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25th December 2010
 
Happy Christmas everybody. 
 
There is little to report from a still snowbound Common. We are going to have some catching up to do once the weather starts to ease. 
 
In the meantime, I hope you have all had as enjoyable a day as I have. As I retire with Australia on 46 for 3, it is difficult to see how it could have been better!

17th December 2010
 
 
As I am writing this, I am looking out of the office window at a completely blank view. The snow is coming down so heavily that I cannot see the car park!  As you might guess, it is quite difficult to do  much on the Common in these conditions except enjoy the beauty of it. It seems unlikely that there is going to be much progress on our new path at Rusthall and i doubt very much that it will be finished by the Christmas break as i had hoped.

10th December 2010
 
AS you can imagine, the snow and ice are still making it difficult to get on with much work but we have a few things happening.
 
The edge of the Common is being badly eroded by vehicles opposite the Toad Rock; we will be putting in some posts at the edge of the road to stop this going any further. Also at Rusthall, we will  be installing a new bench at Sunnyside Rd and a new bin along the Tarry Path, mainly to give dog walkers somewhere to put their bags after they have picked up. I hope very much that we will also be starting on the new path I mentioned last week. Unless there is more snow, that should be starting on thursday. If we get a melt, I will finally be able to retrieve the collection of trolleys and cones that are sitting on the ice on Brighton Lake!
 
I am seeing quite a lot of redwings and fieldfares on the Commons at the moment, they have arrived from the continent seeking warmer climes. I had a lovely view of our resident roe deer pair this morning, grazing between the snow patches; if only I had been carrying my camera.

5th December 2010
 
The weather has stopped us doing almost anything this week, including getting into Tunbridge Wells for most of he time. Hopefully though, things will improve for the coming days. If they do, we will be starting on cutting a new path on Rusthall Common from the Bumps through to the Tarry Path. Nice work at this time of year.




26th November 2010
 
We have managed to complete the harvesting of heather from Ashdown Forest.  The big flail tractor has proved to be the ideal machine for harvesting, especially with its ability to raise the hopper and tip directly onto a 7.5 tonne truck.  The resultant crop has now been spread onto the big clearance near the Cherry Tree Avenue and we had enough left over to seed a few other spots, including the clearance carried out by the volunteers a couple of weeks ago.  The cold snap has been a boon, allowing us to get machinery on site to distribute the seed without damaging the ground.

19th November 2010
 
It has been a week of meetings for me but the contractors have been busy.   All of the timber cut by the volunteers a couple of weeks ago has been chipped, the stumps taken down to ground level and the bramble cleared with the flail.  This has transformed the area, leaving it looking great.
 
We have cut the last areas at Happy Valley and finished up a few other bits and pieces at Rusthall. The area where the new clearance was carried out last year near the Cheesewring Rock is looking particularly good.
 
We are still having problems getting a suitable machine in to clear weed from Brighton Lake, so we have been having a go by hand this week.  It has made a surprising difference and may prove to be the way we do this in future; I have always been slightly worried about a machine doing damage to the clay lining.  To be honest, this is largely a cosmetic excercise.  People seem to worry that too much weed is bad for the fish and waterfowl but in fact they love it: weed contains lots of food and produces loads of oxygen.  From my perspective, the only bad thing about the weed is that it traps litter on the surface, making the pond look rather scruffy at times.  I guess it also is helpful to the children who fish there occasionally.  Strictly speaking they should not be fishing there but I would much rather they were doing that rather than some of the other things they could be getting up to!
 
12th Nov 2010
 

The weather has made it very difficult to do much this week, although the volunteers had a good morning last Saturday.  They cleared scrub and saplings to extend the new glade they cut last year below the Victoia Grove.  Hopefully, my contractor will be in on Monday to chip the cut timber and cut the stumps right down.  I am also hoping that the weather will allow us to collect the heather seed from Ashdown and we may have enough left over from the big clearance to sow this area as well.
 
As far as I can see, we got off fairly lightly with the winds this week.  There has been a lot of minor debris but little in the way of major limbs or fallen trees. I still have not had time to check everywhere though, so if you know of something blocking a path, contact us and I will try and get it quickly cleared.

