Local opinion survey results. May - August 2012


These are the results from the ELSTEAD NEWS run opinion survey run between May and August 2012.

This survey is not an official operation by or on behalf of SWT although the results have been supplied to them for consideration. They are aware of local concerns but will not include these results in their Phase II report, due at the end of 2012.

The purpose of the survey was to obtain information about the various recreational users of the commons and their attitude to the SWT proposals for perimeter fencing and free range grazing of Thursley, Elstead, Ockley, Royal and Bagmoor Commons. This was considered necessary as SWT had stated that this is now the only option available for the grazing of the commons. Their own survey in 2010/11 presented a number of possibilities, including small enclosures, without stating any preference, so that their results were no longer relevant.

The first table compares the number and percentage of responses to questions that also appeared in the 2011 SWT report on their Phase 1 consultation carried out in 2010/11. The figures are very similar except that the percentage of horse riders in the recent survey is higher. The number of responses is similar in both cases.

The second table shows whether respondents would be willing to continue using the common if cattle were present, either grazing freely or in small enclosures.

The third and fourth section shows where some respondents would go if they were not able to use the commons and general comments about the scheme by respondents who used the online survey.

Scanned comments from the paper survey are available to download:   www.elstead.info/files/view/commons-survey/Paper_Comments.pdf 

Comments in favour of the proposals, from all sources can be seen here [LINK]

Table 1

Table 2

Online Comments (unedited)

Q 10 If not where would you go instead?  

(Follow up question for respondents unwilling to use the commons with loose cattle)



Wherever there are no cattle and gates

Hankley Common

>>>>2012-06-18 15:27
Puttenham or box up to Hankley and Frensham
>>>>2012-06-18 16:33
No real alternative for horse riding
>>>>2012-06-19 16:20
road to dangerous to ride to any other common nearby, therefore i would have no where else to go
>>>>2012-06-24 20:53
Hankley Common
>>>>2012-06-24 20:59
Hankley Common
>>>>2012-07-02 18:52
witley common or hankley
>>>>2012-07-03 12:22
>>>>2012-07-21 22:56
Move livery yards to frensham side
>>>>2012-07-22 09:00
Hankley, Crookesbury, Britty, Puttenham
>>>>2012-07-22 09:59
>>>>2012-07-23 09:15
Have to ride on the roads
>>>>2012-07-23 10:25
Only alternatives involves roadwork or transporting horse to Hankley Common
>>>>2012-07-23 14:52
>>>>2012-07-23 16:20
No where else to go - my horse is kept at Elstead!
>>>>2012-07-24 13:08
I would have to move livery stables
>>>>2012-07-24 13:18
Hankley common
>>>>2012-07-24 19:29
Shackleford / Putenham
>>>>2012-07-25 16:40
Not sure

Open Question:

Do you have any comments about the SWT proposals for fencing and cattle grazing on Thursley, Royal, Bagmoor, Ockley and Elstead Commons?

Responses: (Positive comments in blue)

>>>>2012-05-08 09:53
Natural England's plans for the commons are biased in favour of conservation to the significant detriment of public access. It is not enough to say 'all access points will be retained', when the whole area will be blighted by wire fences, gates, free-roaming cattle and no doubt, contined deliberate flooding of the public rights of way. The cattle are not proposed to control Molinia; they are required to reduce the number of people using the land.
>>>>2012-05-09 14:51
There are difficult management issues but it's important that access remains good for everyone. I would like to see the pros and cons of each option set out clearly and succinctly so that people can give views with a good understanding of the implications of each option.
>>>>2012-05-19 13:31
It seems like a huge expense for a dubious benefit. Other Wild Life Trusts (Chester) have found that indiscriminate grazing can damage wildlife and habitat.
As a rider I do not want to have to deal with swing gates on the common which will not be maintained. The Trust did not know that a gate that was installed about 2 or 3 years ago had been stolen. So much for the promise of maintenance.
Also it will create very dangerous conditions for horse riders if they meet cattle on the bridlepaths.
>>>>2012-06-13 09:46
My teenage daughters occasionally run on the common, but will no longer if there is loose cattle. Likewise I would not be comfortable taking my 5 year old out on a bicycle, particularly with dogs. It seems we are supposed to keep dogs both on the lead (to protect nesting birds) and off the lead (in case cattle charge at them).
Having experienced being charged at by cattle previously (without a dog present), I will not put myself in that extremely dangerous position again. This will significantly reduce access for young people/children (amongst others) to the commons - something we need to encourage, as future generations need to love the commons to sustain them in the future.
>>>>2012-06-18 15:27
This proposal appears to be ill thought out. The bridleway through Royal Common is very heavily used by walkers/dog walkers, cyclists, parents with children and horse riders. On top of this the area is used by the military and hot air balloons regularly fly over in the summer.
I have walked or ridden on this common for about the 15 years and have either witnessed or heard of numerous incidents on this bridleway during this time for example, dogs actually attacking horses with the consequence of horses bolting, dogs just generally running at horses whilst their owners do absolutely nothing and who do not appear to even realise this could be a problem, children cycling into horses, parents blocking the bridleway with bikes and then being rude when asked politely if you could get past, the military firing with no warning whilst horses were in full view and in very close quarters. Hot air balloons suddenly appearing and doing a burn in very close proximity to horses. I have personally experienced many of these scenarios.
Given this mix it is hard to understand how SWT can actually consider letting cows loose to roam freely across the common. Can they be sure that the cows are not going to get spooked by low flying hot air balloons or the military firing? This seems to pose a considerable risk to the general public and horse riders.
The other issue is the gates themselves! The car park at Royal Common can actually be overflowing with cars parked on the road. The current emergency gate is frequently parked across and it is often difficult to manoeuvre a horse round the cars and through the current gap. Given cars already park over an emergency access I find it hard to believe that the gateway will ever be clear enough for a horse to get through as they need a fairly large area.
Maybe SWT should come down to this car park on a sunny weekend or bank holiday and then they might start to understand people's concerns!
>>>>2012-06-18 16:33
As a rider I am concerned for public safety with free grazing cattle. I see this as an accident waiting to happen. Injuries to riders can be extremely severe and even fatal. Most horses these days are uncomfortable at the sight of cattle as they rarely encounter them. A close encounter could lead to injurty of both horse and rider and any members of the public, particularly children who may inadvertantly get in the way.
>>>>2012-06-19 16:20
has anyone mentioned what happens when the military are present? the cattle of course will be startled what becomes of the walker or rider then.?
>>>>2012-06-24 20:53
I'm very concerned for the safety of my children and dogs if cattle allowed to roam freely.
>>>>2012-06-26 10:48
I fully support the grazing proposals and look forward to seeing the cattle roaming across the site. They will do a great job for wildlife and my experience from other sites tells me that people will soon get used to them. Thanks.
>>>>2012-07-03 12:22
This idea fails in so many ways especially ecologically.
>>>>2012-07-03 14:57
Thoroughly supportive of the idea. Cattle would have historically grazed these areas and kept them in good condition for wildlife. These areas are military training areas and nature reserves first and foremost, not dog walking or horse riding ground. People need to understand the priorities of the land.
>>>>2012-07-21 19:29
I would still use the common but it wont be relaxing with the dogs. I think the cattle should be in penned enclosures so they can't get near runners, riders, walkers and cyclists.
>>>>2012-07-21 21:16
Firstly the safety aspect do people, children, dogs, horses and cattle mix. Plus the mostly rude aggressive cyclists. Looking at the cattle that are grazing there at the moment they don't look that happy and seem to spend most of the time near their water troughs. They seemed happier in smaller areas as in previous trials. Another open space lost.
>>>>2012-07-21 21:37
I am very worried about my daughter riding her pony on the commons.
>>>>2012-07-21 22:56
>>>>2012-07-22 09:00
Removes my Legal & Human Right to Air & Exercise on Common Land. Against the objectives of Natural England which gives equal right to Public Access and against Surrey Military Lands Act which gives full Public access when not required for Military use.
>>>>2012-07-22 09:59
We have ridden on the common for 15 years to fitten our event horses, it would be a shame to lose such a great facility
>>>>2012-07-23 09:15

