2.1. The Frojám Enclosure as a Case Study in Galicia
Located in the proximity of the Barbança mountain range where similar structures have already been documented [38
], the Frojám enclosure stands out for its large dimensions. The granite dry-stone walls (whose construction is UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity since 2018) are at the top of the Gironha mountain (29T 515908 4733504, datum WGS84) at altitudes ranging between 450 and 500 m, and have two discernible sections (Figure 2
). The first and larger section has a perimeter of approximately 1 km enclosing 5 ha of land while a second smaller enclosure is formed through an additional 500 m stretch of wall encircles an additional 2.5 ha. The enclosure lies within the customary lands of the Frojám Commons (‘monte vizinhal em mão comum
’) that currently stretch over 100 ha, not serving as a boundary demarcation of any kind, with only the southern tip of the perimeter touching the community boundary at a vertex.
The larger and perhaps older enclosure has a slightly triangular shape with rounded edges, following the natural orography, with a spring (‘Fonte de Ramo Curvo’)
at its northern tip that was likely modified to serve as a watering hole for livestock (Figure 2
). The smaller enclosed area to the south (Figure 2
) surrounds a peat wetland called ‘Campo de Lamas
’ (literally, ‘mud field’). Although signs of collapse and buried sections indicate a greater original height, most sections currently above ground do not exceed 0.5 m from the surrounding ground surface, making it difficult to discern from the taller scrub. Compared to its immediate surroundings abundant in granite outcrops, the enclosed area presents deeper soils which, together with access to water supply, seems to be the rationale behind the choice of the perimeter. This could relate to the availability of pastures during the drier seasons but perhaps also to the use of the area as a ‘seara
’ (communal open field, used for the cultivation of rye or wheat in winter and spring) which kept livestock out
of the enclosed area.
Several hypotheses have been raised [15
] to account for the enclosure’s unusually large dimensions compared to other known Galician examples. Placed at the watershed divide between the Ulha and Tambre river basins, the site could have hosted a seasonal inter-community livestock fair, a possibility hinted by existing oral lore that identifies Gironha as a place of annual assembly for supernatural beings. Alternatively, as suggested, the enclosure could have served to keep the community flock concentrated in
the area with the most abundant pastures during the summer while keeping them out
during the period of cultivation of winter grains.
In spite of its dimensions, it was only during mechanical clearance made prior to a tree plantation in 2016 that a section of the enclosure was first noticed by community members (Figure 3
). Although the local community is intimately familiar with its ancestral lands in which pastoralism endured until forced common land seizures in the 1940s, the structure had gone unnoticed. Orthoimages taken in 2008 (after forest fires in 2006) revealed the extent of the enclosure (Figure 2
) and in 2017, after a preliminary archaeological field visit, a request was made for listing the site as protected heritage. Since its discovery, the local community has remained committed to preserving the site as part of its larger conservation efforts. This commitment has materialized through the natural beaconing of cleared wall sections and the incorporation of the enclosure in a conservation plan issued to restore the adjacent peat wetland [15
]. While the ongoing wetland restoration process serves both biodiversity targets and community adaptation to climate change (by regulating water supply), the recovery of the enclosure is part of the community’s reconnection with its pastoralist past.
Although the village itself is certainly older, Frojám appears for the first time in written records in a 1409 manorial agreement that set a rent to be paid in bread. The importance of pastoralism is evidenced in a 1527 manorial deed, were the annual collective rent to be paid to the feudal lord includes ‘a good ram and two goat kids’ (“un buen carnero et dos cabritos”), in addition to a rent to be paid in rye. Two centuries later, a renovated 1709 manorial deed established the obligation to serve two rams and three goat kids to the Marquises of Mos together with other goods that continued to be delivered annually by the commoners in Pedra d’Ouro, Noia. This deed also described the precise perimeter of the community’s territory through various landmarks, including the ‘Lage da Pedra Vigia’, a large granite outcrop by the ‘Campo de Lamas’ peat area that also serves as a southern vertex for the enclosure. This microtoponym (literally ‘Watchers Stone’) at a place that would allow for the control of the enclosed area perhaps refers to its ancestral pastoral use.
As presented in Table 1
, in the 1753 Marquis of Ensenada census, conducted across the Crown of Castille, Frojám appears with eight households, all of which kept livestock that included sheep, rams, goats, bucks, cows (2 or 3 per household and a similar number of calves), mares, mules, and pigs (either exclusively owned or in a form of joint ownership called ‘parceria
’). A total of 1753 livestock (188 heads, excluding stabled cattle and mules) are reflected illustrating the community’s pastoral load at a time in which the enclosure may have still been in use; lack of living memory and state of conservation indicate abandonment prior to the 20th century.
