Arford Common & Headley Hill Woods

Arford Common

Arford Common is situated between Beech Hill Road, Glayshers Hill and Barley Mow Hill. It covers approximately 4.5 hectares and is owned and managed by the Parish Council. Arford Common was formerly known as Beech Hill Common and is marked as that on older maps.

Arford Common

Historically Arford Common was part of an extensive area of open heath, thought to be treeless, rough grazing land. In 1847, it was awarded to the Church Warden and Overseers of the poor as an allotment for the Labouring Poor of Headley, but by 1901 the land was deemed unsuitable for allotments. The area was instead converted to recreation by Order of the Charity Commissioners and decried it should be administered by the Parish Council as Trustees.

A note in the Parish Council minutes of July 1920 mentions a resident commenting that trees were growing taller and interfering with his view. Later that year, plans were drawn up to estimate the costs of converting the area to a cricket and football field. In an entry in the minute book of Headley Parish Council dated 19th July 1927, it states: “and it was unanimously resolved that subject to satisfactory arrangements being made at moderate cost, the Council approve the laying out of the Recreation Ground at Beech Hill for cricket, football, tennis, bowls and other sports and recreations”. Looking at the common today, it’s difficult to envisage quite where they would have fitted in and what amount of soil levelling would have had to be done to make it feasible.

Arford Common was referred to as Beech Hill Recreation Ground, right up until the 1930’s. By the 1950’s, like many other areas of open heath, it became a woodland area. Today Arford Common is a mixed semi-natural woodland which is a valued local amenity.

In 1998 a survey by the Hampshire Biodiversity Information Centre (HBIC) which described the Common as being open pinewood amongst others which were hardwood saplings. The survey reported on the presence of remnant heathland. By 2010 a survey by the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust considered that the remnant heathland had decreased further as a result of the increased shading over the years.

The site is designated as a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC) under the category ‘areas of heathland which are afforested or have succeeded to woodland if the retain significant remnants of heathland vegetation which would enable their recovery’.

In 2010 and 2016 the Parish Council commissioned the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust to prepare a Management Plan for Arford Common. The Council has been working towards the objectives set out in the plan over the years, thanks to the support of a small group of volunteers who meet on the common to carry out various tasks including the removal of the invasive species such as Cherry Laurel and Holly and the use of Council appointed contractors.

Some extracts of the history of Arford Common were taken from an article in the local Parish magazine, November 2020.

Map showing location of Arford Common at the top and Headley Hill Woods below

Headley Hill Woods

Name chosen by Headley Parish Council in 2019 for the area of woodland between Beech Hill (B3002) and Headley Hill Road.

In 2019 the Forestry Commission England undertook a Woodland Management survey and reported:

The woodland comprises a mixed woodland made up of mature Pine, Oak, Beech, Sweet Chestnut, Sycamore, Mountain Ash and Birch. It is acidic in character and has a bracken, heathy and acid grassland flora which is not very diverse at the moment.

The woodland is bordered on the east side by Beech Hill and on the south and north west by Headley Hill Road. Two properties, ‘Hide Away’ and ‘Old Pines’ are set in the woodland, which is also bordered by properties on the north edge. The woodland is at an elevation of 140m above sea level in the north west corner, which slopes down to 110m in the southern most point.

There are several footpaths that cross the woodland.

The woodland has several presently unused badger setts. Bats are very likely to be roosting on site particularly in temporary roosts using the thick ivy-covered trees on the area. Following extensive removal of pines there are now a lot of potential temporary roosts created in the damaged trees.

Financially mature Scots Pine is a prominent feature of this woodland, but they are not at natural maturity as they are around 80 years old. The pine will remain a feature by retaining them though out the site. They have been thinned out where they were not felled off completely which will allow the best trees to carry on to full maturity forming a valuable resource in terms of their structural prominence and associated old growth species – notably lichen which will benefit from retention of the pine. Rhododendron, laurel and bamboo are also on the site.

Laurel is becoming a serious threat to health of the woodland as it will damage any understorey and therefore an undesirable species to allow to remain. Subject to getting help this will be tackled to reduce the spread of seedlings onto newly opened areas and to cut and remove established plants as the opportunity arises.

Oak is a prominent species across the site but most notably in the area with the gifted area to Headley Parish Council where 70-100 year-old Oaks are growing amongst the stand of mix broad leaf.

The long term vision for this area is to maintain the woodland as mixed woodland. Retaining old Pine and broadleaved species to become ancient trees of the future. Re-establishing a new woodland layer through natural processes and planting of specific species. Maintain to ensure safety when using the footpaths. Control invasive species which are either non-native or creating thickets that are impacting environment of the site and the development of a more balanced woodland.