19th December 2014
Pretty much all of my contractors are having their Christmas do today and then they are closing down for two weeks, so there will only be emergency cover available which we hopefully will not need. When they are back we will launch straight into our treework programme for the Winter.
It has been a good year in terms of getting on with our work on the Common and we all enjoyed a wonderful Summer. Sadly, my year was marred by the loss of my beloved dog Jade in August but I am now thinking that it might be time to be looking again, so we will see what the future brings.
I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and New Year and wish you all good health and happiness for 2015
15th December 2014
Sorry for the late posting; we had the usual internet problems last Friday.
We made good progress with clearing main ditches and unblocking culverts last week and Thursday night's rain was useful in checking that everything is running properly. We always have to deal with problems caused by youngsters on mountain bikes using the ditches as jumps and gradually crushing the edges at crossover points and blocking the ditches. I wish they would just stay at home and spend all their time on their Playstation like kids are supposed to!
We started on some limited tree work last week; we will be getting on with the main work programme after the Christmas break. We have been clearing trees and scrub from the rock face on the Langton Road opposite the junction with Rusthall Road. The trees there were starting to get a bit large so it seems more sensible to clear the problem now before it gets more expensive; it looks a lot better too when it has been done.
5th December 2014
The volunteers are out again tomorrow and will be clearing scrub adjacent to the path that runs from the Pantiles to Wellington Rocks. We will be removing mostly small birch and sycamore saplings to create scallops to regain some more grassland, lengthen the woodland edge and improve habitat diversity. The volunteers are very useful for these sorts af labour intensive jobs and it is surprising what can be achieved with bowsaws and loppers in a few hours work. Once the small trees are down, our contractors will come in with a stump grinder to finish the job and we will be left with a new clearance that can be easily maintained in future with our flail. The woodland/grassland boundary created by these sorts of projects is a very valuable habitat
28th November 2014
Only three weeks to go till the shortest day now, which is a great relief. This can be a quite miserable time of year: todays sunshine is a welcome change from the dreary weather we have been having.
Again it has been a quiet week. We have started to replace the steps leading down to Fir Tree Pond; they are only made out of half chestnut stakes, so they do not last more than five or six years in the ground before they start to rot. There has also been minor tree work carried out and we installed a number of anti-parking posts at Common View, where some very thoughtless individual has been parking on the grass and causing a great deal of mess and damage. The weather is forecast to dry up for a while now, so I hope that we may be able to scarify the wildflower areas on London Road next week and carry out some more seeding there.
21st November 2014
We are still waiting for the leaves to come down so that we can get on with clearing drains and cleaning paths; they seem to be hanging on this year. We had to take down a large ash tree in Bulls Hollow that was getting quite dangerous through decay and, whilst there, we cleaned up the area as far as was possible given how wet it is. We also tried to carry out our last cut of the grass but had to give up as we were causing more damage than good. I think we will just have to wait and hope for a dry spring so we can get on early next year.
We have been replacing anti-parking posts at various locations. Many of these posts are reaching the end of their lives now and I think we will be doing a lot of this over the coming years. They went in about fifteen years ago, so we have had pretty good value for money from them.
14th November 2014
Our wesite is hopefully working properly again now. Apparently, our server was coming under sustained attack last week; I am not quite sure what that really means but it sounds terribly exciting. It is tempting to imagine that it was part of some new Russian cyber warfare but it was actually probably some spotty youth in his bedroom somewhere.
Lasr week was mostly an odds and ends week, where we were finishing off bits and pieces like clearing away brush from trees that have had worked carried out over the Summer, repairing cracks in the dam of one of our ponds before it fills up and clearing rubbish exposed by the cut back of the paths. If the weather permits, next week will see our last cut of the grass for this year, the end of our flail work and the scarifying of our wildflower areas on London Road and the sowing of more Yellow Rattle seed there.
7th November 2014
Unsurprisingly, since it has only been three days since I last posted here, there is not a lot to add.
I hope that next week will finally see the end of our annual clearance of paths. We still have work to do at Denny Bottom and Bulls Hollow but then it will be time to start thinking about tree works. The current stormy conditions are quickly removing the leaves and we can then see what we are doing; I already have a list of trees in need of remedial works and then we can see how much of the budget is left for clearances and improvements. The other work that commences when the leaves are finally off is drainage works and ditch clearance. There is obviously no point in doing it before they are down.
