This is Newcastle’s Town Moor at dusk.
The Town Moor is very close to the city centre: certainly no more than a ten minute walk away. It’s one of the largest urban green spaces in the UK: it’s bigger than London’s Hyde Park and Hampstead Heath combined.
The Freemen of the city regularly exercise their right to graze cattle on the moor, making it surely one of the closest pieces of working farmland to a city centre in the UK. This leads to all sorts of student tales of cows being lead to unlikely places within the city, which one has to hope are apocryphal!
As it happens, the grazing rights of the Freemen also extend to St James’ Park. This could cause LOCOG and the IOC one or two headaches should the Freemen choose to exercise their legal right during the upcoming Olympics – I suspect it could prove somewhat disruptive to football matches!
The usage of the Town Moor is governed by its very own Act of Parliament: the Newcastle-upon-Tyne Town Moor Act 1774, given royal assent by King George III. This is perhaps the only thing that Newcastle owes to a Tory government!
The Act was most recently updated in 1988 – also, of course, under a Tory government (or at least its modern equivalent) – though curiously the city loses the hyphens in its name in the title of the Newcastle upon Tyne Town Moor Act 1988. This legislation mandates that “the Town Moor shall be maintained as an open space in the interests of the inhabitants of the city … to afford air and exercise for the enjoyment of the public” – which is nice to know!