Banstead Commons and
Banstead Commons Conservators
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David Gradidge

DGIt is with great sadness that we have learnt of the death of David in early December after a short illness.  David was a good friend of the Conservators and a valuable servant to Banstead Downs and its wildlife.

David’s passion was butterflies and living close to Banstead Downs, took a keen interest in the butterflies of the Downs.  In the early eighties it was realised that the varied habitat of the Downs, so important to the butterfly population was reverting to scrub and it was David who convinced the Conservators to introduce specific habitat management in the form of sheep grazing to improve the habitat for wildlife.  In October 1988 with the support of Surrey Wildlife Trust he released 23 Soay sheep into a three-acre paddock on the Downs to graze for the winter.   Although the Conservators helped to erect wire fencing, David insisted on the belt and braces approach and added an electric fence to provide extra security.  He single-handedly maintained the fence and come all weathers attended to the welfare of the sheep for more than twenty winters, he was proud of the fact that in that time no sheep was attacked by dogs although the electric fence was damaged many times. 

There is no doubt that his effort was the major factor in the continuing richness of Banstead Dowsn butterfly population with 33 different species being recorded over the years.   Winter grazing is still the major means of habitat maintenance on Banstead Downs and for the past 25 years has been extended to Park Downs, a similarly butterfly rich area of our commons.

David was a forthright person and over the years he and when I was BCC Chairman we had many “interesting conversations” regarding the Conservators activities, never acrimonious and always tinged with David’s dry sense of humour.  Personally, I will miss him but more than that the Commons have lost a real friend.  All users of the Commons whether they knew David or not, should tip their hat the next time they venture onto Banstead Downs and in June /July when the clouds of Marbled White butterflies suddenly appear, remember the huge physical effort David  put in over the years to ensure that they continued to do so.

Long may his legacy continue!

Our condolences go to his family.

John Peacock, Banstead Commons Conservator

Banstead  Commons consist of four separate areas of common land in the north of the Borough of Reigate and Banstead, Banstead Heath, Banstead Downs, Park Downs and Burgh Heath (see map).  The Commons range from the M25 in the south to the border of the London Borough of Sutton in the north and comprise a total area of ~550 hectares (~1350 acres). 

Although most of the Commons are now owned by Reigate and Banstead Council, as a result of the Metropolitan Commons (Banstead) Supplemental Act of 1893, the Commons are managed by the Banstead Commons Conservators.  The Act conferred upon the Conservators a statutory duty to ensure safe and free access of the public to the commons and to protect the commons from damage and trespass.  At the time of the Act this was intended, as much as anything, to protect the Commons from their owners although in this more enlightened age we hope that threats from this direction are unlikely.

As well as providing important recreational areas, the open spaces of the commons are important wildlife habitats.  The northernmost two, Banstead Downs and Park Downs, are chalk downland, designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), an important aspect of their attraction to users.  On Banstead Heath and Burgh Heath, a thicker layer of impervious clay and flints overly the chalk and these physical properties affect both the appearance of the commons and their floraand fauna.  In an age of increasing urbanization this imparts significant responsibilities to manage the areas with maintenance of the wildlife value in mind.

Within these pages we tell you more about the Commons: where they are, how to get there, something of their history and what you can see on them especially with regard to their wildlife.  We also give an summary of the history of the Conservators, who the Conservators are, how they are appointed and what they do.  

Overall we hope these pages will raise public awareness of the Commons and the Conservators and encourage everyone to visit the Commons.   We hope to provide information and links for both recreational and wildlife interests, if you have any comments or suggestions please let us know.  Contact us here.

Our pages:
The Commons:
Banstead Downs
Banstead Heath
Burgh Heath
Park Downs

Activities on the Commons

Ash Dieback

History of Banstead Commons

Common Land

Our Act and Byelaws