Tunbridge Wells Commons Conservators Header

23rd December 2011
Well here we are on the other side of the shortest day and looking forward to spring! The weather today feels as if it is not far away but I expect we will have some winter before it arrives.
Our contractors have had a good last week before Christmas, clearing the rocks at Denny Bottom and Happy Valley. Both sites look a lot better and on both, more was accomplished than I could have hoped. Happy Valley looks spectacular with the big escarpment exposed; it makes me wonder if another path on the slope heading towards the Beacon might be possible in the future.
I hope you are all coping with the run up to the festivities and I wish you all Seasons Greetings; have a very happy and peaceful Christmas.
16th December 2011
Once again we seem to have come through the storms fairly lightly. Lots of twigs and small debris with just a few minor trees lost. I am glad that last night's threatened big blow veered away; I think we have had enough for a while.
Work has started at Denny Botom to clear some of the gorse and scrub re-growth from the rock faces on Apsley St. It is tricky and labour intensive stuff but the results are worth it. It is a very attractive area, as well of course, as being a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
We will also be starting work at Happy Valley next week to clear re-growth from the slope between the 101 Steps and the Cheesewring Rock. This will involve the removal of bramble and small hollies and we will also clear around the new path that goes past the Sweeps Cave.

9th December 2011
Yesterday's storm seems to have caused relatively little damage on the Commons. I suppose the fact that we have done a lot of remedial work on potentially dangerous trees over the years has helped. It is certainly nice not to be paying for emergency callouts.
We have finally managed to install steel bollards at Still Green to solve some of the parking issues there. I hope we have not upset the residents too much but this work had to be done for safety reasons and the issue had been rumbling on for years. The finances seem to be coming into place for us to tackle the other big problem in the area at Harmony St in the new year. It will be a great relief to reach a conclusion to both these headaches.

2nd December 2011
We have been getting on with clearing our drainage ditches this week and even had a bit of rain to justify our efforts. We obviously need loads more, but it is a start. We have also cleared a few more old rough sleepers camps that became visible with the leaves off the trees. I have been organising the last of the work to be carried out before Christmas, which will be a clearance some of the rocks at Denny Bottom and clearance of encroaching scrub at Happy Valley. The volunteers will also be out this weekend at Denny Bottom and the material that they cut can be cleared by the contractors next week.
We were contacted by the local Occupy group this week, asking for permission to erect a camp on the Common. We said no for a number of reasons and I was relieved when they came to an arrangement at St Johns Church instead. Apart from all the practical reasons for not wanting a camp on the Common, we are a completely non political organisation and it would of course have been seen as support for their aims if we had said yes.
25th November 2011
It seems that the last of the leaves are finally coming off the trees. It has been a good display in the end this year and I am not sure that I can ever remember them staying on so late; it is December next week and it is now less than four weeks to the shortest day. Once they are down, we can get on with clearing our drainage ditches and make a start on the tree work. In the meantime, I am trying to organise the new grass cutting contract that will come into force next year.
There are still plenty of interesting fungi about at the moment. We always have a good display of fly agaric on the Commons; they are very much associated with birch, so we are an excellent habitat for them. This year seems to have produced a large number of parasol mushrooms as well. Sadly, it has also been a good year for ganaderma, which is a bracket fungus that can produce intensive rot at the base of trees and I suspect that I am going to have to make some difficult decisions over the winter about some major trees, especially, of course, if they are adjacent to roads or footpaths.

18th November 2011
Another week of amazing weather for November, but we really could do with some rain. The ponds on the Common are still almost dry, as they have been all year. I was at Bewl Water recently and it is as low as I can ever remember seeing it. Our only pond with any water in it at the moment is Brighton Lake, which is of course a man made pond. I am currently seeking advice on the future management of this pond, which has become quite silted up over time. We have carried out a lot of work around the pond in the last few years, pushing back encroaching scrub from the area and rebuilding the path and wall at the rear of the pond and it would be nice to get the pond itself looking better whilst still maintaining the wildlife interest..  The picture above was taken this time last year when we were removing pond weed.
11th   November 2011
It is fittingly sombre weather for the date today but we have had some glorious sunshine as well this week which showed off the beautiful autumn colours around at the moment. On Thursday, there seemed to be ladybirds everywhere on the Commons and last weekend, when out with the volunteers, we had a couple of big Southern Hawker dragonflies patrolling the heather patch we were working in.
Tunbridge Wells Common is now finished with regard to path and track clearance and we will be finishing Rusthall next week. There is much less to do there and we have already cut Happy Valley. The new bins are in and we have cut back saplings and scrub by the one at Happy Valley to open up the view there. Now the path clearance is complete, I should have time for some of the other clearances needed and I hope to start at Denny Bottom in the next couple of weeks.