5th November 2010
 
It is a typical grey damp day for Bonfire Night, although it looks as though it might be ok for this evening. I expect there will be a few illicit firework parties on the Common tonight but at least the dampness should stop the whole thing going up in flames!
 
It looks as though we might finally be reaching a conclusion to the problems we have had all year at Happy Valley, with a leak of contaminated water. The leak was stopped some time ago but at last the arguments amongst the insurance companies are over and the re-lining of the sewer can take place. As soon as that is done, I will remove the fencing around the site and we can get on with cutting in the area.
 
I have managed to secure a bit of extra funding which will, I hope, allow us to go ahead with harvesting heather seed from Ashdown Forest as was planned last year but had to be abandonded because of extreme weather. Hopefully, we will get enough to over-seed areas of the big clearance between London Rd and Castle Rd.
 
I am pleased to see that the grass seed we put onto the big clearance that Highways carried out opposite Vale Rd seems to be taking well. It should look good for next spring.

2 November 2010
 

Sorry for the delay in posting this; we had our usual problems with getting online last Friday and I was on leave yesterday.
 
The autumn colour is reaching it's climax now and is absolutely spectacular on a sunny day.  It cannot last much longer and, with strong winds forecast, you should make the most of this week.  It is nice to see the trees in the new Cherry Avenue at Edgcumbe Rd starting to give hints of the colour we can look forward to as the avenue matures.
 
Looking ahead to next spring, the Rotary Club have just planted over a thousand crocus bulbs on either side of Tea Garden Lane at it's junction with the A264. This is to mark the excellent work the organisation has been doing to fund third world polio vaccinations (apparently when a child is vaccinated, it's finger is marked with purple dye - the same colour that the flowers will be next spring).

22nd October 2010
 
We have had a productive week.
 
The cutting and clearing of the big slope between Gibraltar Cottage and St Helena has now been completed, although with a few unpleasant encounters with wasp nests for the contractors doing the work!  We have also collected the cut heather from Cinder Hill and introduced it onto the new glade below Victoria Grove that was cleared by the volunteers last year. We have weeded, graded and sown grass seed onto the area opposite Vale Rd where Highways skimmed the bank and the area outside the Spa at the end of Bishop's Down Rd.  We also seeded the top of the cleared bank opposite Union House, which we first levelled and graded to help with future maintenance.  Whilst we had the machine in to do that, we also managed to clean out the drainage ditches with it as well as clearing soil from the path on the Lower Cricket Pitch to help it drain after heavy rain. The volunteers also had their first outing of the year last weekend and we carried out our usual first task of clearing scrub and gorse re-growth from the Wellington Rocks. Ouch!
 
We should be over at Happy Valley next week completing the path clearance if all goes as planned. It will be good to have it all finished.
 
 
15th October 2010
 
I am back from a break in the Wye Valley last week; the weather was a bit grim at times but we enjoyed ourselves.
 
We have been clearing the big slope between Mt Ephraim and the coach park on London Rd this week. We have pushed everything back a little further and it was nice to see he rock outcrops re-appearing. There was definitely less to remove this time which pleased the chaps doing the work as you can imagine.
 
The clearance of paths etc has almost been completed now, with only really the Happy Valley area to do. Hopefully, that will be finished next week.
 
We will be collecting cut heather from Cinder Hill Reserve in Matfield next week and bringing it back to spread on selected areas. This is an ongoing co-operation with the Kent High Weald Unit who manage Cinder Hill, that has enabled us to recreate several heather areas across our Commons over the years.
 
The volunteers are out for the first time this season tomorrow. We will be carrying out our usual first task of clearing encroaching gorse and scrub around the Wellington Rocks as well as removing small oak saplings from the nearby acid grassland.
 
 
24th September 2010
 
The change to damper, cooler weather in the past week or so certainly has produced a fine fungus crop.  There are huge numbers of small puffballs showing as well as a lot of Fly agaric; the classic  red and white mushroom.  Fly agaric is very much associated with Birch, so I guess it is not suprising that there is a lot of it on the Commons.
 
