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Details

  • Start: Car park on Ferrers Lane
  • End: Car park on Ferrers Lane
  • Country: England
  • County: Hertfordshire
  • Type: Country
  • Nearest pub:
  • Ordnance Survey:
  • Difficulty: Medium
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Description

This month the Countryside Management Service recommends heading for the beautiful and tranquil Nomansland Common in the south of the county...

NOMANSLAND Common, between Wheathampstead and Sandridge, is a popular open space for walking but also a great place to get in tune with nature as the heathland and woodland support a wealth of rare wildlife.
The common is an area of 52 acres of open space, owned by the Althorp estate and Wheathampstead Parish Council.


Originally used by villagers, or commoners, to graze livestock and gather firewood, today the common is a popular space for dog walking, horse riding, model aircraft flying and family picnics.


A brief history


The common has been used for thousands of years and flint axe heads found on it have been dated to 4,000BC. Since at least the Middle Ages, commoners have used Nomansland to graze livestock.


In 1461, during the Wars of the Roses, the Second Battle of St Albans was fought over part of the common and cannon balls and 25 skeletons from this period were found in the 19th century.


During the 1700s Nomansland was a notorious place for highway robberies, so much so that a gibbet was erected on the common as a warning to robbers. The most notorious of these was dubbed the Wicked Lady who was unmasked after her death as Lady Ferres of Markyate.


Cricket has been played on the common since 1826 and prize fights were also popular. In 1833 a fight between Simon Byrne, champion of Ireland, and James Burke lasted 99 rounds, about three hours.


In many areas you can still see hollows where commoners dug clay for brick making and evidence of brick kilns have been found.


During World War II German and Italian prisoners of war cleared scrub on the southern half of the common so it could be ploughed for crops to help the war effort.


Why is it called Nomansland?


The common lies across the two parishes of Sandridge and Wheathampstead and during the 15th century the monasteries of St Albans and Westminster both contested the common for their respective parish.


The common acted as a no-mans-land between the two warring factions, with more than 20 years of disputes. Finally, in 1429, a jury agreed that the parishes should share the grazing rights and a boulder of Hertfordshire pudding stone was used to mark the parish boundary.



START WALKING


Where: The Common is situated on the B561, between St Albans and Wheathampstead.
Getting there: There is a regular bus service stopping at the Wicked Lady Public House.
The nearest railway station is at Harpenden, three miles away.
Walk length: There is a one mile circular route, which starts at the car park on Ferrers Lane.
Optional extras: See our Whats On section for details of guided walks, and CMS conservation tasks.
http://enquire.hertscc.gov.uk/whatson/Cwhatson.cfm



Find out more


The Countryside Management Service (CMS) works with landowners and communities to develop projects that enhance landscape and biodiversity, as well as encouraging people to understand and enjoy the countryside across Hertfordshire.


For more information contact the CMS on 01727 848168 or by email at southwest.cms@hertscc.gov.uk

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