4th November 2014
Apologies for the lateness of this entry, we have been having problems with our website management system.
Having repaired the Commons verges at Bishops Down, we have now started to install new anti-parking posts there to stop the problem re-occuring. We will probably have to do the same on Castle Rd when funds allow. Drainage work has now been completed at the junction of Coach Rd and Rusthall Rd, where Highways have been trying to resolve the long standing problems of water bubbling up through the carriageway. I hope this proves to be more successful than the last effort which saw our grasscutting equipment sink up to it's axles where they diverted all the water straight onto the grass and turned the area into a swamp. We will now have to monitor the situation over the Winter to see if they have been successful.
The Volunteers were out over the weekend; this time we were coppicing heather near the Royal Victoria Grove and spreading the cuttings out across the centre of the new clearance there. The seed heads looked pretty full, so there is every reason to think that this should create a further heather area. We have used this technique on many occasions to establish heather in the past and it has been very successful; this is the first time however that we have been able to harvest and spread our own heather seed rather than collecting it from other sites such as Cinder Hill Reserve at Matfield or the Ashdown Forest.
24th October 2014
We had a lovely break last week and returned to find that all the work i had organised to be done in my absence had been completed.
The pond next to the Tarry Path has been de-silted and made watertight, the path near Common View has had the drainage culverts installed and a couple of new small ponds were created alongside it. The edges of Castle Rd and Bishops Down Rd have been reshaped and restored, the two sink holes have been filled in and the clearance below the Victoria Grove has had the central section scraped back to sand to allow seeding with heather in a weeks time. In the same area, the large pile of logs and stumps left from last Winter's clearances has been buried with the scraped soil to create a hibernaculum for reptiles and amphibians. New posts have been installed around the Lower Cricket Pitch and Edgcumbe Rocks have been cleared of invading scrub and bramble. Finally, the edge of Rusthall Rd has been cleared and flailed to finish the clearance work started last year.
Clearly, I must go on holiday more often!
10th October 2014
The hedging flail did its job and we have been able to follow behind to neaten up where it removed the bulk of the growth. The last of the stumps of the trees removed last year on Rusthall Rd have now been removed and we should be carrying out more work there next week to smarten the area up.
The small flail has finished work in the section of TW Common to the South of Major York's and has pushed the edges of Hungershall Park right back; a big improvement.
Edgcumbe Rocks are almost cleaned up now and they too are looking much better:
I am pleased to say that we also finally managed to remove the dead tree on Apsley St.
I will be away on a break next week so there will be no update. However, I have organised work to continue whilst I am away; we hope to de-silt the Tarry Path pond and carry out the rest of the machine work I detailed last week.
3rd October 2014
Well so much for long range weather forcasts; it seems that everything has changed and that we are in for a cold, wet , windy spell. Just in time for the volunteers tomorrow! It seems rather difficult to believe at the moment with a warm sun streaming through the office window. At least our litter contator will be happy, his workload reduces rapidly as soon as it gets a bit damp.
I am being promised that the hedging flail will be in this weekend to cut back roadside edges, and equipment will be in next week to de-silt the pond adjacent to the Tarry Path and install drainage culverts on the new path from Common View to the Marlpits. Good progress was made by the small flail this week and we have pretty much finished the large section of Common to the South of Major York's Rd. Wellington Rocks have now been cleared of invading scrub and bramble and Edgcumbe Rocks will be getting the same treatment next. I hope also to be clearing the steep bank between LondonRd and Mount Ephraim as soon as the weather dries again.
27th September 2014
Work continued as normal this week although much of my time was taken up with the quarterly Conservators meeting on Thursday. It was a fairly routine affair with nothing of great note on the agenda, just the way I like it.
The cherry picker should finally be in next week to deal with the almost dead tree overhanging Apsley St. It has been in for a major overhaul after developing a fault a few weeks ago (the cherry picker, not the tree). We will need to suspend parking in this area during the operation.
The warm weather seems to be going on and on and the forecast seems to show it continuing for the next few weeks. I certainly hope so because I have a trip down to Wales in mid October. The volunteers will be out for their first task of the season next weekend, we will be clearing willow scrub from the pond near Cabbage Stalk Lane.
