The woodlands, meadows and orchards of the Pays de Bray play an important part in the local survival strategy for this section of northern France where ‘green tourism’ occupies a major role. For centuries, the area contained extensive stretches of common heath and moorland, whose reclamation and replacement by enclosed pastures proved a long and contested process. The present essay exemplifies the ambiguity of the notion of usages (use-rights), with commoners claiming that they had legal rights and landowners arguing that these were simply privileges. Attention is directed to long-running conflicts between peasants and seigneurs, to the initiatives of entrepreneurs in the eighteenth century, and to the final resolution of disputes after the Revolution of 1789. Long recognised as an area ready for ‘improvement’, the Pays de Bray is now perceived as a cherished environment to be commodified and conserved.