As I was walking the Common yesterday, I heard a mewing sound that made me look up and there were three Buzzards soaring above me.  I have seen quite a number of these splendid birds in the last couple of years - they are clearly starting to re-colonise our area.  Also, whilst walking in nearby Broadwater woods during the week, my attention was caught by what I thought at first were a pair of Flycatchers, but when I got closer I discovered that they were Red Backed Shrike; it would be lovely if they started to appear on the Commons.
 
 
17th September 2010
 
We are nearly finished with the path cutting on Tunbridge Wells Common, which is now looking a
lot smarter. The contractor carrying out the work is away next week but the week after we should be moving to Rusthall. Once that is done, it will be back to Tunbridge Wells to clear the big bank between the coach park on London Rd and Mt Ephraim.
 
We have done a bit of crown lifting at the bottom of Castle Rd to help the view for the CCTV cameras this week but the problems in the area remain. This is a bad road for cars being broken into; the situation had improved but it seems to be building up again at the moment. Maybe it is worth paying for the car park?
 
Hospice in the Weald are holding their 10K this weekend, starting from the Lower Cricket Pitch. Good luck and well done to all of you taking part, it seems you should have nice weather.

10th September 2010
 
With everything turning green again after our much needed rain, the Commons are looking very nice. The small flail is still working its way round and will be finished on Tunbridge Wells Common fairly soon and will then move over to Rusthall. I must say, the bank opposite Union House looks so much better now that we have cleared the re-growth from it. I hope to have a machine in at the end of the month to clear a few ditches, and whilst he is here, I will get hime to grade the top of the bank to make access for the flail easier for future maintenance.
 
Julia is on holiday at the moment, so I am afraid we are pictureless again. She is in Stockholm, where the weather looks fairly miserable at the moment!

3rd September 2010
 
A beautiful week to mark the end of the school holidays, it always seems to be the way.
 
We are continuing with the cutting of the paths and tidying up after the big machine; getting in to all the areas it is too big to access. We are also carrying out scrub control on some of the areas cleared last winter, such as the bank opposite Union House. We will be cutting the hedge at the bottle bank in Rusthall in the next week or so.
 
It is nice to have the splashes of colour on the Common as the heather flowers but for a real display, Ashdown Forest is the place to go. It looks particularly amazing in the evening as the level rays of the sun hits it.

27th August 2010
 
Sorry there was no report last week; we were again plagued by internet problems.
 
We have now pretty much completed the cutting of the long grass areas. It has been much easier this time, with far less yield to be removed from most sites. The operation has run fairly smoothly, with one exception. As the driver was trying to be helpful by cutting inbetween the row of trees in the new Cherry avenue, the tractor slid on the bank and he completely demolished one of the trees! The nursery is keeping a look out for a similar sized Great White Cherry to replace it with but of course that will not be available until November.
 
The small tractor will be back next week to continuje with the paths and to tidy up where the big machine cannot reach. We will also be cutting the amenity grass although it hardly needs it in spite of being uncut for five weeks. Surely the current rain will get things growing again.

13th August 2010
 
 

It has been a fairly quiet week; everybody sems to be on holiday (except road repair gangs). We have continued with our bench restorations and a few bits of scrub clearance.
Everything should swing back into full action next week though, with the small tractor back flailing the minor paths and the big machine arriving to start on the hay-meadow clearances. By the end of August there should be a big difference to both Commons.

6th August 2010
 
We are getting on well with the path clearance and will be continuing after a weeks break as my contractor goes on holiday. The week he comes back, the big flail s due to arrive and start cutting our hay meaow areas; progress will be swift then.
 
The bracken treatment for this year has been carried out, although as ever, the results will not be seen until next year. The restoration of benches is almost complete and I hope to have some restored bins available soon. That will enable us to site a few more at strategic sites, such as the Tarry Path on Rusthall Common.
 
I see that some of the Horse Chestnuts on the Common are again suffering from moth infestation; I imagine many of our trees, especially the shallow rooted ones such as Beech are suffering in the very dry conditions. Of course they suffer far more on sites like the Commons which are so sandy and free draining.

30th July 2010
 
The first week of the school holidays has passed without too many problems. The level of littering has risen slightly but, to be honest, it is at such high levels anyway it doesn't make a lot of difference.  The Lower Cricket Pitch and the Forum are covered in bottles, cans and fast food wrappings every morning already!  John, our litter picker, has an unending and thankless task - we are lucky to have him.
 