I question the legal right of SWT to fence common land. What official standing have they in this matter?
>>>>2012-07-23 10:25
My horse is over 15.2hh (16.2hh) Horses and cattle are not a good mix. We and our horses have little or no experience of how to deal with cattle close up. Horses will panic possibly unseat riders, and as a result be a danger to the public who also use the commons.
>>>>2012-07-23 14:52
I believe it will cause a more problems than it will solve. Free roaming cattle will be a liability especially to horse-riders, walkers and people with dogs.
I do not believe the cattle to be as benign as SWT think they are - I for one was pursued out of one of their enclosures by a very aggressive Belted Galloway.
It will be an expensive operation which will not work - cattle are clever at escaping and will cause many problems to everyone in the area.
>>>>2012-07-23 15:11
I think it is a bit of a fashion at the moment and dont really see the need for it. My horse is 16.3 hands high. I work in Camberley and the introduction of cattle on the commons here has not gone well, it discourages people from using the commons.
>>>>2012-07-23 16:20
I disagree that this is required to maintain the commons, in fact on other commons it has decimated them and scientific studies are showing no real evidence that this is the best way to keep vegetation down. Seems the only driver is the size able grant that SWT will receive for doing this
>>>>2012-07-24 13:08
Just to let you know that I ride a 17 hands horse. I have experienced cattle grazing freely in the New Forest when I have ridden there and when they are spooked(which any animal can be) some people walking there were in danger of being mowed down. In fact they had to run for their lives and managed to get to the tree line and safety.
The SWT do not take this into consideration especially with young children on the common riding their little bicycles. Animals can be unpredictable especially ones that are not handled regularly so I think this situation will cause danger to the public and from my point of view may well frighten a horse and cause a major accident.
Perhaps SWT will change their minds if someone sues them if an accident takes place due to free roaming cattle or are they saying they can guarantee the safety of the public? In my opinion no one can offer a guarantee.
>>>>2012-07-24 13:18
Try riding an 18'2 horse whilst attempting to open a gate and see if you can do it!
>>>>2012-07-24 19:29
Cattle can be very dangerous for horseriders, causing them to shy or spook, which can result in rider falling off.
>>>>2012-07-25 16:40
I understand the main reason that SWT want to do this, is thier landlord the MOD are against fencing off small enclosure's? But by SWT own admission this is only 1 of 6/7 way's of controlling the vegetation.
Why they want to go this way ,as they met strong resistance at thier meeting at thursly village hall in the spring.
Ican't beleive the MOD will allow the cattle to roam free' when the troop's are on manoeuvres!!! so it's back to the small enclosure's again?? so SWT ride buck shot over every one who uses these wonderful commons as they have for many year's.
there are many issue's here SAFETY/ACESS/COST/ THE LIST GOES ON. This is a very bad idear and must be stopped now.
>>>>2012-08-08 15:20
I think it's a mad idea. I would not want to walk through a field with cattle, but at least you have some idea they may be there. On the common you could have walked miles and suddenly come across loose cattle and then have to walk back if you are nervous walking past them. I am happy for them to be grazing in enclosed areas but not loose. I walk on the common with the U3A and ramblers as well as with my grand children etc. Knowing that cattle roam loose would prevent me from using the common which was one of the reasons I moved to the area.