19th September 2014
At the risk of being very repetetive, we have again been busy with the small flail carrying out a lot of clearance of tracks and paths, this time on Tunbridge Wells Common in the area between the Victoria Grove and London Rd. There is still quite a bit of clearance to be carried out across both Commons with this machine over the next few weeks. We have also done a clean up around Wellington Rocks removing the bramble and gorse and we are currently putting the posts around Fir Tree Rd car park back upright. People seem to use them as parking sensors, just reversing until they cannot go any further. Many of the posts there are old reailway sleepers put on end but even they seem to get pushed over, I can't help wondering what it does to the cars involved
I had about twenty takers for the guided walk last Sunday, that is a nice number to take round and we had a very nice morning and were lucky with the weather. The Hospice in the Weald 10K run had considerably greater attendance and also went very well I believe. I was certainly pleased and impressed with the speed and efficiency of the clean up operation afterwards..
12th September 2014
The big flail should finish its tour of the Commons early next week; its final job will be to cut and clear the wildflower areas adjacent to London Road. These areas are still not producing the flowers that we hoped for; there is plenty of evidence that the seed and plugs that we planted are growing in the grass sward but for some reason we are not getting much flowering. Our advisors are suggesting that soil compaction as well as competition from the grasses may be the cause, so we will be scarifying these areas quite aggressively this autumn and sowing more Yellow Rattle to further weaken the grass.
Once the big tractor is no longer required for the collector flail, we can re-rig it with the hedging flail and carry out another sweep of the roadside verges and banks that the other flails cannot reach.
A problem with the cherry picker meant that we could not remove the dead tree over at Apsley Street this week. I am hoping it will be back in action next week and we will be able to carry out this work then.
We have a busy weekend coming up with the Hospice in the Weald 10K Run starting and finishing on the Lower Cricket Pitch on Sunday. Please note that many of the roads crossing the Commons will be closed during this event. On Saturday, I will be leading a guided walk across Tunbridge Wells Common as part of Heritage Open Day. The walk will start at Fir Tree Rd car park at 10-30 and will last around two hours. All are welcome.
5th September 2014
It seems impossible that we are in September already; where has the year gone?
We had another good week with the big flail tractor and much of the cutting has now been done. We still have the large areas to the South of Major York's Road to clear, as well as some of the recent clearances between London Road and Castle Road, and the Bumps, and a few other bits and pieces on Rusthall, but with luck we should be finished next week. It will then be a matter of the small flail comong back to get the rest of the small tracks and the bits that the big machine couldn't get to, and then finally another cut round the edges with the hedging flail.
Our attention is already starting to turn towards tree work and we will be making a start next week by removing a dead sycamore hanging over Apsley Street. The tree is in an awkward position and will have to be worked on with a large cherry picker which is going to be inconvenient on such a narrow road but it has to be done. Surprisingly, given how obviously dead the tree is, people are still parking under it every day and I just hope we don't have too much trouble getting the area clear for the felling.
29th August 2014
The big flail has been on hold this week because of the wet weather, it will hopefully be back with us next week along with the promise of some warmer conditions. Next week also sees the return to school for most youngsters, so that should mean a reduction in litter and other related problems; good news for our excellent litter contractor. There were the remains of a huge bonfire and a great mass of bottles, cans and general rubbish strewn across the Lower Cricket Pitch last Sunday morning; obviously a major party was going on there on Saturday night. I am amazed that the Police were not called by any of the neighbours. It is a great shame; it is relatively easy, if annoying, to have to clear the mess but the large burnt area will be with us for a considerable time before anything grows there again.
We have put in two new litter bins this week, one replacing the old one by Brighton Lake which had lost it's door and the second by the bench halfway along the path from the Fairground car park to Hungershall Park. Thanks to the generousity of the Friends, we have also had two new dog bag dispensers go in as well. One is at the car park end of the same path that has had the new bin and the second has relaced the old dispenser at Common View on Rusthall Common which has been just lying on the ground for some time since its post snapped.
The Common Vision project is organising a family fun day on Rusthall Common this Saturday. Do come along - I will be doing a guided walk at 1.30pm. For more information, go to our News page.