This year's bench restoration programme is underway; we are seeing if any of the damaged seat timbers can be turned over to try and eke some more life out of them.  The clearance of paths is now underway, although the contractor is not enjoying it at the moment as he is spending all day in a cloud of dust, it is so dry on the Common with our sandy soils.  The ponds have virtually all dried out now except for Brighton Lake. As I have mentioned before, though, this is probably good news for our amphibians: there will be fewer fish to eat their young next spring.

23rd July 2010
 
The amentity grass was cut this week, that brings us to the halfway point in our scheduled number of cuts for the season. It really was just a neatening job this time, basically just removing seed heads. The ground is so dry that the grass has almost come to a halt, so we should have enough cuts to carry on well into autumn.
 
We started on the cutting of the paths with the small flail tractor this week. This work will continue for the next month and you may also see some areas of bracken being sprayed with Asulox to control it. Weather permitting, we will start on bench renovations next week.
 
We seem to be getting somewhere with the leak of contaminated water at Happy Valley; contracators are close to removing the blocked/damaged section of pipe, after which normal service will be resumed. No doubt this will be quite a relief to the affected residents; our leak may not be as serious as the one in the Gulf of Mexico but we will be pleased to have it resolved!

16th July 2010
 
 
It has been a very strange week for the middle of July; you are never quite sure what month you are going to wake up in. As well as the sudden drop in temperature, the strength of the wind has been positively autumnal. I had feared that there would have been quite a lot of damage to trees but as yet, I have only found minor problems. The weather has affected our plans for the week, we were planning to get on with bench renovations this week but that is obviously fine weather work. Hopefully things will improve and we will be able to start next week.
 
It seems I gave false hope last week about the road works. The latest from the engineer in charge is that they will be finished by the end of next week, just in time for the re-surfacing of the A26 to start!

9th July 2010
 
Sorry there was no update last week, we are being plagued with connection problems again.

The question of the week has remained the same during the whole period but it looks like we are reaching the end and the traffic should be back to normal after next week. The trouble is that normal in South East England is still pretty awful.

We finally seem to be making some progress with the epic of the sewage leak at Happy Valley. We think we have located the problem at least, we just need to find a way to resolve it now!
 
We will be starting the cut of our paths next week and the flail tractor will be about off and on over the next few weeks. We will also be starting on this years seat restoration work, so apologies for any inconvenience and look out for wet paint signs, especially around the cricket pitch.

25th June 2010
 
Well the big question this week is, how long will the roadworks last?
 

Highways are carrying out improvements to the very dangerous crossing where Vale Rd meets London Rd. Anyone who has ever tried to cross the road here will appreciate the need for this to be done. The crossing point is to be moved a few yards to the right, a pedestrian refuge will be built in the road and the earh bank to the right of the crossing is being skimmed to improve visibility. It is this last operation that is causing the traffic chaos. Hopefully, once that is done, things will get a little easier. The engineers tell me that the work is due to last four weeks!

The reason that they are doing it now rather than waiting till the school holidays is that the whole of London Rd is due to be re-surfaced then. Happy days!

June 18th 2010
 
I was delighted to get some valuable assistance from the owners of the Common this week. Targetfollow, who also own the Pantiles, sent up one of their operatives to Wellington Rocks with some specialised equipment to clear the worst of the litter from the deep gullies between the rocks. It is very difficult to remove this rubbish normally and it can build up appallingly. We also seem to be getting much more help from the Police and other agencies to limit the parties and fires on the rocks on weekend nights which is actually where most of the glass and litter come from. I don't suppose we will ever be able to keep it to the standard we would like but anything that limits the damage is very welcome. As ever, the best defence against these problems is a nice cold, wet night!

It is proving to be a good year for Orchids. We have quite  few sites showing this year with Common Spotted Orchids (see left) and on other sites that I know, the numbers are similarly high.

June 11th 2010
 
We are moving into summer now and a lot of young birds are fledging and will soon be on the wing. I have been keeping an eye on a nuthatch nest for the last couple of weeks and they seem to have finally left the nest. It is probably just as well since the adults have been working so hard feeding them that I doubt they could have kept up the pace for much longer.
 