Manorial obligations (codified through ‘foros
’) were sustained in Frojám until 1928 when villagers extinguished feudal ties with the Viscounts of São Alberto in exchange for a monetary payment of 6049 pesetas [41
]. This meant that for the first time in centuries, villagers fully owned their smallholdings and common lands, but for the latter, ownership would prove to be short-lived. In fact, traditional pastoralist practices ended abruptly in Frojám in the 1940s with the usurpation of the village’s common lands by the State forest services (Patrimonio Forestal del Estado
), a phenomenon occurring throughout Galicia at the time.
The oldest villagers, now almost in their 100s, recall how before land seizures each of the village’s households (four at the time) had a flock of 30 to 60 sheep and goats—mostly sheep—that were taken up to graze year-round in the commons. In 1940, the joint flock numbers essentially match the recorded 18th century load, perhaps indicating an ecological equilibrium. Oral memory matches existing 20th century records, as in the 1905 partition deed of Pedro Cau Boullón (a descendant of Thomas Cao) that left 15 sheep (valued 60 pesetas) and 20 goats (valued 100 pesetas) to his heir, the exact same number of heads his ancestor had in 1753.
The flock was shepherded up in the mornings and brought back at night—a task usually undertaken by children and adolescents—but remained to its own avail during the day as wolves and other predators did not appear to represent a significant threat. As the joint flock of roughly 200 head would stay together, and every village house had its own earmark that served to identify ownership of individual animals in case of doubt—although sheep are said to have headed back to their respective ‘homes’ without guidance.
Franco’s regime forcibly turned the Galician village commons into productive forest monocultures, ending this age-old agropastoral system [42
]. The first pine plantations were carried out in Frojám and neighbouring commons in 1947 in spite of fierce opposition and contestation—a total 389 ha of Maritime Pine (Pinus pinaster
) and Monterey Pine (Pinus radiata
) were planted in the late 1940s. Heavy fines were levied to those caught taking their flock to mountain pastures now riddled with newly planted pine trees. Although forest services designated a steep and poor area in the Eastern mountain slope as ‘zona de pastoreo
’ (‘grazing area’) villagers were forced to sell their flocks lacking their indispensable land base.
Sheep and goats were the main source of meat for year-round consumption and also generated monetary revenue by periodical sales in markets, particularly to pay ‘foros’ and land taxes (‘contribuição’). Usurpation represented a severe blow for the community during the famine brought by the 1936–1939 Civil War. From the 1950s onward, each house kept no more than five sheep (vs. 30–60), in addition to six cows and oxen, a few feral horses (‘bestas’ or ‘garranos’, a breed similar to the Cornish Dartmoor Pony) and other house animals such as pigs or donkeys. Today only two of the now five commoner houses still keep sheep for self-consumption. Although cows and feral horses were taken to fields and nearby common land areas that were not planted, the almost total suppression of herbivore pressure in the old mountain pastures together with the introduction of pine monocultures and other measures such as wetland drainage represented a significant change in landscape and a disturbance of existing habitats.
In 1975 villagers initiated the process to reclaim ownership of the commons in spite of strong opposition from the municipality, and legally achieved recognition as a ‘monte vizinhal em mão comum’ in 1977. State management of communal lands continued until the last ties with the administration were broken in 2002, signalling full community control and self-management. However, the landscape handed over in 2002 had little in common with the one seized by the state 60 years earlier. Pastoralism had virtually stopped with the exception of some feral horses that still roamed around and the land presented deep scars left by tin and tungsten mining, forced drainage of peatlands, introduction of pyrophyte tree species (Eucalyptus sp., Acacia sp., and Pinus sp.), and subsequent waves of forest fires.
