Who owns commons or common land?
All common land has an owner. The majority is owned by private organisations. For example, over 1760 hectares of common land on the Gower Peninsula is owned by the National Trust. Other landowners of commons include local authorities and private estates.
Where there is no known landowner, the local authority can legally protect the common from deterioration or misuse.
Access to the Gower Commons
Historically, most areas of common land in Wales have been open for public access with the consent of the landowner. The Countryside Rights of Way Act (CROW) established common land, mountain, moor, heath and down as open access land where people can walk in some of the most spectacular landscapes in Wales. These areas are clearly marked on Ordnance Survey Explorer Maps.
Horse riding and cycling remain confined to bridleways. Dogs must be kept under close control at all times and on a lead where there are grazing animals. More information on open access land use can be found in our Commons Code.
Who looks after the Gower Commons?
Gower commoners’ and landowners’ responsibilities
Management of the Gower Commons is undertaken by active commoners where appropriate and possible. The commoners organise work through the Gower Area Management Committees.
Where there are no active commoners, the landowner can carry out works to prevent the common deteriorating. In practice, it is a combination of both, with works being undertaken by agreement between commoners and landowners.
Gower Peninsula commoners’ rights
Commoners are usually farmers who possess the right to graze livestock. This right is determined by the land owned by each farm. The number and type of livestock is set out in the register for each common.
Each registered farm has a set allocation called a ‘stintage’. The ‘stint’ is the maximum number of cattle, sheep or ponies that can be grazed on the common by an individual farm.
Only people with registered rights of common can turn livestock out to graze the commons.
Gower Area Management Committees
On the Gower Peninsula, groups of commoners working together form Area Management Committees which represent the interests of either an individual common or a number of commons.
Such groups play an important part in agreeing what works should be carried out and when, for example, clearing all the sheep for dipping.
Where there are a number of Area Management Committees in a defined area, an association may be formed to assist in considering issues of management and governance. The Gower Commoners Association is one of the oldest associations of this type in Wales, first established in 1933.
Third party responsibilities for Gower Commons
There are circumstances where the landowner and commoners can instruct a third party to work on the common, such as the former Gower Commons Initiative.
Volunteers and local residents also have a valuable role to play in assisting landowners and commoners to manage and steward common land.
Local residents can get involved on a variety of levels such as reporting injured animals, fire and illegal activities.