Although many birds are still nesting, I am having to organise a certain amount of tree cutting at present. I seem to have a number of dead and dying trees adjacent to roads that I have to make safe. Most of these are alongside Castle Rd where I have a few dead sycamores to pollard but there is also a willow opposite the Royal Wells that requires attention. We will also be starting on some sight lines next week and it will not be long before we have to start flail mowing; I am just drawing up maps for the hedging flail. Now I think about it, there are only ten days to go before Midsummers Day, where does the time go!

June 4th 2010
 
Julia and I had an interesting day out this week when we visited Stelling Minnis near Canterbury. Stelling Minnis (Minnis means Common) is another old Manorial Common the same as us. The reason for the visit, apart from the fact that it is a very pleasant place, is that they introduced grazing animals back onto their Common about four years ago. We were kindly given a tour by the Managers of the Minnis and it was very easy to see the beneficial effect of these animals in the grazed areas. Srub and coarse vegetation had been pushed back, giving a far greater floristic diversity and it was striking how views had improved simply because the browsing of the animals had lifted the canopy of the trees.
 
We have been talking for some time about the possibility of re-introducing grazing on our Commons in a limited way; the visit certainly gave food for thought.

28th May 2010
 
Well, I had a very nice break and returned to a relatively quiet and peaceful Common. The grass seed on the big clearance and Edgcumbe Rocks has come on whilst I was away and no doubt the sprinkling of rain this week will help further.
 
We have been spot treating bramble on a number of cleared areas this week, as well as treating a couple of patches of Japanese Knotweed. We seem to be lucky on the Commons; I hear terrible stories of the lengths people have to go to in order to control Knotweed but we seem to be able to kill it with a couple of hits of glyphosate. Perhaps it's because of  the sandy, nutrient poor soils of the Common; it can't be an easy place for such a gross feeder to flourish.

14th May 2010
 
Even though I say it myself, the Commons are looking beautiful at the moment. Actually, everywhere is looking beautiful at the moment, it realy is the peak of spring. I heard and saw my first swifts of the year yesterday; the swallows and martins have been around for a few weeks. I have been worried about numbers of them for the past few years but there seem to be more this year which is very pleasing. I also haven't seen this number of hawthorn flies about for years, they are very noticable with their long trailing legs, I am sure the birds ae enjoying them.

I am off to enjoy a week on the River Wye so there will be no report next week. It looks as though I might have timed it right for once; the weather forcast is definitely improving.

7th May 2010
 
It is a bit scary that we have now completed our third cut of the grass. That means that we are already a quarter of the way through our twelve scheduled cuts for the year and it is only the first week in May! Never mind, I seem to remember thinking this most years. It will almost certainly slow right down in July and August as the ground dries out.
 
I have been recieving a few comments, all at third hand, about Brighton Lake and problems with the ducks not being able to get on the water. I even had a Councillor on the phone to me because he had recieved a number of complaints. I am utterly baffled. I keep going down to check and every time it is the same result; four mallard drakes and two hens with seven chicks between them and a pair of moorhens with a family of six. They all seem perfectly happy swiiming about in the water.
If you are one of the people worried about them, please give me a call and explain your concerns , perhaps I am missing something.

30th April 2010
 
The new practise nets at the cricket ground on Tunbridge Wells Common have now been finished and are looking very posh as well as, it has to be said, very large. I am glad we didn't agree to the proposal to put them in the other corner of the ground. They really are a magnificent facility for the club.

On Rusthall Cricket Pitch, a similarly vital addition has just been completed. This time it was the rather more prosaic but equally welcome insallation of a new cess pit and toilets!
 
I have been watching our big cleared areas closely for the past few weeks, waiting for the first signs of the grass seed we broadcast germinating. Finally, last nights welcome rain seems to have done the trick and a faint green haze is appearing across the large area and a definite flush at Edgcumbe Rocks. Even though you know it will happen, it is still a relief to see it!

23rd April 2010

First of all; Happy St Georges Day! Secondly, sorry there was no entry last week, we had no internet connection for a few days; very irritating.