4th November 2011
The damage to the flail tractor that I mentioned last week turned out to be quite serious and it is still being repaired. With luck, however, it should be back next week for an extended visit that will finish the paths on both Commons. Whilst waiting we have been cutting back the edges of a few tarmac paths and removing scrub and damaged trees at various locations.
The volunteers will be out tomorrow, weather permitting, clearing birch scrub from our heather areas prior to partially coppicing them to create different age groups of heather within the stands. Next week we will be installing three new litter bins and three dog bag dispensers kindly funded by the Friends.

28th October 2011
I seem to spend a lot of my time talking about problems that hold us up in our work, and this week is no exception. It was again a mechanical problem with the flail tracror but this one was more dramatic than usual. Whilst flailing the top of the bank adjacent to Hungershall Pk, the tractor hit a stump and ripped open the hydaulic pipes underneath it, leaving it stranded and powerless, hanging five foot above the road. We had to call out a crane to lift it off and it has been taken away to be repaired. It was almost the last thing we had to do on Tunbridge Wells and it stopped us getting over to Rusthall to smarten things up for this weeks bonfire and fireworks.
We are still suffering from the dumping of household waste opposite Molyneux Pk on Tunbridge Wells Common. It is happening two or three times a week and is very annoying as well as being very anti-social. We think we have now identified the culprit however and she will be hearing from us very soon. It is very tempting to name and shame, but I guess I shouldn't.
Enjoy the fireworks and remember to put your clocks back and have an extra hour in bed.

21st October 2011
Rare starfish fungus spotted by a member of the public near the cricket groundMost of last week was taken up with meetings and preparations for last Thursday's quarterly Conservators' Board meeting, so not a lot else happened. Hopefully things will be back in full swing next week. We will be spending some time on re-painting grafitti affected bins and signs as well as continuing with the path clearance and cutting. We are really waiting for the leaves to start to drop so that we can get on with tree works and cleaning out our drainage ditches and culverts. Obviously there is not much point doing that until then.
The picture shows a rare starfish fungus (Clathrus archeri)  found growing near the cricket ground by one of our readers, Luke Fail.

14th October 2011
At this time of year, as the vegetation starts to die back, we start to find old camps that have been previously hidden. This year we have had our usual rash of them to clear up but we also discovered two enormous camps hidden deep in the woodland behind Brighton Lake. They both seem to have been abandoned some time ago but they must have been there a long time to judge from the volume of rubbish there. It took our long sufffering litter contractor two full days with two men to clear it all. Interestingly, when he started the contract I asked him to keep a log of the number of bags of rubbish he removes from the Commons on a daily basis. Excluding the camps or any fly tipping, he removed 153 bags last month; a shameful total. We really are a filthy society and it just seems to get worse all the time. Bring back the deposit on bottles. I seem to remember scouring the woods as a boy to find empty bottles; each one was worth 3d, you could get a Jamboree Bag for that!
The flail has finally moved on to Rusthall Common and they have been cutting at Happy Valley. That means that at last I can install the bench to mark Jenny Blackburn's Chairmanship of the Friends that she relinquished last year. Jenny was very much involved with the clearance of the area near St Paul's Church so it is fitting that it should go there.
7th October 2011
The volunteers cooked last Saturday cleaning off Wellington Rocks, but we didn't have to wait the three weeks for the heatwave to be a memory; it's freezing! I wonder if we are going to get any decent colour on the leaves before they are all blown away?
Apart from routine litter clearance, which never stops, it has been a quiet week on the Commons with mechanical problems affecting the path clearance work. These have now been resolved and the contractor is going to try and catch up over the weekend and then carry on as planned next week.
I seem to be entering the time of year for giving talks to local groups. I am doing two over the next few days, with another three in the next two weeks and have already started to get bookings for next year. It is surprising how many small groups there are in the town looking for speakers.
30th September 2011
At the moment, it is difficult to imagine the clocks going back in three weeks time, but I expect this current heatwave will just be a memory by then. In the meantime, let's all enjoy it. The only downside from the Commons point of view is that good weather normally means lots more litter to clear.
The big bank I mentioned last week has been cleared. We made hay whilst the sun shone and finished it in record time. The volunteers are out for the first meet of the season tomorrow; we will be clearing encroaching scrub and gorse from Wellington Rocks and removing scrub oak and birch from the grassland between the rocks and the Victoria Grove. I suspect we will deserve a pint or two after that. Enjoy the weekend.
23rd September 2011
It was the equinox last Wednesday so I guess we can expect some more autumn gales over the nex few weeks. We have already had some strong winds which have brought a few branches down and some of the damaged trees will be being pollarded over the next few days.
The cutting of the minor paths continues and we should finish Tunbridge Wells next week with a bit of luck and then be ready to start on Rusthall Common. We also hope to take advantage of this period of dry weather to commence the cutting and clearing of the big slope between Mt Ephraim and the coach park on London Rd next week and we should also be cutting the hedge behind the bottle banks at Common View.

