The Commons
Ilketshall St. Andrew & St. John

A County Wildlife Site and area of historic importance

The Commons

The Commons or Common Land that exist in England and Wales are very varied and include vast tracts of uplands, heath, woods and marshland as well as small parish Commons such as these at Ilketshall St. Andrew & St. John. The majority of common land is owned and originally developed from unused land or wasteland. However, these Commons are unusual in that they have no known owner with cottagers or commoners having certain ‘Rights’ associated with their property or land. These could include the Right to graze their animals, fish in the lakes or streams, collect fuel and branches to repair fences or even take stones, minerals and coals. The Rights of the Commons at Ilketshall St. Andrew and St. John are restricted specifically to grazing.

Random shapes of the Commons mean they have most probably survived due to their boggy nature, being too wet for the plough. Enclosure of the land around them has created boundary hedgerows providing a habitat and food source for a variety of different birds and mammals. The historic open grassland proves an ideal hunting ground for Barn Owl, Kestrel, and in recent years Common Buzzard and Red Kite.

The Commons have been grazed throughout the centuries and many provide hay each year which is cut from mid June onwards dependent on good weather. Historical features are evident especially on Great Common where the animal pounds in which animals were confined at night still exist. Two ‘carnsers’ are also evident with the name being derived from Suffolk dialect describing a raised stone path over wet ground. These paths were used by the villagers to get to church and school. ‘The Mardle’ along Tooks Common Lane was used in the past for soaking the locally grown flax. The process softened the crop making it easier to tease out the fibres for the making of rope and textiles.

The Commons extend to approximately 80 acres are are currently managed by the LMC under a Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) scheme closely monitored by Suffolk Wildlife Trust and Natural England. This scheme is combined with Entry Level Stewardship and aims to deliver significant environmental benefits in high-priority situations. HLS concentrates on a higher level of management where land managers need advice and support and where agreements are tailored to local circumstances.