Our second cut of the year took place this week on the amenity grass areas. Because of the weather, we were able to get the cylinder cutters onto the ground for this cut, so it looks much better.

Spring is moving with maximum urgency now it seems. All the major trees are coming into leaf and the volume of birdsong is increasing daily. There is one woodpecker in particular who has found a really good bit of deadwood just below the Victoria Grove. His drumming can be heard across a large part of the Commons. I have had a few people telling me that it is going to be a very hot summer; "equal to 1976" is the phrase that was used, However, I can't help noticing that the Ash trees are breaking before the Oaks, which if the old rhyme is correct means a soak. It will be interesting to see what is more accurate; high tech computer driven forcasting or old wives tales. My money is probably with the latter.

9th April 2010
 
With the weather relenting, we have been able to finish all those jobs that have been hanging around for a while. We have finally completed the chipping of the scrub and holly from the edge of the racecourse and Hungershall Park. The poor contractor who was carrying out this work had so many problems with machinery; it is just as well I had agreed a price rather than a day rate!
The first cut of our amenity grass has been completed. It seemed to consist largely of bulldozing mole hills, especially around Brighton Lake. Hopefully, we can now carry out the rest of the cuts with cylinder mowers which give a much neater finish.
 
Pretty much our last clearance work was to clear some of the scrub next to the path that runs behind the cricket pavilion on Tunbridge Wells Common. This has created a nice glade and revealed a very nice oak that was previously screened by holly scrub. Many of you will have been aware of the work going on to build new practice nets at the club; we have done a deal with the contractor to spread and grade the soil he needs to remove from the cricket pitch into this area to level out a few hollows and make mowing the area easier for the future. It is nice when something works to everyones advantage.

!st April 2010
 
What a strange week it has been weather wise. One minute spring, the next winter. We were hoping to carry out our first cut of the  amenity grass this week but it has been far too wet. The same with the last bit off chipping by the racecourse at Hungershall Pk. It seems silly to damage the ground by putting large machines on it when it will probably be dry in a weeks time.

Spring is still springing though. The spawn at Fir Tree Pond  has hatched and there are thousands of tiny tadpoles in there, the chestnuts on Church Rd are breaking into leaf and most astoundingly, I was watching a pair of housemartins yesterday (March 31!) feeding over a local lake. There must have been a hatch of midge in the deep water, they were hawking across the waves for about half an hour. I know it is April 1st but I really did see them!

Enjoy your Easter break.

26th March 2010

It is lovely to see the first leaves emerging. I noticed today that the leaves are about to break on the cherries planted in the new avenue last year. It won't be long before the two big chestnuts on Church Rd open; they are usually the first of the major trees to break.
 
We still have some bits and pieces to finish up. Mostly bits of chipping by the side of the racecourse and Hungershall Pk Rd. As soon as that is done, we will be looking to start cutting our amenity grass areas.
 
The problem that I mentioned last week with the pollution at Happy Valley is still ongoing. The experts seem to be as baffled as I am at present. The only explanation would seem to be a collapsed or overflowing cess pit somewhere nearby,but where? We can try putting disclosing dyes into local residents systems but that could take a long time to seep through and reveal itself. In the meantime, we have put a fence around the affected area, please try and keep dogs and children out of there if you are visiting the site.

19th March 2010
 
The weather has been very kind to us this week. We have been able to get the machines onto the big clearance site and have finished the scraping and landscaping of the area. The power harrow has removed the small roots and prepared the ground for sowing and the area is looking good. There are just a few small stumps to be ground out that got missed on the first sweep and then as soon as the soil warms a little more, we can spread the grass seed.
 
We have also been able to sort out the drainage of the path that runs from Rusthall Elms to the High Street. The ditch has been re-dug and we have put in culverts at the path crossing points. Hopefully this will make life a little pleasanter for walkers in the area.
 
Sadly, we have an unpleasant problem that has arisen at the site of the recently cleared rocks at  Happy Valley. Polluted water has started to bubble out of the ground; it has a very clear smell of sewage. I can only think that either there is a problem with a sewer line or someones septic tank is overflowing. Southern Water and the EA are currently investigating.