22nd August 2014
The big tractor and collector flail started work on the Common this week and has already made a big impression on clearing he long grass areas; he will be with us for the next two weeks. I am always relieved when he has finished, it is a very large and heavy bit of kit that is impossible to use in wet conditions; at the moment the ground is perfect but it is starting to feel remarkably autumnal and this dry weather cannot continue forever. The small flail is also busy on the Common at the moment, cutting woodland paths and tracks. Once the big flail is finished, the smaller machine can then go round tidying up the little bits under the trees and near benches that the big machine simply cannot get to.
Many people have contacted me regarding the loss of my dog Jade since I wrote about her last week. Thank you to all of you for your kindness, it has been quite moving and is very much appreciated.
15th August 2014
I lost my beautiful dog Jade this week; she was very old and was recently diagnosed with lung cancer. She passed away peacefully at home whilst I was holding her.
Jade was a lovely dog, I got her in June 1997 when she was eight weeks old and we were very rarely apart for the next seventeen years. Many of you will have met her on the Commons over the years and I know that she touched a lot of lives. She was the perfect dog to have with me whilst patrolling the Commons; obedient, gentle and courteous with a wonderful temperament.. She had an incredibly positive view of humanity, something she probably didn't get from me. I was sinfully proud of her and feel privileged to have had her companionship for so long.
I know that in time the loss will ease and I will have many wonderful memories of Jade, but just at the moment it is unbearable.
N.B. See photographs of Jade under News
8th August 2014
We have now cleared the Bumps of the rubbish left by the travellers last week and have put large sections of tree trunk in place to block any further access. We have to thank the Borough Council for help with the removal of the mess - we took three lorry loads off the site - and KCC for waiving the tipping charges. We are now looking at ways to prevent any further incursions across the two Commons but it is extremely difficult when we still need to allow access for both users of the Commons and our maintenance equipment, some of which is very large. As we discovered on Rusthall Cricket Pitch when we had our previous incursion, even large posts will not keep these people out: they simply produced a chainsaw, cut down some posts and drove on. When questioned about it, of course, they maintained that the posts were already missing and unless there is a witness who is prepared to stand up in court, nothing can be proved.
Autumn seems to be coming very early this year. It is only the start of August but already the elder and rowans are all in berry and the farmers seem to be in full harvest mode. Our own harvesting of the long grass and meadow areas will be starting in a week or so with the big collector flail arriving on site for a few weeks. This is one off our biggest tasks of the year and I am always glad to start making progress with it.
4th August 2014
The big news for last week was the arrival of a large group of travellers on Rusthall Common who occupied the Bumps on Thursday evening with about a dozen caravans and various vehicles. I am delighted to say that with the co-operation of the Police, who were wonderful, we managed to get rid of them on Sunday afternoon. It was very pleasing that we got such immediate help and the positive from this is that all the various bodies pulled together well to provide a quick solution to the problem and hopefully, if such a situation should arise again, we have a system in place ready to react swiftly.
Although they left quite quickly, in the short time they were there they managed to cover the area with food wrappers, nappies and general rubbish, as well as leaving two large heaps of garden waste, old furnture, rubble and household wasre that they were presumably paid to remove by local householders. We are busy clearing the site at the moment and again I am pleased to report that we have had co-operation from TWBC in helping with this. Once the rubbish has all been removed, I will be blocking the entrance onto the Bumps with a large tree trunk.
25th July 2014
Work continues in spite of the heat and the annoying habit of my contractors to want holidays! We should be making a start on the clearance of Happy Valley next week; hopefully the bracken treatment should have taken effect by now, although we obviously will not see the benefits until next year. There has been a lot of work carried out in this compartment over recent years and the results have been very pleasing, especially at the Church end of the section.
It is barbecue season again and as usual, we are having to clear many of the disposable ones from the Lower Cricket Pitch, especially at the weekend. Whilst strictly speaking there should be no fires of any kind on the Commons, we obviously understand the Commons being used in this way by those without a garden at home; in fact, I guess we should look at it as a success that the Commons are being so well used. However I will put out my usual plea for people to use the legs on the BBQ or put something on the ground to stop the turf being killed.
11th July 2014
We started path clearances this week with the paths in the central area of Rusthall Common receiving attention. It is already obvious that we have a big job on our hands this: this year's new growth on our trees is exceptional. Work with the flail will now continue for the next few months as we work our way round all the paths. Control work on the bracken and bramble was carried out at Happy Valley and the effects should start to show in a couple of weeks. There is still a bit of Japanese knotweed at the end of Common View, and we will be treating this as soon as possible.