16th September 2011
A week of reasonable weather has enabled us to finish cutting almost all of our long grass areas with the collector flail. All that remains is the big bank between Mt Ephraim and London Rd opposite the coach park. This will be cut and cleared in the next few weeks but it is too steep for the tractor and flail. It will have to be cut by hand with strimmers and an Allen Scythe and then raked and cleared manually. It is always a relief to have finished with the big cutter before the weather deteriorates; it is very difficult to get a good finish in wet weather. The small flail will be continuing to work over the next few weeks, cutting the minor paths and tidying up the edges where the collector flail is too big to go..
Although it is only the start of the third week with our new litter contractor, I am very impressed with results so far. He has done a lot of good work in the most popular areas clearing rubbish from deep within the undergrowth, much of which has clearly been there for a long time. Wellington Rocks are cleaner than I have ever known. Lets hope he can keep these standards going and does not burn himself out!

9th September 2011
It has been a productive week with only one day lost to the weather. The big flail continues to work its way across the Commons and having started opposite Thackerays has now crossed Major Yorks and is clearing the big areas there. We should finish Tunbridge Wells Common by the middle of next week and then we will be straight over to Rusthall. The small flail returns next week as well and will be starting on the minor paths. The new litter contract is going well and we are already noticing the difference. We have also done some more clearance of scrub and bramble from the rock face at Edgcumbe, which is now looking very good.
We lost a couple of large birches in the winds this week and thank you to those who 'phoned and e-mailed information about them. We were able to get them cleared quickly so hopefully not too many people on their way to the station were inconvenienced.

2nd September 2011
Here we are two days into autumn and we have had the two hottest days for weeks!  Good news for the flails though and they have both been in and started clearing the long grass areas and minor paths. Let's hope we get some more of this weather over the next few weeks, although it looks like thunderstorms on Sunday.
September also saw the start of a new litter clearance contract, and the new chap has a fair bit on his plate as the flails reveal all the rubbish that has been thrown into the brambles and long grass over the summer. I think we should get compensation from Stella Artois and KFC. Expenditure on litter clearance is our biggest maintenance cost and the most difficult thing to get on top of, especially the problem of broken glass.  Generally, the Common is pretty clean but the volume of rubbish we clear increases every year.  I suppose we should take it as a compliment that areas such as the Lower Cricket Pitch have become so popular; if only people would take their rubbish home instead of putting it by the bins where the foxes and rats tear open the bags and spread it everywhere overnight.

26th August 2011
The weather is again causing us delays in getting on with the cutting of the paths. Both of the flails are waiting to come on and get on with the work but the big collector flail is coming in from a fair distance away and we need a period of stable weather to make it worth while. I hope that we are not going to have too many problems this year but with the strange weather patterns we have been experiencing, who knows?
The photo shoot that I mentioned last week went ahead and caused no problems. People were very cooperative in keeping out of shot when required and most seemed to enjoy watching proceedings. For those of you wondering, the ad being shot was for oral contraceptives: the first thing one thinks of when Wellington Rocks are mentioned!