12 March 2010
 
The stump grinding on the big clearance is now complete and we are waiting for the machines to come in to finish the scraping and prepare the ground for sowing. This will be done with a special grass mix for sandy soils to which we will add a small amount of wild flower seed. It is still too cold to seed at present but the promise of warmer weather is starting to come from the Met Office.
 
We are carrying out a few last bits of housekeeping; cleaning out some ditches, taking down a few damaged trees and scrub and widening a few of our footpaths etc and the holly that was cut alongside the racecourse is being chipped as I write.
 
Apart from the various bits  of seeding, all that remains is some clearance of scrub and overhanging trees adjacent to Hungershall Park that will be carried out next week and we will be ready for spring and can start organising the grass cutting!

5th March 2010
 
We have finished the cutting at the big clearance site near London Rd and the timber has been removed. Hopefully the stump grinding will be finished next week and we can then get on with preparing for seeding.

We will also be seeding the newly cleared areas at Edgcumbe Rocks and Gibraltar Cottage. We still have not chipped the holly at the side of the Racecourse but that too will be done soon.
 
Any hope of the frogs staying in the Fir Tree pond was dashed by the frosty night time temperatures, the ponds have been frozen most mornings this week; no doubt they will return soon. I have seen a couple of Brimstone butterfies on the wing this week though and the level of birdsong is increasing every day.

26th February 2010
 
The cutting at the side of the Racecourse has all been done and the big chipper will be in next week to dispose  of the cut holly that is currently stacked at the sides of the track. I think the desired result has been achieved and we should see some growth on this area during the summer. Hopefully this section of the Racecourse will be much pleasanter to use next winter.

Good news this morning. As I approached Fir Tree Pond I saw a few little splashes and after standing quietly watching for a few minutes, I can confirm that the frogs are back. Only half a dozen or so this morning but if the weather stays at all mild there should be a pond full by next week. They are about a fortnight later than some years but it is a sure sign that spring is arriving at last.

22 February 2010

Sorry about the late posting this time, we had internet access problems last week.
 
We finished the cutting on the big clearance last week and are now waiting for some dry weather (!) so that we can get on with the stump grinding and picking up the cut timber from various sites accross the Commons.
 
We also started clearance on the Racecourse last week. Those of you using the Common at the weekend will have noticed the cut holly stacked at the side of the track adjacent to Hungershall Park. We are removing the holly in this area to try and get some light onto the Racecourse to allow the grass to grow. This section of the Racecourse has always laid wet and the falling leaves turn to soil making the track very muddy and slippery. I hope that by getting some light in and encouraging grass on the track, we should be able to improve matters.

12th February 2010
 
Things have calmed down a little, basically because I have spent most of the available funds in the past few weeks!
 
We have continued with the big clearance on Tunbridge Wells Common, most of the cutting has been done now, just a little extra clearance remains. We will then be able to bring in the timber grab and remove the cut poles from this site as well as at the clearance opposite Union House. When that is done we can start the stump grinding on both sites and when that has been completed, we can start to prepare for seeding. We should also be grinding the stumps on the new glade below the Victoria Grove in the next week or two. Stump grinding is not cheap but it allows us to maintain these areas easily with a flail cutter and should pay for itself within five years or so; it also enables us to produce a much better finish than is possible by strimming.
 
I hope many of you will have been up to the Common today to take part in the mini sponsored walk to raise money for Haiti. Get out of the office, go and get some oxygen into your lungs and do both yourself and the people of Haiti some good.
 
 
5th February 2010
 
Another very busy week. The clearance at London Rd has continued and we also had a machine in there scraping the last of the topsoil off. The driver also straightened out the mess left by Highways last year. The site is gradually taking shape but we need some dry weather before we can prepare it for seeding.
 
The main event of the week however, has been the clearance at Edgcumbe Rocks. I had been looking forward to exposing more of the rock outcrop there but there was a huge buddleia there that I wanted to keep. When I was checking over the site with the contractor prior to his starting however, we discovered that someone had made the decision for us. During the winter, someone had taken a saw to the buddleia and all the other saplings in the area and felled the lot. They had then gone round all the remaining trees, trying to cut the ivy off them but doing it so carelessly that they had quite significnt damage. Why; who knows. The irony is of course that these rather scrubby trees were much more valuable to wildlife with the ivy in place. 
Anyway, that made the decision for us and since we still had the machine on hire, we turned it loose in there, with dramatic results:
 


Finally, we took the machine over to Happy Valley where we have recently carried out major clearance of rocks and we were able to get rid of the large windblown stumps in the area.
It was well worth the three days hire!

