The Friends of Yate Common prepare to blossom during 25th anniversary year

First published in News by

IT has survived the threat of being sold for housing, a travellers’ site being built on it and car parks taking over its green fields, but after 25 years of being made available to the public Yate Common is still standing.

The 128-acre site, previously known as Westerleigh Common, spreads from behind Station Road to the housing estates of south Yate.

With wildlife in abundance, long walks and plenty of space to play, it has been used by hundreds of families as an escape from the hustle and bustle of Yate life as well as for filming of several well-known TV series, countless circuses and outdoor events. But the emergence of the common was a close-run thing after landowners Westerleigh Parish Council put the site up for sale by auction in 1988.

Much to the relief of neighbouring residents it was bought by Northavon District Council and safeguarded as a green space.

Lin Kendall, of nearby St Briavel’s Drive who was a founder member of the Friends of Yate Common set up to fight the sale, said: “The land always was a common but it wasn’t easy to get into. When we moved here in 1964 we had a dog and it was easier to carry on walking over the fields rather than go on the common.

“Then it was bought and proper gates were installed and it was the first place you could walk a dog and take a pram at the same time.”

Added Lin, 67, who has three children Diane, 46, Debbie, 44, and Lee, 41: “I didn’t even realise how special having the common was but now my children come out with things they remember doing and how much fun they used to have.

“It was lovely in those days because you could let them go over there and not worry but now I take my seven grandchildren over.”

Since being established as a protected common in 1988, the site has been used for various public events, church fun days and the Road to Nowhere, an unfinished road which was to link south Yate with Station Road, has been the scene of filming for hospital drama Casualty and most recently new ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tennant.

It is home to a variety of wildlife including butterflies and dragonflies, kingfishers and herons and red kite have also been spotted there.

But it has not been without its problems with police called regularly to deal with teenagers driving mopeds over the common, daily littering, vandalism and groups of youths gathering there. At times the situation has been so bad Lin and fellow member of the friends group Pat Cotterell, of Chedworth, have named sections of the common so they can direct officers to the source of trouble more easily.

The friends group has also mounted a number of campaigns including a bitter dispute over planning inspector David Fenton’s recommendation that a travellers’ site should be built on the common in 2005, plans for a bridleway and cycle path in 2010 and a continuing disagreement over proposals for car parks to be built on part of the common to the serve football pitches located there.

“It is a real gem for Yate which we are lucky to have,” said Pat, 65.

As part of the common’s 25 year anniversary a display will be exhibited in Poole Court in April and a new community orchard is to be established following a £2,500 grant from South Gloucestershire Council’s environmental department. It is expected to be planted in the autumn and picking and juicing days will follow.

The friends group is looking for more members. For more information email lin_kendall_77@msn.com

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