Our new Common's Walking Trails leaflets are now ready and can be downloaded from the home page. They are also available at the Tourist Information Centre, produced on very high quality paper that should withstand a fair amount of use. Lots of people have put a lot of effort into producing these guides and they can all feel justly proud; the leaflets are really excellent and the quality of the new map of each Common is exceptional. Don't delay, get yours today!
4th July 2014
Most of the stump grinding work alongside Rusthall Road has now been done and hopefully we should be able to neaten up the whole area very soon. We have been carrying out bracken control work near the Tarry Path on Rusthall Common and we will be moving across to Happy Valley next week where we will also be undertaking some control work on the bramble. We have now removed the epicormic growth from the base of the Lime trees along Eridge Rd, which should make life easier for the residents entering and leaving their properties and we have also been clearing sight lines again across the Commons.. One of my main contractors returns from holiday next week, so we aim to be making a start on major path clearances. I am also preparing for the big collector flail to start cutting soon; this is at least a month before we would normally start this work but growth has been extreme this year.
27th June 2014
Back from my holiday refreshed and tanned. Not something you can always say when returning from a trip to Wales but we were unbelievably lucky with the weather and the beaches on the Gower rival anywhere in the world in those conditions.
Work continued as scheduled whilst I was away and most of what I wanted to get done was done. Now that I am back I will be starting on the clearance of main paths and tracks and arrending to a few overlooked items such as sight lines on Apsley St and removal of the epicormic growth from the bases of the Lime trees opposite Brighton Lake. I see that the goslings lost their down whilst I was away and now look like proper Canada Geese and the poppies on the grass outside the Old Post Office have come on well. Judging for Britain in Bloom will be taking place in a few weeks, so I will be paying some extra attention to the route we will be taking them on this year.
Most of the yellow lines have now gone down on the Common's roads and the new parking restrictions are in force. Some of the displaced commuters have been parking in Fir Tree car park so I will be ejecting them over the coming weeks and I now have the opportunity to repair the edges of Castle Rd and Bishops Down that have been so badly damaged in recent years.
6th June 2014
We made some useful progress this week with the removal of the two big stumps left in the Victoria Grove by the trees brought down last Christmas Eve. It took some heavy duty lifting power in the end but I was p;leased with the result. We have started grinding out the stumps along Rusthall Rd and the whole area will be getting a tidy up in the next week or so. We will be starting on our bench renovation works next week and there will be some bracken treatment taking place soon as well.
I am on leave for the next two weeks but I have spent my time this week organising contractors so that work will carry on regardless. It really does make life a lot easier when you have reliable people working with you.
30th May 2014
We made a start with the small flail this week, cutting sight lines and the edges of some of the very popular paths where the vegetation is already encroaching badly. We don't normally have to start this work until mid June but the growth is very heavy this year after all the rain we ahd over the winter. Work with the small flail will now continue throughout the next month and then I suspect that we will have to get the big collector flail in early as well. We will be cutting the epicormic growth on the row of Lime trees on the other side of the road from Brighton Lake next week, another job that has had to be brought forward.
The family of Canada Geese that are being raised on Brighton Lake this year are getting quite large now. The goslings have attracted a lot of attention (they do look very cute) and it has been remarkable how relaxed the parents have been about people getting very close to take photo's. They are still just big bundles of fluff at the moment but I imagine they will be shedding that very soon and their plumage will be showing.
23rd May 2014
The effects of the Winters storms is still being felt on the Common, we lost another of the group of Beech trees at the junction of Major Yorks Rd and the Racecourse last weekend. The whole of this group is going to have to be properly surveyed later in the year and we will probably have to carry out a programme of reducing the remaining trees to lessen leverage and stress on them.
We started work this week to clear some of the rubbish left alongside Rusthall Rd during our cutting back operations in the Winter and I hope to be back next week to start grinding out the stumps. Our intention is to leave the road verge in a condition where it can easily be maintained in future with a flail tractor. The big hedging flail was in last weekend clearing long grass on the road verges around both Commons.
I see that some poppies are starting to come out where we planted them on the two triangles of land at the end of Vale Rd. These were sown as part of the commemorations of the outbreak of World War One. It seemed an appropriate position to sow the poppies as for many years there was an old First World War tank parked on one of these triangles.
