Right to Roam
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Cavenham Heath: The Right to Roam

Cavenham Heath lies to the north of the village bordered by the River Lark and Tuddenham Heath. This well preserved breckland, now a national nature reserve, was formed when sandy soils where deposited by retreating glaciers after the last ice age. The established woodland was cleared 6,000 years ago and the long term grazing of livestock notably sheep prevented the re growth of taller vegetation. During the 20th Century there was a decline in sheep grazing and with the increase in forestry the area of heath diminished. Careful protection and management of this habitat by the National Nature Reserve has since 1954 preserved this rare habitat.

The heath is a mixture of grass and ling heather that provides an excellent habitat for creatures such as the brightly coloured green tiger beetle and the grayling butterfly while the yellow flowered lady’s bedstraw and the blue flowered viper’s gloss grows in abundance.

Birch trees grew up during a temporary lack of management providing suitable conditions for shrews, woodmice and voles. Fungi and speckled wood butterflies thrive in the damp conditions beneath the shelter of their foliage while in the canopy above various tits, warblers, treecreepers and all three types of woodpeckers can be found. Source; English Nature

Quarry: The depressions on either side of the path running through the heath are from old gravel diggings, newer diggings can be found further south bordering Cavenham village: Alan Newport’s. The present gravel quarry management work hand in hand with R.S. P.B. to protect the area and the East Anglian Daily Times reported that on July 31st 1999 the company halted extraction while one of the largest colony of sand martins in Suffolk were breeding, 145 nest holes were made in the artificial sand cliffs.

Air Ministry: This recently quarried area was requisitioned by the war office in 1943 and used as an airfield, at the time the heathland was part of the Cavenham estate which was auctioned in 1946. The auction papers note the 1,0009 acres of the heath were rented to the Air Ministry for £142 2s.9d and the War Department for £234 4s.9d.

Right to Roam: More recently Cavenham Heath was the meeting place for walkers on a national day of action backing a call for the government to pass legislation providing citizens with the right to roam. As reported in the Bury Free Press; “Ramblers from Suffolk joined their counterparts across the country in a national day of action. Walkers met at Cavenham heath near Mildenhall yesterday to back a national call for the Government to include the right to roam in this year’s legislation. The event was one of 25 across the countryside. Anne Moore, the chairman and countryside secretary of The Suffolk Ramblers, explained why they had chosen Cavenham Heath: “A lot of people in Suffolk have been concerned that if you have open access you will damage heath land,” she said, “Cavenham Heath is an example of how open access, when well-managed as it is here by English Nature, can work.”

‘The Countryside & Rights of Way Bill’ The Bill will give the public a statutory right of access for open-air recreation to mountain, moor, heath, down and registered common land. It also includes a power to extend the right to coastal land by order and allows landowners voluntarily to dedicate any land public access permanently. People will have a right of entry onto access land provided they do not break any of the restrictions, which are listed. These restrict activities and behaviour that are not compatible with the quiet exercise of the right. Use of any vehicle (including bicycles), craft (on water) and horse riding are specifically excluded. Dogs are required to be kept on leads at least during the period from 1 March to 30 June, and in the vicinity of livestock. People who break these restrictions will lose their right of access for the remainder of the day, and may be treated as trespassers by the owner of the land. 

The Secretary of State or the National Assembly for Wales (in Wales) may extend the right of access to all or any part of the foreshore and land adjacent to the foreshore. The countryside agencies are required to draw up and consult on maps of open country and registered common land. It will be an offence to display a notice that is likely to deter the exercise of the new right. Currently ‘The Countryside & Rights of Way Bill’ is being considered for amendment in the House of Lords. (July 2000) Only after approval by both Houses of Parliament will the bill become law, and it may differ in a number of respects from the current bill as published.

©2000 Sarah Brownie

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