19th August 2011
Sadly, we had to fell one of the old Lime trees outside the Spa Hotel this week. There was little to show from the outside, just some dead at the top, but the whole thing was completely rotten and the entire back of the tree collapsed. Fortunately, it collapsed away from the footpath and no harm was done but I have rarely seen a more totally rotten tree; I could thrust my hand right into the centre and scoop out handfulls. Having done that once, I decided I was lucky not to have pushed my hand into a wasp's nest and didn't do it again! When we felled it, the full extent of the rot was revealed and the Ganaderma it was infected with had turned most of the roots and the base of the tree into soft pap. There are two other Limes nearby which are also infected but not as seriously. These may well have to come down too but we can leave that decision until the leaves are off and we can do a fuller inspection.
We have been contacted by an ad agency who want to run a photo shoot on Wellington Rocks next week. If they can complete all the formalities with the Manor; it will be happening next Wednesday and Thursday. That should be entertaining for all the kids running about on the rocks. I have warned the agency it could well be busy but they want to go ahead and understand that they cannot exclude people from the area.

12th August 2011
After the scenes we have all been witnessing on the television this week, it has been lovely to come into the Common each morning to see the cricket pitch covered in youngsters having a great time. Linden Park club has excellent facilities with its new nets and they have been in constant use for junior training week. The club is a real asset to both the Common and the Town.   
With no flail tractor operating this week, we have had to be content with cutting and picking up the grass at Denny Bottom. Some of it was too long to get with the small mower and will have to wait for the flail's return; although even then, there is so much permanent parking there that we are usually unable to strim the edges and complete the job as we would like.

5th August 2011
We have continued with more of the same: that is, cutting paths and sight lines, but it is now coming to a grinding halt for two weeks as our contractor goes on holiday.  No wonder the economy is in a mess!  We will get on with what we can and I am preparing maps etc for the arrival of the big flail in a couple of weeks.
I am also trying to come up with a scheme to resolve the difficult parking issues at Denny Bottom. I don't imagine I will keep all sides happy but it would be good to achieve a compromise.
I have been offered some money from the Friends of the Commons to purchase some more litter bins and dog bag dipensers. Last time I was looking for these it was a question of phoning round companies and getting leaflets sent to me or price lists. It was a very time consuming business. This time all I have to do is type "litter bins" into Google and they are all there. It certainly makes comparative shopping easier.

29th July 2011
We continue with pathcutting and verges, mostly concentrating on sight lines at the moment. We have lots to do cutting back scrub and bramble on our woodland paths and that will always be the case, but where we have been removing grass cuttings from larger areas over the last few years there is a marked difference. I am sure that the dry springs of the last few years have played a part, but our attempts to reduce soil fertility seem to be working. Nothing like as well as grazing animals would though. I will be watching developments on Southborough Common with interest if a grazing regime is introduced there.

22nd July 2011
Work is proceeding well now on the bench restoration programme. We have done ten of the fifteen scheduled for this year and are waiting for some new timber for the others. The seats have lasted very well, especially given the abuse they get.  The weather would be enough but they suffer many other indignities in their daily lives. Several have had disposable barbecues put straight on the seats, with obvious consequences and many are used as training equipment for step ups. I have often had to talk  to personal trainers and their clients who seem unable to understand that people will be sitting on the benches and don't want to get up with their clothes covered in mud and dog fouling. They also don't seem to consider that many of the benches have been donated in memory of peoples loved ones.
We are approaching late summer already, as is being shown by the splendid crop of rowan berries at the moment. They are a wonderful crimson splash, although not for long as they are real favourites with the birds. I also notice the Lammas growth appearing on many of our trees, especially the oaks, sycamores and hawthorns. This is a second flush of new leaves that occurs around the start of August; have a look and you will notice the paler new leaves on the ends of branches.

15th July 2011
It's a lovely morning, which is especially pleasing because it is Britain in Bloom judging day. I am just back from giving the judges a very brief tour of part of the Common around Wellington Rocks. I must admit that I had thought that Bloom was all about hanging baskets and well managed parks but it seems that biodiversity and community involvement are taken into acount these days. Anyway, it was nice to be able to show the Common off in glorious sunshine, with the short grass of the cricket pitch setting off the nearby long grass with all it's seed heads rippling in the breeze and a group of primary school children on a day out having a wonderful time playing on Wellington Rocks. Sadly, when I got back to the office, I found Crescent Road closed by an accident, so the judges probably never saw a lot of the work that had been done around the town.
Some of you who walk Rusthall Common will have seen the damage being caused near Common View by a group of youngsters who are cutting down trees and lighting fires in the evening. It is very difficult to do much about this except try and get the co-operation of the Police. The issue is complicated by the young age of these children. I am aware that it is upsetting quite a number of people (including me).
8th July 2011
Well the horse has dissappeared, leaving a nice circle of grazed grass behind. I think he will be missed by some of the many people who fed, watered and made a fuss of him. He probably wishes he was still there.
The strange weather continues, causing a few broken broken branches and a lot of fresh growth of our grass. It is usually around this time that we start to cut back the frequency of cuts but there is no chance of that at present. We will be continuing with cutting the edges of paths next week; I see that the bracken and long grass is starting to encroach on some popular routes. Everything is ready to start on the bench restoration work but is being kept on hold until the weather warms up again.
The judging for Britain in Bloom takes place next week so it is unfortunate that some local youths decided to pull a lot of weed out of Brighton Lake this week and leave it dumped on the grass there. I will of course get it cleared before the judges tour the area and just hope they don't have another go before the event.
1st July 2011
It has been a quiet week again but one with some lovely weather. The Commons are looking pretty good, apart from the dreadful rubbish left behind by some recent rough sleepers. Sometimes we discover camps well hidden in quiet areas of the Common with very little rubbish; usually, however, the amount and variety of rubbish scattered around and acting as a beacon for vermin is appalling.

