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18 December 2009
Sorry for the delay in this report, I have not been able to get in to the office since last Friday. Obviously, the snow has brought a halt to all our work on the Common. The new clearance will clearly not be ready for Christmas.
The cold weather has brought quite a few winter visitors with it. I am seeing lots of Fieldfares about although I have not seen any Redwings so far. Crazily, about four days before the snow came down, I was listening to a Woodpecker drumming for a mate in the big old oak trees adjacent to Hungershall Park.
I was a bit surprised when getting to the cricket pitch this morning to find not a single snowman. Last time we had any significant snow we had our own version of the Terra Cotta Army up there.
I hope you all have a very pleasant Christmas.
11th December 2009
We have made a good start to the big project at Happy Valley. The contractor has started to expose the rock outcrops in the corner of Happy Valley, where the entrance from Neville Court comes in. As ever, it is mostly holly saplings that have to be cleared but there are one or two big trees that have to come down, notably some big windblown oaks that are leaning into other trees. It is probably going to keep us busy for a couple of weeks but I hope it will all be clear and ready for visitors to enjoy after their Christmas lunch.
4th December 2009
We have had a week of finishing off minor works. One or two damaged trees have been removed, the last bit of chipping has been carried out at the clearance below the Victoria Grove, the heather area next to the Racecourse has been cleared of scrub, new steps have gone in next to the path from the Fairground car park to Hungershall Park and since the leaves are now pretty much all down, we have cleaned out most of our drainage ditches.
The replacement cherry tree went into the new avenue at Mt Edgcumbe Road as well this week. Let's hope we have been given the right variety this time!
Next week will see the start of a major project at Happy Valley; this time it is being financed by the Friends of the Commons.  We will be clearing fallen trees and scrub to expose the rocks in the corner where the entrance from Neville Court comes in.  As well as clearing the rocks, we will be putting in a new three way path connecting the bottom of the escarpment to the rock outcrops at the top as well as to St Paul's Church.  As part of this, a new flight of steps will again be installed to make the path useable by most visitors.
27th November 2009
I think that I finally have to admit defeat. The weather has won and I am going to have to abandon my plan to collect heather cuttings from Ashdown Forest, for this year at least. 
From the moment the big scrape was finished on the Common, the rain has been almost continuous. This has left us with a quagmire which will take at least a couple of weeks of dry weather before any machinery can get on it to either deliver or spread any seed. At the same time, the heather plants that we were going to harvest have been shedding seed and I would imagine the the weight of rain has made the situation worse, driving most of it out of the seed heads.
What I do not want to do is leave the scrape to be colonised by weed seeds so I am now thinking of applying a grass seed mix as temporary cover. Hopefully next year I will have better luck with the weather and I can simply spray out an area of grass and introduce the heather seed. 
20th November 2009
Another week of serious winds has resulted in a few trees coming down which has kept us busy this week but generally, we seem to have got off quite lightly.
In between dealing with emergencies, we managed a few other bits of housekeeping, cutting the hedge at the bottle bank n Rusthall, clearing bramble and scrub from the triangle of land at the top of Church Road and starting to clear scrub and gorse from the big clearing next to the racecourse to allow the heather there to regenerate. We also cleared the stumps from the area cleared by the volunteers that I mentioned last week, as you can see in the picture below.
13th November 2009
Allthough as I write this the weather is appalling with strong winds and torrential rain, the early part of the week was pretty good and we manage to complete the scrape I was talking about last week. We have removed about 350 tonnes of topsoil from the clearance site, which has come from about half the total clearance area, skimming about 8 inches off the top. Obviously, it is a bit muddy and raw up there at present but the heavy rain should be leveling everything for us now.
We were planning to start gathering heather seed from Ashdown Forest next week but I think the current weather means that will have to go on hold until things dry out.
The soil that was removed has been delivered to Bishops Down, to the section of closed road outside the Spa Hotel. The old road surface has been broken up to allow drainage and the newly delivered soil has been seeded and will now be allowed to return to Common as was agreed some years ago as part of the deal that allowed the new roundabout on the A264 to be built.
