour of the LMC, so the LMC would be able to maintain and protect the commons, according to the Farm Plan. The commoner’s rights to the grazing of the commons remained unchanged and every commoner signed up their agreement.
This subsidy payment provided a valuable funding stream which was enhanced by the Company qualifying for Entry Level Stewardship payments in 2007 and Higher Level Stewardship payments in 2009. Funds thus became available on an annual basis for the LMC to manage the Commons in order to benefit wildlife. This management, under the guidance of Suffolk Wildlife Trust, included hay making, pond restoration, coppicing, cutting of walks and maintenance of hedges and ditches and continues today with an annual Management Plan agreed between commoners and parishioners.
In 2017, due to the works carried out by the LMC and in recognition of their value for wildlife, the Commons achieved designation as a County Wildlife Site.