The Parish of Mattingley enjoys a traditional rural way of life, the essence of which is of quietness and peacefulness. Historically, this area has always enjoyed tranquillity and has mainly been involved in farming and farming support. Manufacturing has for several hundreds of years centred around brickmaking, and when this died out in the 1930s, the production of wooden building systems and materials took their place in Hazeley Bottom. The brickmakers' cottages have long been enlarged and renovated or destroyed and the public house, The Brickmakers Arms is now a private house. Many of the Parish's population are retired and most of those that work are employed outside the Parish boundaries.
Although the amount of farming activity has declined, the fields have been taken over by those with equestrian pursuits, some seriously, so that some major national horse jumping events are held at Mattingley. Even so, bridle paths for horseriding are virtually non-existent, so that riders are constantly forced to break the law when they ride out on to heathland (unless they specifically have the owner's permission).
The 15th century manor at Hazeley Heath no longer looks over commoners foraging or grazing their cattle and was used as a police training college for many years. Two public houses, with restaurant facilities, remain in Mattingley and these are well attended, but probably more so by visitors than by local residents.
The Heath itself has been declared a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) as well as being identified as a Special Protection Area (SPA) – a new European Directive which means development within 4 kilometres is not allowed except by special grant. On the Heath dwell rare birds, such as the Dartford Warbler and the Nightjar, and we also can see the rare silver-studded blue and the purple emperor butterflies, together with various rare spiders, bees and frogs.
English Nature would actually like to have us bring back some form of grazing in the manner of previous centuries, but many dispute the validity of reverting to a previous way of life. The discussion is on how we can maintain the SSSI status, and preserve the current status quo. The management of the Heath is currently under assessment based on consultations with all local parties who are affected and arguments rage about whether a large area of heathland should be fenced through the parish and beyond.
Restoration of the previous heathland structure is proving difficult to implement because of inadequate government funding for environmental bodies. However, there is much local support and voluntary assistance in cutting down unwanted birch and gorse to allow the heather to re-establish itself - it is the plant habitat which is proving so slow to regenerate.
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