People flock to Sudbury’s Common Lands to enjoy the wide-open green spaces and natural beauty, but there is a lot of hard work going on behind the scenes to keep this precious place in running order and looking as good as it does.
We have two rangers working full time and a well-established group of volunteers carrying out all manner of maintenance work throughout the year. Post-pandemic, as we look to return to a full programme of volunteer work, we would like to build up our group of volunteers and are calling on people to come forward if it’s something they are interested in.
Our work parties typically meet several times a month throughout the year to carry out a range of outdoor tasks related to the upkeep of the Common Lands. This work includes assisting with coppicing and clearing pollard material, hedge laying, conservation grassland raking and clearance, fencing repairs, paths and margins maintenance, tree planting etc. and a Christmas lunch to celebrate the volunteer effort.
Often people who get involved end up volunteering their time with us for many years. They enjoy being outdoors, keeping active and fit, as well as the camaraderie that inevitably develops within the team. There is also the opportunity to learn about practical conservation and the natural world in general.
As work parties take place during a weekday, this type of activity typically suits people who are flexible with their time, such as retirees or part-time workers. This opportunity might also appeal to conservation students who are looking for openings where they can pick up practical experience of working in the field.
Could it be you?
We’re looking for participants who are 18 or over and of reasonable physical fitness. Our work parties typically run from 9.30am to 3pm and volunteers bring their own packed lunch (although rustic refreshment brewing facilities are provided).
Our volunteers don’t just help to maintain Sudbury’s Common Lands, they also carry out valuable work along the Valley Trail footpath, Cornard Country Park and Shawlands Wood. The Sudbury Common Lands Charity has contracts to maintain these other areas from which we gain valuable income. So, as well as keeping our green spaces in good order, our volunteer groups also contribute to the long-term sustainability of the charity.
If this sounds like something you are interested in, we’d be delighted to hear from you. Please contact email@example.com
Turning On ceremony
If there were any doubt about how special Sudbury’s Common Lands are, events like the upcoming Turning On ceremony demonstrate its historical and natural importance.
The ceremony, set to take place at 10 am on Wednesday 27th April is a ritual held every five years (pandemics permitting) to celebrate the arrival of the cattle on the meadows (the turning on of the cattle).
In a revival of an ancient ceremony, the Mayor of Sudbury is invited to inspect the grass as the first cattle are turned out onto Freemen’s Great Common. The colourful event includes mace bearers, freemen, charity trustees and volunteer rangers who follow the Mayor onto the meadows in procession.
It is a wonderful ceremony that shows Sudbury’s close connection with these ancient grazing meadows and the importance of the cattle in maintaining this magnificent place.
The turning on of the cattle signifies the start of the grazing season and of the better weather. Over the weeks that follow the ceremony, more cattle will be turned onto the pastures to provide an iconic scene that has carried on for more than 800 years.
Records show that livestock have been grazed on pasture lands either side of the River Stour as it flows through Sudbury since the 12th Century.
The grazing of cattle is the prime means of management. This in turn has created a special and increasingly rare ecosystem for native plants and wildlife.
It is therefore fundamental to the wellbeing of these lands that grazing continues and, with the meadows having received designation as a Local Nature Reserve and a County Wildlife Site, a key part of the Sudbury Common Lands Charity’s work is to ensure the natural richness of the area is maintained.
And if you find yourself free on mid-morning on 27th April, why not pop down to the meadows outside the Mill Hotel and watch this latest episode in the Common Lands history take place?
Ross Bentley, Trustee of the Sudbury Common Lands Charity