History of The Green
The origins of commons and village greens may be hidden in antiquity, but their management was shaped by agricultural practice at least as far back as Anglo Saxon times. It was subsequently codified by the Normans whose Commons Act of 1285 was only recently repealed by the Commons Act 2006.
In the Domesday survey of 1086 the village was described as Steflingefled. In the 13th Century the adjoining reach of the Ouse was called ‘le flet’ and the village as belonging to Styfela and his people. At that time the green would have been open to inundation from tides and floods. Over the centuries it is probable that various steps were taken to try and protect the green from flooding. Eventually, in 1815, a clough was installed by the ‘Constablery’ in an attempt to prevent flooding. Then, in 1991, following the development of the Stillingfleet mine, UK Coal raised the height of the clough and installed four pumps. Since that time no houses have been flooded although the green does occasionally flood when the beck backs up.
(It is interesting that the dictionary defines a ‘clow’ or ‘clew’ as a floodgate or sluice for a lock, whereas a variety of Saxon and Old English words; ‘clough’, ‘cloghe’, ‘clou’ or ‘cleuch’, mean a narrow valley)
The Law relating to the green.
The law relating to greens and commons is not straightforward although the Enclosure Acts (from 1753 to 1856), which enclosed much common land and transferred it to individuals, also regularised the administration of the remaining common land and village greens.
In the case of Stillingfleet Green, there was no formal owner until the Parish Council was appointed the owner by The Commons Commissioner under the Commons Registration Act of 1965 (And even that step does not include automatic registration of title at HM Land Registry). As no adjoining owner registered rights of common (grazing rights) under that act, all such private rights were revoked. The Commons Act of 2006 made some changes to the 1965 Act.
In addition to the Enclosure Acts, the Commons Registration Act and a variety of other acts affect the green. The Green is also subject to Parish Council byelaws imposed under the Public Health Act 1875, which regulate its use. For example, without the consent of the Parish Council, it is unlawful to use or park wheeled vehicles on the green (except on the car park and the Chapel parking area) or to erect structures, dig holes, graze animals or place notices. You can read a full copy of the byelaws via the link below.
A circular has been delivered to all residents via the Parish Magazine to set out some of the constraints that are placed on residents as a result of the bye-laws and stewardship conditions. You can view this circular here together with a map showing the extent of The Green here
Although the Parish Council is keen to promote residents’ enjoyment of the Green the Council has had to remove a rope swing which had been suspended from a tree on the Green as the Council’s insurers will not provide insurance cover should someone make an injury claim against the Council through its usage. The following article explains the legal advice which necessitated this action.
Registration of Title.
Because of its antiquity there have never been any title deeds to prove ownership of the village green. When the Parish Council was appointed owner of the green under The Commons Registration Act 1965 it became possible for the Parish Council to apply to HM Land Registry for a registered title. For whatever reason that was never done so it was only last year that the Parish Council applied for registered title to the village green and it is only recently that the formalities have been completed and title issued under Title No NYK 405366. The Green is 17 acres of land.
There are several benefits resulting from registration of title:
- It provides public proof of ownership guaranteed by the state (including a definitive map).
- It will include (for public inspection) all formal easements and rights granted by the Council (by deed) over or under the green.
- It will help to protect the Parish Council against adverse claims and unlawful occupation of the green.
Management of The Green
The policy of the Parish Council is to maintain the green for the benefit of the community. That means that the grass has to be managed.
Management of the green is not always invisible. Grass has to be mown, trees have to be controlled, drains cleared, the spread of rushes dealt with, incursions prevented and the owners of leaking and crumbling sewage pipes and manholes made aware of their need for timely maintenance and repair of those structures.
It is pleasing that the policy set out by Natural England is now succeeding as more flower species appear. Residents will have noticed the way in which the green changes colour through the seasons from white and yellow to pink and blue as the various plant species flower and seed. Other wildlife is there to enjoy if you pause to look for it. A cruising owl, a statuesque heron, a stately swan or a busy water hen, not to mention the fish, the frogs, the butterflies and the damselflies. It is a natural haven of biodiversity. It is not by chance that North Yorkshire County Council recognised its value by granting it the status of a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation which encourages management that provides an important wild life habitat for a wide range of plants and animals.
It is the green that makes Stillingfleet unique. It is impossible not to wonder at the vision of a mist-laden green in the early morning light of autumn or to be affected by the golden glow cast by the setting sun. We are all fortunate to live in such surroundings.
Paul Elmhirst, Chairman of Stillingfleet Parish Council, October 2014
You can read the Countryside Code herestillingfleet-green-map-1