Sitting on a sandstone spur, running from a ridge, Southborough Common gets its name from the old English word ‘shirthe’ – meaning an area cut off from the rest.
As far back as the Neolithic Period herdsmen would drive their pigs to forest clearings so that they could feed (also known as ‘pannage’)
It was probably grazed from at least the early Middle Ages as common land outside the King’s hunting grounds, which were widespread in this part of the Weald.
The area that you see today, including the wood pasture, probably arose from a period of less intensive grazing at the start of the nineteenth century.
The Common has a rich variety of habitats including open woodland (wood pasture), dense thickets, acid grassland, heathland and a pond.
Whortleberry Wood on the western boundary of the Common has enormous beech trees interspersed with oak.
In 1967 Southborough Town Council took ownership of the Common and a register of properties still holding Commoner’s Rights is kept at Kent County Council.
In 2012, after extensive consultation with local stakeholders, Southborough Town Council adopted a management plan for the Common, written by The Kent High Weald Partnership. Since then and throughout each winter season, volunteers have been working on the Common to restore parts back to a wood pasture habitat, even though the Common is not currently grazed.
In an effort to return the common to its traditional state, volunteers have worked on a programme of removing a lot of non-native laurel plants and thinned holly and birch which had become very dense in places. This has created a more open woodland environment, which is more welcoming to visitors and reveals the wonderful veteran oaks that grace the northern half of the Common.
This work will also promote habitat and species diversity, so wildlife will receive a huge boost across the whole of Southborough Common.
At the beginning of 2017 our bid for a Heritage Lottery grant was successful. This will allow a number of community events to take place on the common as well as the continuation of the practical management task days with our volunteers.
Partners in the HLF project delivery are:
Southborough Town Council (landowners)
Kent High Weald Partnership (Practical conservation management task days and events)
Southborough and High Brooms Amateur Archaeological Society (Archaeological survey events)