29th January

It has been a bit of a whirl of a week.  The Freehold Tenants group very kindly offered to fund some more projects at last week's Conservators' meeting, so I have been busy spending their money.
We are continuing the clearance work that was started last year between London Road and Church Road.  This time we are removing limited amounts of holly between the clearance and the path that runs alongside Castle Road.
 

We have also started another section of clearance to expose more of the rock outcrops up at Mt
Ephraim, this time on either side of the drive to Gibralter Cottage (above).  There are a few small scrubby trees to come down but the great majority of the clearance is of bramble.  As ever, it will look pretty raw at first but you only have to look at the area we cleared last year to see how quickly it greens up.

Once again, it will be a race against time to get this all done before the birds start nesting.  It may not feel like it today but things are on the move.  I found a little patch of snowdrops today almost about to flower and the great tits are calling frantically; there was even a woodpecker drumming yeaterday!

22nd January 2010
 
We have finished the scrub clearance on the bank between the Pantiles roundabout and the Sainsburys roundabout. There are still the major trees to reduce but already I think there has been a positive effect. I now wanr to get the stumps ground out so that the area can be easily maintained with a flail tractor. The large trees are to be reduced in size, with particular emphasis on the branches stretching over the road. We will need to have traffic control in place whilst this is carried out so I am afraid there will be some disruption. We will do our best to keep it to a minimum.
 
At yesterdays Conservators meeting, the Freehold Tenants made another very generous offer to fund more clearance on the Common which we accepted with gratitude. We are all keen to get on with this and as time is probably fairly short before the birds start nesting, we have made a start today! We are back at the big clearance site from last year between London Rd and Castle Rd. More holly will be removed between the existing clearance and the path running alongside Castle Rd to open views and stop any more drinking dens appearing. It will involve much less felling than last year and we have the opportunity to create little copses based around any worthwhile specimens. We will also be starting clearance of bramble and scrub at Edgcumbe Rock to expose more of the outcrop and I hope this will also be underway in the next week.

15th January 2010

I hardly need to mention the weather any more, every week seems to be a difficult week at present.
In spite of this, our heroic contractors have struggled in most of the time and progress has definitely been made.

On Rusthall Common, we have pretty much reached the end of the clearance work on the main site. We have had a review of the situation now that we have a clearer view of the area and have decided that the new flight of steps we were proposing are not required. The clearance has revealed a natural path through the area and so we have decided it would be more sensible to divert the money into tidying the paths approaching the clearance. Nothing major, just a good push back of encroaching vegetation to let some light in.
 
On Tunbridge Wells, any of you using the A26 by the Pantiles will have noticed the bank at the edge of the Common being cleared. We have been clearing all the small stuff first before we start on the larger trees that will need traffic control. Fortunately, we will be able to just use stop/go signs rather than putting traffic lights in place, so the disruption should not be too bad. Although having said that, that road is so busy that we are bound to cause a few hold ups. I will let you all know here when it is going to start.

8th January 2010
 
Greetings all, and a very Happy New Year.  Sorry there has been such a break but obviously the weather has caused a few problems with getting into the office.

I treated myself to a new laptop for Christmas so at least I have been able to get on with reports for the forthcoming Conservators meeting.  I must arrange to be able to get onto this site from home as well.

The Common, like everywhere at the moment, looks wonderful but it is causing a few frustrations.  We managed to start again on our big clearance project at Happy Valley, and we were getting on well but this latest snow has once again brought us to a halt.  I am also starting to worry that the site that we were due to seed with heather last year might still be too wet for us to work on it for some time.  My plan was to get the last of the topsoil scraped to the edge of the site in time for the Volunteers to be able to plant some new hawthorn whips to boost up the hedge at  the end of this month.  I expect it will all work out in the end.  At the moment, it is difficult to believe that we are only twelve weeks away from starting the grasscutting again!
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.





Page last updated: 13/06/2012