This sign is on the Avenue in Southampton, a city with some glorious parks right in its centre, and the fantastic Southampton Common just to the north. It was declared common land in the 13th century when the borough bought the land and allowed neighbours to use it for fuel, clay and foraging for food. It was also used for grazing, and the Cowherds Inn today is a reminder of the cowherd who was once paid to look after the cattle on the common. With trees, grass, ponds and play areas, the ancient green space became a public park in 1844.
My primary school was on the edge of the common, with playground boundaries marked by oak, ash and hawthorns, and sports day on a strip of common land grass. This idyllic playtime came to an abrupt end in the 1970s when we were moved to a new building with a tarmac playground surrounded by a wire mesh fence like a cage.
The Common is still in good use by the citizens of Southampton. There’s a wildlife centre, boating lake and paddling pool, and it hosts charity runs, fairs and music festivals.