The volunteers were out last weekend and some of you will have noticed the destruction they wrought below the Royal Victoria Grove, cutting down damaged sycamore saplings and small birch. I had a contractor in this week to cut down the tree stumps and chip the felled timber and we now have a nice new glade in the area. The new clearance work connected a main path with an area which the volunteers opened up a couple of years ago and is now starting to become colonised by heather from seed we introduced last autumn from Cinder Hill Reserve at Matfield.
6th November 2006
Well, they definitely got the forecast right - there are far fewer leaves on the trees after last weekend. Actually, it did us a favour. It had come to our notice that an illegal rave had been planned at the Toad Rock last Saturday night. I put up a few signs against it and the Police kept an eye open but I suspect that the weather was the thing that kept them away.
Readers may remember the big clearance of holly scrub that was carried out last winter near the new cherry avenue. We have now done a deal with Highways to remove some of the topsoil from the site and transfer it to Bishops Down, where it will be used to fill in the redundant end of the road outside the Spa Hotel and return it to Common. This will save a great deal of transport cost as well as reducing the carbon footprint of this job. From our perspective, we end up with a site with most of the nutrient rich topsoil removed, leaving a suface layer suitable for the sowing of heather seed. We will be gathering seed from Ashdown Forest over the next few weeks with the kind co-operation of the Forest Conservators.
30th October 2009
What a week of fantastic weather. We have been very lucky and the colour on the trees has been wonderful. I fear however that it may all be over next week looking at the weather forcast.
We have been taking advantage of the dry state of our ponds by doing a bit of weed clearance this week. We have cleared reed mace out of Fir Tree Pond and have carried out a major clearance of Bracken Cottage Pond. We have also completed our final cut of the amenity grass this week, leaving the Commons looking as neat as we can for winter.
23rd October 2009
It has been a week of meetings and office based activity this week as it was one of the quarterly meetings of the Board of Conservators this week.
In spite of this, some practical work took place with us collecting cut heather from Cinder Hill Reserve in Matfield where the Kent High Weald Group have had volunteers coppicing mature heather. We then collect it, transport it to our Common and spread it out on one of our new clearance areas. The heather is then flailed to cut it up and is left for the seed to drop out and germinate.This technique has been used successfully at many sites across the Commons.
When we started our restoration effort in 1992, there was only one very small patch of heather left on both Commons. Fortunately, it still had a number of lizards and invertebrates hanging on and it is this population that has gone on to spread out across the Commons via the many small islands or stepping stones of heather patches that we have restored since then.
16th October 2009
The weather has been kind again, allowing us to complete the cutting and clearing of the slope
adjacent to St Helena. It was a much easier job this year with only one year's growth to remove.
Bank before cutting
Bank after
Bank after cutting
Hopefully, this trend will continue each year until we reach a point where the soil fertility is reduced enough for us to only cut every second or third year.
We have also re-designed the drainage system at the top of one of the two paths to Brighton Lake that we widened last winter. I am hoping that this will dry up this path considerably and we may not have to divert the bottom end of it this year as we were planning.
2nd October 2009
It has been a quiet week on the Commons. The contractor who is cutting the paths has been away for the week, so, apart from the cutting of our amenity grass, little has happened.  I have been getting reports ready for the next Conservators meeting and trying to organise some of the work for later in the autumn/winter period.
Finally, over the past few weeks, there have been reasonable numbers of swallows and martins about. Sadly though, they are just birds from further north and west heading through on their way back to Africa.
Julia returns from holiday next week, just as I head back down to the River Wye for a week, so no report next Friday.  When I return, we will be starting on the clearance of the big bank and rock outcrops between St Helena and Gibraltar Cottage.  That should enhance the new Panorama (pictured left) that was officially opened there last week,
25th September 2009
This week's superb weather has enabled us to complete the cutting of our hay-meadow and long grass areas. I am delighted to have finished this task early as the cutting equipment involved is very heavy and will not give a satisfactory result in damp conditions;  wet grass is much more difficult to collect.  I hope to bring the machine back for a few days later in the autumn to harvest heather seed when it is ready.
The smaller flail is still working its way through the minor paths and glades and will continue on the Common for another few weeks yet.
The Friends of the Common recently offered to pay for the renovation of another five of our benches, so we have also been doing them this week.  Amongst the benches cleaned and re-painted this time was the one dedicated to Patrick Shovelton, who founded the Friends after the hurricane of 1987.  It seemed only right that his bench should get a bit of TLC.
