CASTLEMORTON COMMON - A Slice of Malvern Chase
Updated: Jan 31, 2022
(Nearest post code - WR13 6LE)
Visited by Shep and Zak
Castlemorton Common is one of the many commons that are found close to Malvern and it is owned and managed by the Malvern Hills Trust.
It was once part of a royal hunting ground called Malvern Chase. During the seventeenth century, at the time of Charles 1st, the best bits of the hunting ground became enclosed by rich landowners. Arguably, the poorer parts remained and one of these was Castlemorton Common.
Shep and I love our walks here at all times of the year. Of course, there are certain times of the year when we have to be kept under very close supervision because of the ground-nesting birds and we also need to be restrained when there is livestock around.
The Common is home to a variety of both sheep and cattle – Only certain graziers have the grazing rights that allow them to keep their animals on the common. In addition, certain other people have the right to gather firewood, keep pigs or fish!!!
There is a common misconception that common land is owned by people and that everyone has the right to use it as they like but this is just not true. Common land is usually privately owned. However, more often than not, there is a ‘right to roam’ over it. This permission is not automatically given to cyclists and horse riders unless there are specific bridleways.
The animals that graze on the common have a particular job to do. Although the plants may look identical to each other, there are actually a rich variety of plant species found here including plants such as creeping red fescue, (so called because of a network of rhizomes underground which allow it to stealthily take over an area), Other plants include the aptly named mouse ear hawkweed and stemless thistle. The common has not been ploughed since WW2 and this is why there is such a wonderful community of plants found here.
If the animals did not nibble the grasses then the natural process of succession would occur. The grassland would become populated with many shrubs, bushes and small trees creating additional scrubland and the rich array of wildlife would be lost.
Scrub islands of wild rose, gorse and hawthorn already abound here and in the summer months, stonechats sit sentinel amongst the bushes. These small birds emit an unmistakable call reminiscent of stone grinding on stone.
In some parts of the common the ground is full of lumps and bumps. These are ant hills. They look very soft and springy but in fact they are quite hard, and they have a unique set of plants growing on them which includes wild thyme. Shep and I love jumping from hill to hill much to the ant's annoyance!!
The ants are a particular favourite food of the green woodpeckers that live here.
Other parts of the common are fed by small streams and they are very wet and muddy. Shep particularly loves to wallow in them generally resembling a small, round black and white hippopotamus.
There are some really interesting plants growing here too. Apart from almost a full complement of rushes and dropworts, there are common spotted orchids and fleabane and, as long as we don’t disturb them, there are snipe and reed buntings nesting close by.
Our favourite time for walking on the common is during the long summer evenings. Many dogs and their humans agree with us. The air is warm and still, the grass is soft to our paws and there is the delicious sweet smell of grass and herbs in the air.