In spite of the daunting scenario, Frojám, with just 20 inhabitants, has become an example of how community-based projects can make a difference in restoring biocultural heritage [43
] and even reformulating hegemonic top-down conservation projects in Western societies [46
]. A management plan drafted in 2018 to restore the ‘Campo de Lamas
’ wetland within the enclosed area was selected as one of four pilot case studies in Spain of climate change adaptation of natural management initiatives [15
]. Lack of resources to implement restoration work has been met through volunteer initiatives (such as the ‘Brigadas deseucaliptizadoras
’) mobilizing hundreds of individuals to remove invasive exotic tree species and restore native habitats. This has led to swift changes in the landscape moving away from the previously dominant Eucalyptus plantations to a mosaic of recovering natural habitats. Besides being among the first UN acknowledged Indigenous and Community Conserved Areas in Europe, Frojám is also within a Special Landscape Interest Site (LEIP) and has been designated as a Natural Site of Educational Interest. It is also one of the first self-declared ‘No-go areas’ for mining as part of the community’s struggle to end environmentally degrading activities [47
While the community sustains the return of mountain pastoralism as an aspirational goal that would see the area of the enclosure back to its ancestral use, the ‘Campo de Lamas
’ management plan incorporated a solution conceived by the community itself: ‘natural beaconing’ or ‘biobeaconing’. When the first section of wall (Figure 3
) was noticed in 2016 during scrub clearing works, the community decided to place a 3 metre strip at each side of the enclosure followed by a row of Castanea sativa
that, being a relatively fast-growing species, would function as a ‘barricade tape’ to avoid future damage due to mechanical clearing. Chestnut trees (Castanea sativa
) also provide cover to control undergrowth that would eventually allow the appreciation of the structure with little or no maintenance. For ‘Campo de Lamas
’, the management plan suggested using Salix atrocinerea
and other hydrophilic species already present.
Natural habitats in Frojám have suffered dramatic alterations since the forced abandonment of pastoralist practices in the 1940s. The potential vegetation would be a silicicolous deciduous broad-leaved oak (Quercus robur
) forest, with birch (Betula alba
), alder buckthorn (Frangula alnus
), and willow (Salix atrocinerea
) as pre-climax stages. The vegetal formation is in the altitudinal interface of two Galician-North Portuguese oak woodland types, defined by the submontane/montane Vaccinio-Quercetum roboris
and the lowland Rusco-Quercetum roboris
]. However, current vegetation is composed of gorse-heath shrubland, degraded pine, and eucalyptus plantations and grassland in a few areas.
The whole zone has suffered repeated burns during the last decades (1975, 1993, 2000, 2006, and 2016), affecting the productivity of pine and eucalyptus forest plantations. Interestingly, the deeper soils of the enclosure have allowed faster recovery of plantations compared with the more degraded soils in surrounding areas.
, Calluna vulgaris
, and Erica cinerea
are the dominant species in the shrubland, with significant coverage of Erica umbellata
in areas with shallower soils. This shrubland vegetation is classified in Annex I of the 92/43/CEE European Habitats Directive [20
] as ‘European dry heaths’, habitat of community interest (code 4030). Other gorse-heath formations occur in the Frojám enclosure, yet restricted to ‘Campo de Lamas
’ peatland, dominated by a different gorse species, the Western gorse (Ulex gallii
) and two hygrophilous heath species (Erica ciliaris
and Erica tetralix
), although Calluna vularis
is also abundant. Two subtypes can be identified, with the Western gorse-wet heath community occupying the external parts of the wetland, and purer ericoid formations in the areas with a higher water table. This habitat is classified in Annex I of the 92/43/CEE European Habitats Directive [20
] as a priority habitat under the name ‘Temperate Atlantic wet heaths with Erica ciliaris
and Erica tetralix
’ (code *4020).
Grassland should have occupied the main part of the Frojám enclosure when pastoral practices were active, as images from the 1945–1946 American Series A Photogrammetric flight seem to suggest. As a serial formation, grasslands tend to be replaced by scrub plant communities once grazing and trampling have finished. These practices have been mostly absent in Frojám during the last 70 years, so we expect grassland to be decreasing in the area.
However, two hygrophilous grassland types are currently inside the Frojám enclosure. The most abundant is represented by wet meadows dominated by Molinia caerulea
, accompanied by tall-growing herbs, mostly Deschampsia flexuosa
and Agrostis hesperica
and some rushes and sedges and smaller herbs, and Sphagnum subsecundum
. This habitat could be included in the habitat of community interest ‘Molinia
meadows on calcareous, peaty, or clayey-silt-laden soils (Molinion caeruleae
) (code 6410)’ in Annex I of the 92/43/CEE European Habitats Directive [20
]. Although species-poor Molinia
grasslands on acidic soils are generally excluded from the 6410 habitat definition of Annex I, analyses of organic carbon content in the soil of ‘Campo de Lamas
’ identify this wetland as a minerogenic bog with peat accumulation (Serrano et al., unpublished data).