As well as these unwelcome guests, we have also had a visiting horse on the Commons this week. We still don't know who he belongs to but he was left tethered on Rusthall Common without water; fortunately, some kind souls from Common View soon took buckets of water to him. Strangely, he was tethered just out of reach of pretty much the only pond with any water left in it.
24th June 2011
The recent rain has turned the Commons green again and everything is looking very fresh. I am pleased to see that more of the grass seed that we sowed on last winter's clearances has germinated and we may yet end up with good cover. The seed put on the previous year's clearance between London Rd and Castle Rd has done very well in the end, having experienced similar very dry conditions last spring; that area is looking very good now.
I see that the leaf miners that have affected our horse chestnuts over recent years are starting to appear again. So far this does not seem to have caused any great problem but it presumably will if it continues indefinitely. So many of our trees seem to be being affected by changing weather patterns, I am aware of considerable problems with phytopthera on both alders and larches over the last few years and it was very sad to see the recent news of serious problems with Duthch Elm Disease inside the remaining control zone around Brighton. We still have quite a lot of elm scrub on our Commons but as soon as they reach a certain height they are killed by the disease.

17th June 2011
It does not seem possible that it is Midsummers Day next Tuesday. It feels more like April now!
Talking of midsummer, I am doing a walk on the Common next week for a local ramblers group. Apparently, they were away this week walking around Midsummer Norton; I wonder how many will return.
The wet weather, although welcome, has stopped us getting on with the bench restorations but we have had a few damaged trees to deal with and we have made a start on cutting the path edges. We will continue with this over the next few weeks until it is time for the main cut of all area in August. We will be lifting some of the low branches off our paths next week, I see that the Tarry Path in particular is in need.

Nice to see that our sparrow hawks are thriving, although not such good news for the tits and pigeons, especially the one that was being consumed on Cabbage Stalk Lane yesterday.

10th June 2011
I was very pleased with the results of our clean up at Wellington Rocks. We have always struggled with getting the rubbish out of the narrow gullies in the rocks; they are too narrow to allow access and that makes it very difficult to get the broken glass etc out. However, last week when we were attempting it, one of the contractors came up with a clever idea. He made an extension tube for his leaf blower and we discovered we could blast all the rubbish to he ends of the gullies and then just shovel them up. Brilliant!
We will be cutting the Commons verges this weekend and clearing sight lines, then next week we will be starting on the cutting of key paths. As soon as the dry weather returns, we will be commencing on our seat restoration programme for the year.

3rd June 2011
I am just back from my usual spring visit to the Wye Valley. It was as beautiful as ever but there was very little water in the rivers; not much use if you are a fly fisher. I returned to a Common that is increasingly becoming a dust bowl, with the grass turning brown and all the ponds except Brighton Lake dry. Since the Common is pretty much on pure sand, the drought is affecting us very severely.
We have been doing a few bits of maintenance work this week; we have removed the epicormic growth from the lime trees opposite Brighton Lake to aid visibility and have cleaned out the old Cold Bath and spring outside the Forum along with some removal of broken branches. We should be having the road edges cut for sight lines in the next week and  with the help of the owners of the Common we will be cleaning out the terrible rubbish from the gullies at Wellington Rocks.
20th May 2011
Against all the odds, it seems that some of the grass seed we sowed at the end of march has survived and the few meagre showers that we have had recently has made it germinate. There is not a lot yet but a definite, if patchy, haze of green is starting to show. Whether it can survive without a change to more normal weather is another matter.
The Hawthorn Flies have disappeared as quickly as they arrived; and not before time in most peoples view I think! I must admit, even though it was fascinating, it was a bit like a biblical plague at times. I have seen our roe deer a couple of times this week, it is always a pretty sight and the sparrowhawks seem very active at the moment. Perhaps their young have already hatched and there are hungry mouths to be fed.

