Back in the 1950s and 60s the Commons were still being grazed by ponies and goats, however, by the early 1970s the animals had virtually disappeared and the Commons were becoming overgrown. Occasional bouts of ‘scrub-bashing’ carried out by the Norfolk conservation groups during the 70s halted the invasion, but it was clear by the 1980s that this was not sufficient.
In 1983 the Beeston Common Management Group was formed and one of the groups first tasks was to recreate the permanent feed to the local pond and then to progressively clear the scrub from the wetlands and valley mires. From the beginning County and Local Councils supported the volunteers. Although numbers have now dwindled these hard-working people made a difference and after the first ten years the Commons had returned to a very reasonable state. In 1996 English Nature presented the BCMG with a national award for the best-managed SSSI – a first for Norfolk. The citation reads’ “To BCMG for their exceptional knowledge and enthusiasm in managing the previously neglected Sheringham and Beeston Common SSSI to provide an outstanding site for wildlife”. It is ironic that volunteer numbers were now so low at this stage the group felt it could no longer manage the task so English Nature (now Natural England) were invited to take over the main management of the SSSI. NE has been managing the site since, first clearing many trees, setting up a mowing regime for the wetlands and mires and progressively scraping the heathlands to reduce the birch, bracken and gorse cover and to encourage more grasses and heathers. In recent years Sheringham Town Council has also being actively involved with hiring contractors and using its own personnel in clearance work.
The BCMG still carry out vital work keeping the ponds and waterways clear and managing sensitive areas that large machines cannot do. The group has also been awarded a variety of local environmental and biodiversity awards over the past years.
If you are interested in helping with conservation work please contact the present hon. warden, via the CONTACT page.