Chilbolton Cow Common – The great debate…

Tuesday 14th September saw over 100 local residents from Chilbolton and Wherwell packed into the Chilbolton Village Hall. Since June the anticipation has been building over what is going to happen with Chilbolton Cow Common.

Those of you who don’t live in the village or must have been sleeping for the last year or so; Chilbolton Common has been a victim of its own outstanding natural beauty. Identified as a Site of Special Scientific Interest for its rich bio-diveristy, ie the wonderful mix of natural flowers, grasses, animals and birds, it has also become a wonderful place to visit on a hot summer’s day. As one of the few places where the River Test is accessible and safe for children, you could sometimes be mistaken for thinking you were at Sandbanks or Bournemouth Beach.

Unfortunately the volume of visitors is having a detrimental affect on the common, specifically with regards to the parking, so Chilbolton Parish Council has spent the last 3 months looking at potential solutions.

Having seen the announcement in June’s magazine the Chilbolton & Wherwell bush telegraph went into overdrive, with comments ranging from the dramatic draconian, ban everyone and all parking to the more liberal let everyone come and enlarge the car parking.

On Tuesday the wait was over; John Rowles and Liz Blakemore and Parish Council Chairman Jeremy Baines presented their findings and the proposed solutions, after which the meeting was opened to the floor and Jeremy played his part as David Dimbleby perfectly.

The proposed solution is to remove the existing rass parking area and return this to its natural state, with a new gate to be introduced before the sleeper bridge. Car parking will be limited to the area inside the main common gate, which will comfortably allow 14 cars to park, although 18 have been seen parked at one point! For those concerned about the impact this will have, it was interesting to note from the research carried, out that it was very rare to see more than this parked at anyone time.

The Police also assured the floor that they would support these proposals and will provide ‘No Parking’ cones which will be held locally and deployed at busy times, to avoid any repeat of the problems seen in May, along Village Street, when the track was resurfaced and the gates closed.

This was always going to be a difficult decision and there was never going to a perfect solution, however the feedback we have heard over the past couple of days seems to reflect the fact that this is a sensible compromise and takes the villagers opinions into consideration. The final decision will be made in the next few weeks, based on feedback from the meeting, but so far it looks like the council have put together a positive solution.

2 thoughts on “Chilbolton Cow Common – The great debate…

  1. I have just returned from a walk on Cow Common. I have, together with my family and dogs, been walking there since the 1960s. I was appalled at the hostile signage. I consider this to be as detrimental to the beauty of the area as litter left by the public. It is absolutely clear that the residents at the bottom of the lane leading to Cow Common would much prefer it if the beauty of this site was for the exclusive enjoyment of the select few. I`m sorry, I live in Stockbridge and if you decide to live in a popular place either because of its shops or because of the beauty of the countryside, you must accept that other people will want to enjoy it as well.

    As for the wild life being threatened, this is a useful excuse for the draconian rules plastered all over every available post. There are miles and miles of the Test from its source to its arrival in The Solent that are privately owned and no member of the public are allowed anywhere near. A haven for all those creatures that we are told are now under threat on the common.

    A further point is – Who is going to park 1000 metres from the site? Answer no-one. This also compromises disabled people`s access and this is totally illegal. At Stockbridge we welcome visitors including the disabled, children, dogs and even Parish Councillors why can`t you do the same? Put the Common back to how it was and re-instate the facility for the public to enjoy.

  2. Hi Anne

    Thank you for your post, its great to hear from local people, who may use the common regularly, but don’t live in Chilbolton. I can’t believe its a year since the debate. I think you make two very valid points. The first with regards to living in a beautiful place. I liken this to living in the Lake District or any other ‘tourist’ spot. People naturally want to share it and we would be upset if we went on holiday and were made to feel unwelcome in many of Britain’s beautiful countryside. As villagers we need to cherish our location and be happy that people want to share it.

    With regards to the signs and wildlife, this is linked to the fact that the Parish Council are the custodians of the Cow Common which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest. There has been a loss of wildlife over the years, which was why the signs were introduced. I myself had the same argument as yourself, but in the face of the evidence I have come to accept this and that if we want to have the protection SSSI brings we need to take heed of the evidence.

    On the other hand having experienced first hand the inconsiderate damage caused by disposable BBQs before the signs were introduced, I can confidently say that these have made a difference. I would prefer the signs to scorched grass, that we have seen en masse in previous years.

    Parking has always been a problem on hot days, but in a year it is only a handful of days, so doesn’t really cause that much of a problem and ironically I think you will be surprised to find that the loudest voices are actually not from those who live on the common. Those families accept that they have chosen to live there and that occasionally the common does look like Bournemouth Beach.

    But the joy living locally is that we can visit before people arrive and after they leave. Summer mornings and evenings are truly the most beautiful time.


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