13th May 2011
Well, we have had a tiny amount of rain but nothing like enough. It has freshened things up a little but I imagine it never even got past the grass.
It has been a quiet week on the Commons; we have put a few posts in to protect the grass opposite Brighton Lake and removed a couple of small trees that came down in the surprisingly strong winds that we have had recently. Other than that, we are holding off from any clearances until the nesting season is over.
The explosion of Hawthorn flies on the Common has been a source of much interest. The numbers are dropping now but there are still spectacular numbers on the wing. I have been remembering that when we were clearing areas last autumn to introduce heather seed, we found thousands of small maggot like grubs in the leaf litter and were wondering what they were. It looks like they were Hawthorn Fly pupa.

6th May 2011
I hope you all enjoyed the long break. The Common is still looking good, in spite of the desperate need for rain. We have been putting a few new posts in the ground this week and we are not getting to any damp soil within a spade depth. We must get some rain soon, although I suspect it might be too late for all the grass seed we have put down.
One thing that does seem to like the weather is our Hawthorn fly population. Anyone walking the Commons over the last few days cannot have missed the huge numbers of these distinctive insects with their glossy black bodies and trailing legs. I have not seen such huge numbers of them on other sites and I have no idea what is causing such a vast hatch of them. They don't bite, so don't worry about them; I expect they will vanish again as the hawthorn blossom finishes. It is a shame there are no swallows about to enjoy the feast.
15th April 2011
I am delighted to report that we have managed to get the machine and dumper in and have finished landscaping and seeding the new clearances at Edgcumbe Rocks and next to the path from the station. We need some rain now to get the seed germinating but I am delighted that we have got this far; both sites look great now that the work has been done.
We need rain for our grass seed but also for the whole Common. Everything is very dry and I cannot remember seeing our ponds this low before in April. We are now at peak fire risk time for heathland as all last years dead bracken and grass is tinder dry and the drying easterly winds we often experience at this time of year makes the situaution worse. Please take care if you out over the next couple of weeks, particularly if you go to Ashdown Forest, where I imagine they are very nervous at the moment.

11 April 2011
Apologies for the delay in posting this, we have been having terrible trouble with uploading anything.
We are still waiting to repair the holes at Fir Tree car park; because we only need a small part of a lorryload, we are being quoted delivery times three weeks ahead. Annoying since I was hoping to use the dregs of last year's budget on it.
It is nice to see our cherry tree avenue at Edgcumbe Rd coming into flower. This is its third year and I hope to remove the stakes and ties in the autumn. It is important to remove these as soon as possible to allow the trees to flex naturally in the wind. It is this flexing that promotes the buttressing at the base of the tree that gives it it's strength.

1st April 2011
The first cut of the grass was completed just before the rain started, which was most pleasing. Because we managed to get a late cut in last year and the cold winter stopped the grass growing, we have manage to achieve a reasonable standard using cylinder mowers set quite high. Over the next few cuts, the height of the machines will be gradually lowered until we get a good finish.
We have been doing a few bits and pieces this week, using up the last dregs of our budget. We have cut back the edges on a couple of well used footpaths and installed some steps on the edge of the cricket pitch at a popular access point. We have also been cutting back a few branches on the edge of Castle Rd to improve the view for the CCTV camera there. The rain last week made it unsuitable to get the car park repaired but I hope it will be completed next week.

25th March 2011
We have not managed to get our first cut of the grass done yet but they should be in for the middle of next week. More positively, we have got the stump grinder in now and he is making short work of the stumps left on the new clearances done this winter. It is an impressive bit of kit. When he is done, we will be starting to prepare the areas for seeding by clearing the last of the debris, ripping out the tiny stumps, ivy and bramble and levelling the areas. It shouldn't take long for the grass to come through and for everything to green up.
It is pretty much the end of the financial year and I am just finishing up the last of the budget. I seem to have just enough left to patch up the worst of the holes in Fir Tree car park, so there may be a bit of disruption up there. Have a bit of patience if you get stuck for a few minutes, the work has to be done.
Don't forget the clocks go forward on Saturday night.

