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Since the great storm of 1987, the Conservators have taken a more active approach towards the management of the Commons.  Until this year (2017), we have been following a management plan produced for the Commons by Kent Wildlife Trust.  This plan balanced biodiversity and conservation with the needs of the many Commons users.

This year a new management plan has been adopted by the Conservators which is similar to the previous one although the emphasis has changed slightly.

The Management Plan 2017 can be read here, and the previous one, the 2005 Management Plan, can be read here. 

Current Work

This is an extract from the Wardens report for June 2018:

With the wet weather of early spring giving way to warmer conditions, growth on the Common has been very luxuriant. At the time of writing in early June, we are already a third of the way through our scheduled twelve cuts of the amenity grass.  The lush vegetation growth has also meant an early start to cutting some of the path edges, as well as clearance of sight lines at road junctions. The big hedging flail has also been in and carried out a full cut of road verges.

The weather has proved equally beneficial to our wildflowers. There is a wonderful display of foxgloves in the area of HappyValley that was opened up two years ago, and the heath bedstraw is doing very well in the grassland below the Wellington Rocks. Our heather areas are showing excellent growth and spread although, unfortunately, the birch scrub and bramble that is invading the areas is doing equally well.  

The most dramatic results, however, have been in the number and spread of our common spotted orchids and of our rarest plant, coralroot bittercress. Our orchids have appeared in greater numbers at St Paul's Church and appear to be spreading across the meadow area there.

We have completed the renovation of fifteen benches, and the improvement of the track at the top of Castle Road should be completed by the time of our meeting, as should the installation of a new, lockable bollard to prevent unauthorised access.

Repairs were carried out to the surface of the car park at Fir Tree Road and the footpath that runs behind the pavilion had three sections re-surfaced.



The Coming Season

We will be getting fully underway with the cutting and flailing of our paths and tracks. This will also include the first visit from the collector flail, which will be cutting main path areas and verges.

Herbicide treatment of bracken, as well as Himalayan balsam will take place at various locations across both commons and I hope to be carrying out an experiment to control invading birch and bramble within our heather regeneration areas.

The two paths on the Racecourse postponed from the current work period will be installed and the other Freehold Tenant funded projects will also be carried out: the clearance around the holm oak on Cabbage Stalk Lane, the clearance of remaining cherry laurel at the Happy Valley site and the clearance of holly adjacent to Fir Tree pond.

I hope to run two further experimental days, both at Happy Valley. The annual clearance of this area is an expensive and very labour-intensive operation due to the steepness of the site. I have found a local contractor with a remote control flail that is capable of operating safely in these conditions and should prove a more cost-effective way of controlling vegetation on the worst of the slopes. I am organising a day’s hire to judge its effectiveness.   

Secondly, we have been making attempts in the last two years to further open up our rock outcrops. One of our main targets has become the removal of the soil that has built up in crevices and hollows and allows the proliferation of invasive scrub. Again, this is labour intensive and potentially expensive work and I wish to see if a water jet would be a more effective method of removal, probably after an initial application of herbicide to weaken the roots. I am arranging a day to test the effectiveness, which will target some of the recently exposed rocks near the Cheesewring.

Please follow this link to read the full text of all the recent Warden's Reports.
Although all the work requiring specialists or equipment is done by professionals, the Conservators rely heavily on the goodwill of volunteers to do much of the clearing through the autumn, winter and spring.  These voluntary work parties are organised by the Friends of Tunbridge Wells and Rusthall Commons, and meet on the first Saturday of the month from October to March at 10.30, usually at the Fir Tree Road car park.   Everyone is very welcome, however little or much you can do.   If you do plan to join, please let us know so that we can confirm where we are meeting.

These are the dates for this winter:

6 October 2018
3 November 2018
1 December 2018
5 January 2019
2 February 2019
2 March 2019

If you haven't helped before and would like further information, please contact the Warden at the office on 01892 554250 or by email at info@twcommons.org.  Alternatively, pay a visit to the Friends website.  You can join the Friends using their membership page.


Page last updated: 25/09/2018