18th September 2009
It has been a frustrating week with the big flail.  The problems we had last week proved to be rather more serious than first appeared so it has spent all week in the workshop.  It should return on Monday and hopefully we can then go right through to the end of the work with it. 
The small flail was busy though and we have cut quite a number of paths this week.  We have also been carrying out maintenance work on seats and signboards etc.
The Panorama viewpoint opposite the Royal wells pub has now been completed and looks very nice.  Sadly, you will have to wait for Julia's return to see any pictures of it.
The Hospice in the Weald 10K charity run takes place on Sunday morning, starting from the Lower Cricket Pitch on Tunbridge Wells Common.  Good luck to all those taking part.
11th September 2009
We have carried out a fair bit of clearance around Harmony Street this week trying to open up the area at the top of the road.  I also had an interesting meeting with Natural England there to see if I can get some more help with the cost of keeping the scrub in the area under control.  At the moment I am awaiting results but I hope something can be worked out, as I am really struggling with the budget to do even the basic that is required to keep this geologically important site clear.
The big flail cutter has also been in this week and has cleared a number of areas, mostly on Tunbridge Wells Common.  As is traditional with this machine. we had a major breakdown with one of the main support arms snapping.  We have managed to weld it all back together again and it will be back next Monday.  We have done so many repairs over the years, that I don't think there can be much left of the piece of kit that we originally purchased.  Happily, the forecast for nexr week is for high pressure to remain with us, so I am hoping that we can finish the current round of work with this machine.
Sorry that there are no pictures at the moment.  Julia has gone off to the U.S. for three weeks.  Give her a wave if you see her! 
7th September 2009
Sorry that i am a bit late with this entry, for some reason our web site would not respond last week.
We are now fully into our grass and path cutting work with the big collector flail on site and the smaller tractor clearing minor areas and paths. I am hoping that the big machine will stay on site now untill all the clearances are finished. I have been waiting for the Asulox that was applied to the bracken at  various sites to fully work it's magic and I think that should be complete by now. 
28th August 2009
We seem to be tumbling very quickly into autumn now. I suppose it is after all only about three weeks to the equinox.
It has been a fairly quiet week on the Common, mainly because everybody, including my contractors, seems to be on holiday. We have had the tenth of our twelve scheduled cuts of the amenity grass carried out this week, which puts us about right to be finishing early to mid October.
I think most people will be back next week, so I hope to make some progress on cutting both the lomg grass areas and the footpaths.
21st August 2009
Some of you may remember that one of the trees in the avenue of Great White Cherries that we planted last year was vandalised earlier in the Summer and had to be taken out. We were fortunate that the supplier had one left that had been containerised and so could be planted at once to fill the gap. So far, so good. The tree took well and is growing happily but a dreadful suspicion gradually began to take shape in my mind. I have tried to ignore it but is no good; the replacement tree is definitely not a Great White Cherry! It certainly is a Cherry but who knows what sort. It has completely different coloured foliage. I have to admit that I am not as amused as everybody else I have mentioned it too. Fortunately, the nursery think that the replacement will still be small enough for them to lift this winter and replace it with (hopefully) the genuine article. It would just be too mortifying to have one pink tree in the middle of the line.
14th August 2009
Here I am back again. I had a good break but I must admit that it is no great hardship to return to a job you love.
As Julia reported last week, it has been fairly quiet whilst I was away but there are always a few things to sort out upon returning: several, rather messy, camps to clear, some extremely infantile grafitti to remove and a couple of fires to deal with. We have caught up with most of that this week.
There was also a certain amount of work undertaken over the last two weeks. We have started on the cutting back of our paths as well as the cutting of our long grass areas. This latter task has caused a few problems. I don't know why yet but the standard of finish on most of the areas cut so far is pretty awful. The contractor has left loads of grass on site rather than picking it up. I can only assume this is because he was trying to go much too fast, not giving the machine time to collect the cuttings. Needless to say, he will be returning next week to go over these areas again!
7 August 2009
This is the last day of Steve's holiday, so he will start updating you again next week.  There has been little to report in his absence, so here is a recent picture of a lovely, sunny, secluded path in Happy Valley leading from the bottom of the new Sweeps Cave steps down to the bottom of the 101 steps.