18th March 2011
A quiet week as I wait for the stump grinder to get round to us and then we can organise the seeding of the cleared areas. In the meantime, we have been amusing ourselves by clearing up various deserted camps that we have found deep in the undergrowth. It is remarkable what gets left behind in these places.
Weather permitting, we will start the grasscutting next week. I am glad we managed a late cut last year and the cold winter has kept the grass fairly short so we should be able to get a good finish fairly quickly this year. The first job is to bulldoze our way through all the mole hills on the grass near Brighton Lake.
Many of the trees are about to burst into leaf and the Common is about to come fully to life. It is a wonderful time; get out and enjoy it. Not only is it free but it is available in HD, 3D and full surround sound!

11th March 2011
A bit of a crossover point, as spring pushes winter back. It has been a week of firsts: first butterfly, a brimstone, first skylark singing and some of my favourite bits of woodland transformed by a green carpet of wild garlic leaves.  I have even seen some early purple orchid plants up.
The last of the tidying of our clearances continues and we have finished scalloping the woodland edge along Hungershall Park.  We have replaced some of the tree trunks around the edge of the lower cricket pitch to stop vehicles being able to access it and we are getting out the windblown stumps on the new clearance above London Rd prior to grinding the rest out.  Once that is done, we can prepare and seed the new areas cleared this winter.
Although it was a week of firsts, it had one last as well. It was the last volunteer work party of the winter at the weekend.  As ever, sterling work was done - this time at Denny Bottom, clearing yet more rock outcrops.

4th March 2011
As anyone using he A26 through the Town this week will have noticed, we have completed the cutting back of trees and scrub by the side of the road. Several ivy covered, leaning and or dead trees have been removed, together with a lot of scrub. There are a couple of trees still to be removed further up the road but they are far enough back from the carriageway to allow us to do the work without traffic control.
Amongst the trees that had to come down last week was a very old apple tree that local legend has it came from an apple thrown out of the coach window by George IV. Whilst this is clearly rubbish, it was a very old tree and it was a shame to fell it. Unfortunately, it was completely rotten and hanging over the A26, so we had little choice. I took some cuttings from it before it went and am trying to graft them onto some new root stock. If it works, I will replant it in the same area; just not so close to the road!

25th February 2011
We continue with the clearances on Tunbridge Wells Common; by the end of this week all the chipping will be finished as, I hope, will be the removal of the chord wood.  We then hope to start on Monday with the clearances along the edge of the A26.  We will be starting with the section between Edgcumbe Rd and Church Rd and this means that there will be no parking in that area and we will have traffic lights in place outside rush hours.  Apologies for any inconvenience that wiil inevitably be caused but this work has to be done and we will throw as many bodies at it as possible to keep the length of the disturbance as short as possible.
Over on Rusthall Common, the Friends have kindly financed the removal of some large hollies to expose the Lion Rock on the footpath between Rusthall Rd and Harmony St.  As well as opening up this interesting

the work has made the lighting on the path much better.
As ever, Fir Tree Pond is the first on the Commons to see the return of our amphibians. There is already a good amount of spawn there and, with the milder nights, activity should be reaching a crescendo over the next few days.

18th February 2011
All felling is complete on the clearances and the work of chipping the brush is proceeding well. We should be able to see the results of our labours in about a week's time.
I have been mentioning the approach of spring recently and a big sign appeared last week.  A regular user of the Commons told me that when coming back down Fir Tree Rd last Friday evening, he had to stop his car and help dozens of frogs across the road as they headed towards Fir Tree Pond.  I have not seen them spawning yet, so I guess the cold has made them take shelter again but they are on the move.  Apologies if you were one of the drivers annoyed at being held up whilst the rescue took place.
I have recieved a number of calls this week about clearance work around the new development at Rusthall Elms. There has been much speculation that the developers have taken part of the Commons.  I have been up there with our maps and done some checking and I think I can safely say that the boundary is in the right place and there has been no encroachment.  A panel fence will be going up on the boundary next week which should improve the look of the site.

