Friends of Midhurst Common on the importance of preserving it for future generations

Friends of Midhurst Common was founded in the 1980s in response to a planning application to put 230 homes on part of the site.

The application was later withdrawn but the aim of Friends of Midhurst Common remained the same - to preserve and maintain the common for the recreation and enjoyment of the local community.

In 1970 Midhurst Common became a registered common, but in March 1986 a developer proposed to erect 230 houses, eight shops and recreational facilities on the area of the Old Brickworks and part of the common, production at the brickworks began in 1919 and ceased in 1985.

Andrew Mitchell, chairman of FoMC since 2019 and a member for 20 years, said: “It is important to have a group like this to monitor activity on the common, being aware of its value as an ecological and biological resource, the historic part it has played as Midhurst has developed over centuries and a place for locals to enjoy quiet, informal recreation as a place to walk and enjoy the views of the South Downs or North to Older Hill, Bexley Hill and Blackdown.”

Heath team having a well-earned mid-morning refreshment break

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The main volunteering opportunity with the group is to join its heath team, which works to maintain the regenerated heath land.

Andrew said: “Work days are on the last Friday of each month between 10am and 1pm. Tasks include clearing pine and silver birch, clearing scrub, coppicing gorse and dealing with the ever-expanding amount of bracken.”

As well as the physical work FoMC is always interested to hear from individuals who use the common for recreation purposes.

A frosty morning recently taken from Sunset Hill South

Andrew said: “The best time for opinions to be aired is at our AGM which will be on Thursday, April 14 in the evening, the venue has yet to be deciced

FoMC works alongside others who are influential in what happens on the common. Two main ones are: the South Downs National Park Authority – their Rangers are well experienced with common management and bring working parties to help when needed and The Cowdray Estate who own the land and recently have been carrying out some forestry and rhododendron management.

Other groups include a bat conservation group, a willow basket-maker and the Haslemere Natural History Society who were taken on a guided walk by one of FoMC’s experts.

Andrew said: “I enjoy co-ordinating activities with these groups and answering the varied questions I get from our website or when out on the common.

“I appreciate the opportunity to meet people with specialist in-depth knowledge who can identify a rare plant which I hadn’t even noticed or advise on creating habitats to re-establish species lost to our area”

Looking ahead the group is looking at the possibility of recreating sand martin and kingfisher nesting sites, which were on the site when the brickworks was in production.

Andrew said: “In these days when we are encouraged to practise ‘mindful moments’ why not take a walk up to Sunset Hill, sit on the seat in memory of Tony Beck and his dog Sam, look around The Common and reflect on your thoughts, feelings and surrounding environment – you will feel refreshed and ready for whatever the rest of your day might bring.”

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