24th July 2009
The weather has not been very helpful over the last seven days, with a lot of rain coming down.  In spite of this however, the first week of the school holidays has seen a lot of use of the Commons.  It has also been the first week of the major roadworks that will be disrupting the centre of Tunbridge Wells all summer. A new gas main is going in.  It has to be done and I guess it's the most sensible time to do it.  I had feared that the car park at Fir Tree Rd would be swamped with displaced commuters cars but we have got away with it so far; perhaps they are all off with swine flu.
We have removed another five old concrete benches from the Commons this week and will start on renovation of half a dozen Hawthorne benches as soon as the weather permits.  The new sign at the Bat Cave is now up and we have replaced a few damaged anti-parking posts.  I have also been organising for the next two weeks, when I will be on leave.  Work will still continue with the cutting of various paths and areas of long grass so I will be interested to see what has happened on my return.  Bye till then.
17th July 2009
We are now moving into the period for path and track clearance.  Our areas of hay-meadow have pretty much set seed, so they too can start to be cleared.  Our main contractor, Gary Bridgland, has just invested in a large new four- wheel drive tractor, which is going to give me much more flexibility in using the big pick-up flail.  Previously, we have had to hire a tractor to power this bit of kit and the minimum hire period was a week.  Now I can call on it for days at a time and we will be able to respond to changing weather conditions much more rapidly.
Hasn't the willowherb been great this year? It makes really dramatic blocks of colour in the landscape and there is something about that magenta colouring. You wouldn't want it in your garden where it completely takes over but somewhere like the Common, where it can be viewed from a distance, it's wonderfully vivid.
10th July 2009
As I write this the last of the bracken spraying is being carried out.  I hope we have got our timing right but of course, I won't know until next summer when the bracken comes up, or hopefully, does not.
It has been a very busy week with one of my four big Conservators meetings of the year taking place yesterday and either an evening meeting or guided walk to do every night this week.Not that I am complaining, it is no hardship to go for a walk on the Common on a lovely summers evening. Last nights walk was for Leigh History Society and we started from the Fairground car park and made our way up towards Wellington Rocks. As we made our way along the Racecourse, it was lovely to see a young Roe Deer cross the track in front of us and start grazing in one of our clearings not twenty yards away. It was quite a young animal, in superb condition. Of course it is nice but not that unusual to see deer on the Common, Roe Deer however are usually incredibly shy and elusive so it was a particular treat.
3rd July 2009
We have carried out our first bracken spraying this  week, on Tunbridge Wells Common to start with. Bracken spraying with Asulox is a very time critical operation, the plants have to be at exactly the right stage of growth for the optimum effect, which means the least amount of chemical being sprayed. We use a local contractor with a great deal of experience, he also carries out the treatment on Ashdown Forest. It is like a visit from the man from Del Monte, we all wait till he says "Yes". Because he said yes this week we will now get all the spraying done asap, so expect to see operations taking palce as weather permits next week. Obviously , we can't spray in strong wind or rain. We will be treating areas of Happy Valley and the edges of Denny Bottom as well as various sites at Tunbridge Wells.
We also started cutting of one or two path edges this week. The main work will start towards the end of this month, when we will also be starting to cut and clear our hay-meadow areas.
26th June 2009
A quiet week with no particular problems. it is always nice to report that.
We have been doing a fair bit of grass cutting at Denny Bottom this week and I have been preparing maps for this year bracken control spraying which will take place at the beginning of July. I also did a walk for the Home Educators this week which finished up at Denny Bottom, to the delight of many of the kids, who had never seen the Toad before. It really is a great place for youngish kids who love the thrill of clambering over the rocks and, even more, disappearing into the gullies and tunnels that are simpy too small for their parents to get through.
We will be starting on the cutting back of path edges next week.
19th June 2009
Midsummers Day on Sunday. It sure does whiz round.
It is clearly the week when all the young frogs leave their ponds. There have been countless thousands of them in the grass around our ponds for the last few days, it is just as well that we had the grass cut last week! I imagine that a thumbnail sizes froglet is a tasty snack to all sorts of creatures, which is just as well. If they all survived, we would be in trouble.