The other community is a hygrophilous species-rich caespitose acidophilous grassland dominated by Agrostis
species, including grasses and herbs as Agrostis capillaris
, Agrostis curtisii
, Agrostis hesperica
, Avenula sulcata
, Potentilla erecta
, Carum verticillatum
, Danthonia decumbens
, Pseudarrenatherum longifolium
, Gentiana pneumonanthe
, Serratula tinctorea
, Carex binervis
, and Galium saxatile
, with some presence of Molinia caerulea
and Agrostis stolonifera
, among others. This type of community has been included in the association Galio-Danthonietum decumbentis
] in the Violion caninae
alliance of pasturelands in extremely oceanic environments in the European Atlantic Arc. Thus, the so-called ‘Agrostis curtisii
grasslands’ community [21
] from the south-west has been considered ascribable to this alliance [19
]. Despite the scarcity of Nardus stricta
in these communities, they belong to the Nardetea
phytosociological class and consequently have been classified under the priority habitat ‘Species-rich Nardus
grasslands on siliceous substrates’ (*6230 code) [19
Wet heaths and Molinia grassland communities appear intermingled in ‘Campo de Lamas’ in the areas with a higher water table, with the Agrostis hygrophilous grassland occupying some parts of the outer rim of the wetland. Under Frojám environmental conditions, the wet heath vegetal community should prevail in the wetland; however, it covers only 17% of the area, while Molinia grassland covers 70% of the area, having the peripheral Agrostis hygrophilous grassland the lesser extent, with 13% coverage of the wetland remnant.
2.2. The Ladydown Moor Common as a Case Study in Cornwall
Situated 9 km south-east of the north Cornwall coast at Port Isaac Bay, and 5 km south-west of the regional high point on Bodmin Moor, Ladydown Common (sometimes ‘Lady Down’, Figure 4
) is an area of mixed heathland and ‘in-bye’ grassland at 233 m above sea level (30U 381192 5601778, datum WGS84). The area falls within the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and comprises approximately 49 ha of common grazing land. It is listed in the national register of Common Lands—entry 124—as part of a larger grouping totalling 162 ha, of which Ladydown forms the south-western tip [49
]. The immediate area features a minimum of six stone cairns; some of which appear to be clearance cairns, though at least two are likely to have been sepulchral [50
]. There are further partially buried remains of a settlement including hut circles and associated field systems, most likely to be late Iron Age in establishment [50
To the immediate west of the survey area is the village of St. Breward (‘St. Bruwerd’ in Cornish), which comprises three adjoining linear settlement zones known as Row, Churchtown, and St. Breward; each situated on the upper slope of the Camel river valley, which runs NE–SW to the west of both the village and the moorland zone. St. Breward itself is not listed in the Domesday Book, though the nearby settlements of Blisland and Hamatethy are, indicating continued settlement in the region of the moor. The 2011 national census recorded 919 residents within the parish, which also includes the Hamlet of Fentonadle, which lies around 1 km to the north-west of Churchtown, within the valley.
Granite extraction has formed the major economic activity in the area for much of the history of the settlement, with the high-quality building stone being exported nationally (including for the construction of London’s Tower Bridge and Thames Embankment) [52
]. More generally, the area comprised small groups of farmsteads (typically between 5 and 20 ha) of stone-enclosed mixed grazing and arable land with shared commons. The local economy also supported other extraction operations (some predating the industrial period), China Clay quarrying, and coastal fishing.
Population and settlement fluctuations within the area are linked to the operation of these extraction operations and are evidenced by the partially-buried settlement remains on and around the common, and by the patterns of enclosed ‘in-bye’ field systems without attendant homesteads. Earlier habitation and land use are indicated by the hut circles and megalithic monuments that are found across the area, which include the Fenacre stone circle, five standing marker stones, and a stone cross, of which only the base now remains in place [53
]. Further prehistoric features have been recorded at nearby Stannon Quarry, most notably burials dating to the Bronze Age [54
Significant demographic change took place across the region during the mid-part of the 20th century, driven by international conflict and the mechanization of agriculture and extraction operations. Farming became economically unviable on the traditional small scale and resulted in many landholdings becoming conglomerated into the larger commercial operations more recognisable today. This led to the near abandonment of unproductive or difficult to manage areas in upland zones such as Bodmin Moor, including the adjoining commons of Ladydown (Figure 4
) and Emblance Down.
Whilst industrialised agriculture now envelops the area with post-medieval enclosures of sub-rectangular fields and centralized farmsteads, the isolated nature of the common and proximity to both mineral extraction zones and archaeological features have meant that full encroachment of grassland ‘improvement’ has been limited. Ladydown Common is therefore a representative area of the at-risk heritage of the characteristic Cornish Killas landscape zone, comprising areas of unimproved grassland and traditional vernacular stone-built livestock and land management structures [55
]. It is formed of upland heath (also known as moorland) plant communities, a semi-natural habitat with long histories of seasonal land management with livestock and mixed cropping.