11th February 2011
We have nearly completed the clearance at Edgcumbe Rocks now; just the last few bits of scrub to fell and the rest of the chipping to be done.  Similarly, at the top of Church Rd we are finishing the cutting today and will have it all clear next week.  We have also cleared the majority of the trees to come down at the third site, between Castle Rd and London Rd.  With a bit of luck and some reasonable weather, these projects will be finished by the end of next week, so I am very pleased.
The main reason I am delighted to be making such good progress with the planned cleareances is that spring is clearly starting to spring.  There are a lot of crocuses and daffs starting to show and the birds are becoming a lot more vocal. I watched a pair of grebes on a local lake the other day which were starting to mirror each other as the start of their courtship display.  It just needs a couple of mild nights and the frogs will be back in Fir Tree pond.

4th February 2011
Work started on Tunbridge Wells Common this week to complete the opening up of Edgcumbe Rocks. We started last year by clearing about half of the scrub covered area in front of the outcrop and this year we should complete the task.  We will be leaving the two specimen trees and the two nice yews, as well as the trees at the rear of the site but everything else will be going. It looks an absolute mess up there at the moment as we wait for the big chipper to arrive and start disposing of the cut timber but I hope it will end up as good as the area we cleared last year, which now looks great.
Whilst waiting for the chipper to arrive, we have started on the next project.  This one is at the top of Church Rd, where we are removing sycamores to partially re-open the view from the top of the Common.  We will not be touching the two big horse chestnuts there.
Once these jobs are completed, we have another project to extend the big clearance between London and Castle Rd and then we will go straight on to carry out work on roadside trees next to London Rd between the Pantiles and the Hospital.  It's all go at the moment!

28th January 2011
The new path aon Rusthall Common is now open; we have put in a new drain and graded the path at the Bumps end. We will have to go back when the weather warms up a little to do a final roll and seed but essentially, it is finished.
We have started on some new projects over on Tunbridge Wells Common, with a widening of the paths between Castle Road and the Wellington Rocks area. These two popular paths have had scrub and over-mature, ivy covered hawthorns removed. We have also been carrying out work to improve one of the paths connecting the Terrace Walk and London Road. We improved the drainage at the top oof the path last year but the dip at the bottom still got very muddy in the winter. We have diverted the end of the path to stay on higher ground, which should greatly improve the situation.
We will be starting on the first of the big projects next week, when we will continue clearance at Edgcumbe Rocks to expose the rest of the rock outcrop. Scrub and holly will be removed along with leaning and damaged trees. We will retain the trees at the back of the rocks to keep a screen against the road.

21st January 2011
As so often happens, our plans have got slightly delayed and the finishing off of the new track at Rusthall has been put back for a week. I am pretty confident trhough that I will have positive news to report next week.
In the meantime, we have been installing posts on Harmony St to prevent further erosion of the bank opposite the Toad Rock. Over the past few years, parking pressure seems to have increased dramatically in the area and we are losing the edge of the Common as it is worn away.
The days are starting to get longer again and I am already hearing signs of increased bird activity. I have again had a generous offer of some extra funding from the Freehold Tenants to carry out some projects this winter, so it looks as though I had better get on with them before the birds start nesting.

14th January 2011
As you can hopefully see from the photos, those volunteers who came out last weekend did good work clearing scrub from the Toad and more was done by the contractors who went to clear up after them. I hope the volunteers will return to Denny Bottom again this year, there is always plenty to do there.
Not too far away from the Toad, the same contractors have continued cutting the new path. The route is open now but there still remains a fair bit to do. We have pulled off site for a while whilst the ground is so wet but hope to return at the end of next week with an excavator, to put in drainage at the Bumps end as well as removing a few stumps and grading the area. We will then introduce some grass seed and let nature take its course. As ever, although it all looks a bit raw at the moment, it is amazing how quickly recoverey and greening takes place.

10 January 2011

Below Toad Rock before the volunteers started work


The same view after the volunteers have cleared the area

6th January 2011
We are starting the new year with somewhat better weather. Although the rain is still making life tricky, we have been able to make a start cutting the new track between the Bumps and the Tarry Path pond on Rusthall Common. As well as the new path, we are clearing the edges of the cross path between St Pauls Church and Denny Bottom, removing the remains of the dead Elms we had to fell some years ago. The clearance will continue into the middle of next week and then as soon as possible, we will re-seed the area which will hopefully be fully recovered by the spring.
I was very relived this morning to see that the ice has finally melted on Brighton Lake so that we can at last remove the collection of shopping trolleys and trafiic cones that were put out there before Christmas.
The volunteers will be out at Toad Rock tomorrow clearing encroaching scrub and bramble; lets hope for a dry morming.
Happy New Year

Page last updated: 13/06/2012