I don't know if he was one who is enjoying the banquet, but I saw a tiny Adder near Cabbage Stalk Pond this morning. Adders are becoming quite rare these days so I don't see many. This one was the smallest I have ever seen, only about 6" long but perfectly marked. I imagine that he too is pretty vulnerable at present but it is good to know that they are still present and breeding on the Common.
On a less pleasing note, the bat hibernaculum has been broken into again. The wall blocking the old entrance has had a hole smashed in it. I have no idea why this keeps being done, unless the perpetrators think that there is one of the rumoured tunnels behind it. It isn't of course, just the remains of the old public toilets. I guess i am going to have to put a sign on the entrance telling people that but I don't like having to, it all just makes the Common more urban. The real tragedy is that i had reports the other week of a chap checking the area with a bat detector and getting signs of lots of pre-flight activity. We have repaired it as quickly as possible and are keeping fingers and everything else crossed.
12th June 2009
Thinking back to last summer, I remember that we were very worried about our horse chestnut trees. They were all suffering from a severe attack by leaf mining moths. You certainly wouln't know it from this years trees which all seem to be looking very healthy.
It has been a good year for orchids so far. We have a few sites on the Commons where Common Spotted Orchids can be found, St Paul's Church and Edgcumbe Rocks are amongst the most reliable. In some local sites I have seen more this year than for quite a while.
Those of you living around Denny Bottom will probably be relieved to know that we will be starting grass cutting there this coming week. Finances dictate that I can only do this once or twice a year, so I tend to hang on as long as possible before we cut.
5th June 2009
Our contractors put in a new section of path at Happy Valley this week, completing the section between St Paul's Church and the clearing at the top of the 101 Steps. This was the last of the many projects funded by the Freehold Tenants group in the past year. We also took the opportunity to scrape of the loose stone from the previously constructed section and raised one low spot in the path. Hopefully, this area, which was very muddy during wet periods, will now be a lot pleasanter to access.
We also took down a few dead or dying elm trees near Linden Park cricket ground over on Tunbridge Wells Common this week. As ever, the trees get to the height at which the beetle that spreads Dutch Elm Disease flies and then they get infected and die, leaving behind elm scrub growing up from the roots to complete the cycle again.
29th May 2009
Another cut of the grass completed. That is cut five out of our scheduled twelve cuts already. Hopefully the grass will slow down when this long promised, hot summer arrives.
We have been carrying out a bit of scrub clearance on our heather areas this week. It is amazing how quickly scrub, bracken and bramble invade these sites without grazing animals to control them. I also see that the bracken is returning on some of the first areas that we treated with Asulox. It appears that a treatment lasts about four years, which is quite impressive really. It seems that if used carefully, the chemical control of the bracken does a far more effective job than mechanical control and with less collateral damage.
We have also been carrying out stump grinding on the two new paths connecting Brighton Lake and the Terrace Walk. At the lake itself, we have removed a great deal of willow scrub that was invading the rather attractive reedy area at the north end of the pond and very carefully painted the stumps with an appropriate herbicide.
22nd May 2009
A new cherry tree has now been planted to replace the one snapped last week. Unfortunately, the replacement is quite a bit smaller than the original, not so much in height but definitely in girth. It looks very thin and easy to snap but at least it is in and growing.
We have been doing some work to clear sight lines on junctions this week as well as carrying out spot treatment on bramble re-growth and some japanese knot weed that is re-appearing.
We will be continuing to clear some damaged trees next week that were caused by the recent strong winds. Lets hope that they are now over and we can get on with this long hot summer we have been promised.
Actually, it has been fairly dry in spite of being cold. I notice that the water level in our ponds is droppimg quickly now. This is not a bad thing, it is important for our amphibian populations that the ponds dry out occasionally making them unable to support fish as these prey quite heavily on young newts and tadpoles as wll of course as dragon and damsel fly larvae.
15th May 2009
It has been a mixed week. It started on a down on Sunday when we discovered that one of our new cherry trees in the avenue we planted a few months ago had been vandalised. Rather than a simple break, a deal of effort had been put in by some moron to twist the trunk till it was completely detached. I did not think we would be able to re-plant until the autumn but fortunately, the supplier had a few left at the end of the season and had containerised them. This means that a new tree will be going in next week.
