Greenham Common. Photo by Rob Appleby.
Greenham and Crookham Commons form the largest continuous tract of open heath in Berkshire. It is special for the mix of purple and pink heathers and golden yellow gorse, wildflower-filled grasslands and expanses of bare gravels - all easily accessible to visitors.
These commons are at the heart of our West Berkshire Living Landscape which covers more than 27km2 of lowland heathland, ancient woodland, reedbeds, rivers and streams.
Greenham and Crookham Commons on the southern edge Newbury forms the largest area of lowland heath in West Berkshire – a fragile and threatened habitat full of very special wildlife – and is particularly important for some of Britain’s rarest ground-nesting birds, including nightjar, woodlark and lapwing.
History of Greenham and Crookham Common
The Commons have a rich history. The heathland is on top of a flat gravel plateau laid down at the end of the last ice age, and since then its use has been many varied, feeding pre-historic hunter/gatherers, used as common land by farmers, and later gaining significance as a military air base. General Eisenhower watched some of the 10,000 sorties flown during D-Day from the nearby Greenham Manor.
At the start of the 1980's, nuclear cruise missiles were stored at the base. The demonstrations against these made regular headline news and galvanised the start of the Peace Women movement in 1981. One mass protest called 'Embrace the Base' saw over 20,000 women joining hands around the perimeter of the airbase.
After decades of military occupation the Commons were officially reopened for public use on the 8th of April 2000, thanks to a partnership between the Greenham Common Community Trust and the then Newbury District Council (now West Berkshire Council).
This is the largest single area of lowland heathland remaining in Berks, Bucks and Oxon, and since 2010, BBOWT has been managing the Commons on behalf of West Berkshire Council; working to protect this site for everyone to enjoy.
To discover more about lowland heathland, its wildlife and other BBOWT heathland sites, see the Wildinfo page.
Vital site for birds
Heathland habitat is ideal for certain species of birds because of its open nature, with just a few scattered trees and bushes for them to use as singing posts or look out points. It is also relatively warm and dry and has an abundant food source in the form of invertebrates.
You may be lucky enough to hear the rich and varied song of a nightingale, or the warbling call of a skylark high in the sky.
An invertebrate haven
In summer, the heath comes alive with over 30 species of butterflies including the small blue and the expertly camouflaged grayling. They are joined by dazzling displays from damselflies and dragonflies, all set to the unmistakable music of grasshoppers and crickets.
If you have any concerns about the cattle at the Greenham end of the Common, please contact the farmer on 07983 078793. For cattle at the Crookham end please phone West Berkshire Council on 01635 42400. They will pass a message to the farmer.
Rabbits with Myxomatosis
The Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) manages Greenham and Crookham Commons on behalf o f West Berkshire Council.
Regular users of Greenham and Crookham Commons may have noticed number of sick, dying or dead rabbits affected by myxomatosis.
Myxomatosis is extremely unpleasant and usually fatal for rabbits that contract it. The disease is brought about by the Myxoma virus which is spread by biting insects, principally mosquitoes, fleas and fur mites. It arrived in this country in the 1950s; the level of the disease within the wild rabbit population varies from year to year as new strains develop and overcome the resistance that develops naturally in wild rabbits. This year there has been a marked increase in the number of cases of this rabbit-specific disease here and in other parts of the country.
On Greenham and Crookham Commons (which BBOWT manages on behalf of West Berkshire Council) we are clearing up dead rabbits that we come across; although crows, red kites and foxes will dispose of most of them.
Domestic rabbits can catch the disease and vets recommend owners of pet rabbits to vaccinate them. There is no risk of myxomatosis being contracted by humans or other animals.
Fortunately, a proportion of rabbits do survive the disease, unconfirmed estimates suggest 30%, and develop resistance to the disease.
However, we must stress that Myxomatosis cannot be contracted by humans or other animals.
BBOWT is monitoring the issue, and we clear up any dead rabbits that we come across, although crows, red kites and foxes will dispose of most of them.
If you have any further queries please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Things to do
- Explore part of the West Berkshire Living Landscape on our two Wild Walks, both of which pass through Greenham and Crookham Commons.
- We run regular work parties on the reserve
- Help us manage this reserve by supporting us
- Tweet your wildlife sightings to @bbowt
- Sign up to our e-newsletter
Download the site risk assessment.
Your Greenham and Crookham Commons photographs
Share your photos of Greenham and Crookham Commons with us. Add them to the BBOWT flickr group and tag them with 'greenham'.