Bodmin Moor as a whole constitutes the most south-westerly upland zone in England and is a key component of both the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The region is included in the Cornish County Conservation Area on account of the mix of cultural and natural heritage preserved within it and is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) under the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981. Ladydown forms a component of this landscape joined to the local peak of Brownwilly Tor (Cornish: Bronn Ewhella) through a series of linear common land links which include the neighbouring Emblance and Treswallock Downs. The grouping falls under the joint protection of the Commons Act (2006), and the Countryside Rights of Way Act (2000) through the mechanism of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty designation. In practice this designation enables locals to access grazing areas for livestock in traditional open field management practices despite much of the land now being in private ownership, and also places land management and planning decision-making in the hands of local stakeholders (not exclusively landowners). This dual-level of protection ensures heritage, aesthetic, and habitat conservation measures are given due consideration within any application to build, demolish, or change land-use patterns.
Habitats related to the heritage land use of the Common are reliant on the continued management of landscapes, as the natural climax communities are a mix of Oak–Birch woodland and blanket bog. Within the common itself there are two distinct plant communities linked to former livestock enclosures and land management within the common. Adjacent to the modern stone-walled field enclosures there are the recognizable mix of Bent (Agrostis capillaris
) and Rye (Lolium perenne
) grasses, with a deep Moss thatch. Away from the recognizable grazing zone, onto the greater area of the Moor, the Grass sward includes Common Cotton (Eriophorum augustifolium
) with a predominant coverage of Bent species (Agrostis curtisii
, Agrostis capillaris
), with Sheep’s Fescue (Festuca ovina
) and Purple Moor Grass (Molina caerulea
) also present. This so-called species-rich ‘Agrostis curtisii
grasslands’ community [21
] from south-west Great Britain has been considered ascribable to the Violion caninae
phytosociological alliance [19
] and therefore to the Nardetea
class, what leads to its classification in the priority habitat *6230 [56
]. Herbaceous hygrophilous species of the Moor are typical of the upland moorland habitat and include Molinia caerulea
, Tormentil (Potentilla erecta
), and Heather (Calluna vulgaris
), with Common Bramble (Rubus ulmifolius
), Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna
), and Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa
) at the margins, principally as plant populations on and adjacent to the dry stone walls (whose construction is UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity since 2018, Figure 5
); forming the common ‘Cornish Hedge’. This formation dominated by Purple Moor Grass can be included in the Molinia caerulea-Potentilla erecta
]. This is a species-poor community that develops on acidic substrates under intensely oceanic climates, and it is not included in Annex I of the Habitat Directive, corresponding to the British National Vegetation Classification (NVC) M25 Molinia caerulea-Pontetilla erecta
The stone enclosures of the study zone are multi-phase in construction and differ in condition and preservation today (Figure 4
). The area contains a section of a mixed Cornish hedge and a dry-stone wall (Figure 5
) along its north-west edge, forming the boundary to the adjoining modern field systems. This is the best-preserved feature of the area, in excess of 2 metres in height, made of alternating lodged stone in a herringbone pattern, with soil infill and a combination of grasses, moss, and herbaceous plants along its length, including Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna
) and Bramble (Rubus
ssp.). Immediately adjacent to the hedge, to the south-eastern side, runs a grassed ditch almost a metre deep in places. The lack of terminal outlets for this ditch suggests it is generated by sheltering animals moving along the boundary, and not as a drainage feature.
Within the area of the moor to the south-east of this boundary, there lies partially buried remains of enclosure wall (Figure 6
), adjacent to the similarly buried remains of a former settlement [57
]. In addition, approximately 200 m to the north-east of these features are the earthwork remains of a further livestock enclosure of indeterminate age. The extent and nature of these features have not been investigated through excavation, though habitual close grazing has resulted in some areas of both these features becoming exposed. The southernmost linear enclosure feature measures 1 to 1.5 m in width, but is almost entirely buried, apparent for the most part as a result of the different vegetation that grows over the feature. At no point along its length is the structure any greater than 0.5 m higher than the ground surface around it. This form is echoed in the adjacent cairns (both clearance and funerary), and the archaeological remains of the former settlement. The northernmost enclosure features are more prominent in the landscape, possibly as a result of its proximity to a modern gateway, where the collection and feeding of cattle take place at times of the year, causing increased erosion of soil around the features. The buried linear feature here is in excess of 2 m in width near to its NE terminal end and is in excess of 1 m in height for much of its length. The feature effectively merges with the landform after a length of around 20 m (running NE–W).