The very strong winds this week brought down a few trees, the most dramatic being a large oak near the Toad Rock. We have cleared up most of them now but I think that the rest of the big oak will need to come down in the next few weeks as it is completely unbalanced now.
We have done a bit of clearance of sight lines on road junctions this week and have also done some spraying of bramble re-growth over near the new steps at Happy Valley. The effects are showing already.
The week ended on a rather sad note as well. I have mentioned in previous weeks that one of the Mallards on Brighton Lake still had nine of her original ten ducklings with her.  Sadly a call came in yesterday to say that the mother had been injured and the ducklings were all over the place right next to the main road.  After a few phone calls, the good people from Folly Wildlife Rescue came out and we caught all the family to take them to safety.  It sounds quite easy when you say it like that but what a performance it was.  We got the mother reasonably quickly, but by heaven those ducklings are fast and very quick learners.  We got them all in the end but it took effort beyond the call of duty from our wet suit clad hero Derek.  The latest news is that the ducklings are all fine and the mother is not as badly hurt as we feared and she should be able to return to Brighton Lake in the near future.  Find out more about the work of Folly Wildlife Rescue at http://www.follywildliferescue.org.uk/.
8th May 2009
Well, here I am again back in South East England.  It's too busy.  If I didn't have such a enjoyable job, I would move, and quite possibly to the Herefordshire/Wye Valley.
Once again, returning back here I am struck by the seemingly complete absence of Swallows and Martins.  There are plenty over in the West.  There can presumbably only be one reason for their absence, and that is a lack of food.  We are all aware of the problems with our Bee population but is it happening to more of our insects?  Deeply worrying if it is.
I returned to a rash of tents all over the Commons and have spent much of this week getting rid of them.  I wonder if the current financial crisis is going to mean an increase in rough sleepers.  It is a difficult problem to tackle, I can't help feeling reat sympathy for some of them, but others cause so many problems with rubbish and aggressive, alcohol or drug fueled behaviour that I am just glad to get rid of them.
24th April 2009
It has been a week of meetings culminating in one of the quarterly meetings of the Conservators yesterday. Since I am off to Wales first thing tomorrow for a week on the River Wye, it was something of an end of term feeling at the conclusion of proceedings.
There will be another cut of the grass next week to get things in shape for the bank holiday weekend. See you all in two weeks.
17th April 2009
Our grass cutting contractor has been having a few staff problems, so we were a week late with our second cut of the grass, which has taken place this week.s According to the contractor, the grass was so thick that it has sheared the bolts on his mower:  Commons 1  Contractor 0.  It didn't look that long to me but what do I know?  If you are from Rusthall and are reading this, he will be back on Monday with a repaired mower to finish off over there.
I counted ten Mallard chicks on Brighton Lake this week; hopefully a good number will reach maturity.  No Greylag Geese this year so far but I keep hoping.  I heard my first Cuckoo this week but no Swallows so far.  I wonder if we will get many this year;  last year there seemed to be almost none, so I will be watching anxiously.
9th April 2009
It has been a quiet week on the work front. I am waiting for our grass cutter to come back from holiday next week to carry on with the mowing and have been arranging for some seed to be put down on the new path we constructed at Happy Valley. We also carried out a little work near Brighton Lake to re-establish the Common boundary with some new marker stones.
Other than that, it has just been a question of enjoying the progress of spring in some wonderful weather. There have been many lovely sights to enjoy but none, to my eyes, as pleasing as seeing  the very first white blossoms appearing on our recently planted avenue of Great White Cherries. It may only be a few at present but I cannot tell you what a relief it is to find that they are actually alive and growing after all the work and money that went into the project.
3rd April 2009
The landscape seems to be getting a little greener every day, the Horse Chestnuts on Church Rd are just breaking into leaf and the volume of birdsong is increasing rapidly.
However, there is always a flip side and it is the start of the Easter school break today, traditionally the time when the problems of littering and vandalism increase.
It is also the time of year when I start to do guided walks.  I had the local Home Educators and their children out this week, it was rather nice actually.  Next week I am taking a local group for a tour and I have quite a few others over the nexr few weeks. There are worse ways tio earn a living!
27th March 2009
Work on the big clearance is finally coming to an end. We had three stump grinding machines working up there this week including a big tractor mounted unit to cope with the windblown stumps. The final clear up will take place next week with a big 13 tonne digger which will rip out all the last bits of root and level the whole area ready to let the grass grow. It will also stack all the big rootballs that we pulled out in a sunny corner to create a hibernaculum for reptiles and amphibians.
Don't forget to change your clocks this weekend. It will be light till 7.30 next week. Lovely!
20th March 2009
It is very definitely a change of season on the Commons now as our first cut of the grass takes place. This is the first time for a number of years that it has been possible to cut this early. It makes a big difference to the appearance of the grass areas when you do not leave a great mass of cut grass behind as happens when it is too wet to cut until the middle of April.
The warm sunshine of the past week has worked its magic on the spawn in Fir Tree Pond. A large part of the pond is now quivering as the tadpoles start to quicken and escape the spawn. The newts are now moving in to the ponds to prepare for their spawning and can be spotted in the clear water if you creep up to the edge of the ponds without scaring them and keep still. Lots of butterflies appearing this week also. I have seen quite a few newly emerged Brimstones and Orange Tips as well as a few overwintered Tortoiseshells
13th March 2009
Stump grinding has continued all week on the big clearance near London Rd and the end is in sight. The cut timber was cleared off site this week and the crane that lifted it out is now uprooting the windblown stumps that are a bit too big to grind. These and the few very rotten trunks that are left behind will be stacked in a sunny corner of the site to form a hibernaculum for lizards and snakes. The old rootballs provide all sorts of nooks and crannies for these animals to hide up in as well as providing a home and feeding site for many invertebrates.
We have made a bit of a mess of the path whilst removing the timber but fortunately, we seem to have a spell of warm dry weather on the way, so I should be able to sort this out fairly quickly.
3rd March 2009
We have made a good start on grinding out the stumps on the recent big clearance.  With a little luck and some reasonably dry weather, we should be able to move all the cut timber off site in the next week or so.  We have a little bit of stump clearance needed to finish the two new paths leading to Brighton Lake as well, and that should be undertaken in the coming week.
In spite of the frosts this week, Spring is continuing apace. As well as there being masses of pollen coming off the Hazels and Yews, I noticed quite a lot of Dogs Mercury appearing in woodland this week and the first leaves on the Elders.  Our frogs have finished their spawning in Fir Tree Pond.  I walked past last Saturday morning and there was not a frog to be seen, just a vast mass of spawn left behind.  I imagine that the frost will have destroyed the top layer of eggs this week but that may not be a bad thing.  There is so much spawn in there that if they all became frogs we would be knee deep in the things by midsummer.
27th February 2009
The lovely weather of the past week has enabled us to complete all of our cutting on the new clearance and the path widening.  Not before time, as I think the start of nesting is upon us.
We have also installed further new steps over at Happy Valley right down to the Sweeps Cave and have leveled a new path down the slope to connect the cave with the bottom of the 101 Steps. As ever, it's all a bit raw at present but should start to green up quickly.
I hope to start on the stump grinding on the big new clearance near Edgcumbe Rd next week. That will enable us to start using the collector flail on it this year to bring the whole area under control.
The Friends of the Common have just revamped and re-launched their web site this week. I must admit, it looks great and is well worth a visit at http://www.friendsofthecommons.co.uk/, Please note that the address has changed slightly. The editor took some superb photos of the frogs in Fir Tree Pond this week, one of which is on the left.  There are several more on the Friends website. Not to be missed.
20th February 2009
We are approaching the end of the first phase of our big clearance. We probably should have
completed all of our cutting by the end of next week. It looks a bit bare at the moment, having cut down the line of remaining hollies to about six foot, so that it will sprout from the base over the next couple of years and provide good protection against road noise. However, in spite of this, it is nice to see some pleasing views of the rooftops of Tunbridge Wells appearing.
I mentioned last week that I was hoping to soon see the frogs back in our ponds. I was delighted therefore to be listening to a froggy chorus this morning in Fir Tree Pond, well in gaps in the road noise anyway. They are only a week later than recent years in spite of all the cold weather we have had. Welcome to Spring. 
This picture was taken on 21 February 2007 - we will try to get you one of this year's frogs for next week.

Page last updated: 13/01/2010