16th May 2014
I am pleased to say that the ticket machine has been completely removed from Fir Tree car park now and everything seems to be back to normal. The only downside seems to be that a few commuters have returned as well as all the proper users of the Common, so I can see another campaign to get rid of them ahead of me. Whilst on the subject of returning users to the Common, can I pass on a plea from the Cricket Club. There is a large dead area on the outfield at the moment caused by all the dog walkers who meet up there standing in the same area everyday; the problem was of course increased by the wet conditions over the winter. The grounds staff have marked the area and it has now been re-seeded and they would be grateful if people could keep off it whilst the turf recovers.
With the weather stabilising now, it is time for us to commence our annual renovation of some of the benches and bins. This should be happening over the next few weeks, so don't sit on a bench with red and white tape on it! We will be carrying out some work on the edge of the new clearance below the Victoria Grove to turn all the stumps and dead wood left behind into a refuge for reptiles and we should also be getting rid of the two huge stumps left in the Grove itself.
The air ambulance landed on the Lower Cricket Pitch this week, giving a bit of excitement to the kids.
9th May 2014
Fir Tree Rd car park is back to its busy self but the machine is still there, allthough covered up and not in use. Everyone is very happy to be back up there but we have still had no word from Targetfollow as to their intentions, so until the machine actually goes, I will not be counting any chickens. It leaves me in a bit of a quandry because when this situation blew up, I was just about to repair the surface of the car park by filling in the worst of the holes caused by the Winter weather. Obviously when Targetfollow introduced charging, I cancelled my plans, leaving the much needed repairs to them. They have done nothing to repair the surface; it is still in the same state and I do not want to repair it out of my budget until I know the charges are definitely not coming back.
2nd May 2014
I am delighted to see that the grass seed is already germinating and a green sheen is emerging on the cleared areas below Royal Victoria Grove and adjacent to Castle Road; conditions really are perfect at the moment. The down side to this is that the rest of the amentity grass areas are growing so fast that we are unable to achieve a good finish with a cut every other week. Hopefully things will calm down soon and we can get on top of it.
I don't want to speak too soon, but it seems as though Targetfollow are reconsidering their decision to try and charge for parking at Fir Tree Road. The sign has gone and the machine is covered up, and I hope that they will be removing it very soon. I am only guessing really, they have not told us anything; but then they did not tell us when it was going in either. Allready today there were quite a few cars back in the car park, so the jungle drums are beating. Hopefully by next week we should be back to normal and the area will be full of happy people again with happy dogs, who have no doubt beeen missing their friends over the last couple of weeks. There will probably be a lot of pee-mails for them to catch up on!
25th April 2014
The sowing of the grass seed was carried out last Friday, so was just nicely in time to benefit from the rain that we have had since then. It should be pretty much ideal conditions for germination at the moment, so I hope to see the two new clearances greening up very quickly. Other than that, it has been a quiet week with nothing much to deal with except some illegal campers near the pond on Cabbage Stalk Lane.
Quiet is also the word to describe the main Wellington Rocks area since Targetfollow suddenly introduced charges in Fir Tree Road car park. The area is pretty much deserted and the car park is empty. Until these charges were suddenly imposed, the area was always busy and it was a mecca for dog walkers and people visiting Wellington Rocks with their children and grandchildren. For many of the regular users, a visit to the Common was the main social activity of their day; it is very sad. This Sunday sees the first game of the season for the cricket club. I wonder what effect it will have on them; I don't suppose the visiting team are going to like having to pay to park there. It is ironic that the car park was only permitted by the Conservators in the first place to provide a facility for the cricket club and then over the years it became accepted as a parking spot for all Commons users.
17th April 2014
We have completed the preparations for seeding on our new clearances. The areas have been levelled and much of the topsoil that had built up on them has been scraped into bunds by the new woodland edge. This will allow us to plant native trees into them next autumn to soften the edges and increase diversity. The exposed subsoil is an excellent medium for the special seed mix we will be sowing over the weekend, hopefully just in time for the rain that is forecast for Sunday. On the clearance near Edgcumbe Rd, we excavated a large pit and buried a lot of tree stumps and roots from the clearance. As the soil settles, this should create an underground hibernaculam for the lizards and snakes that we hope will now recolonise the sunny glades that have been created by the clearances. On the edge of the clearance below the Victoria Grove, we have made a lerge habitat stack of brushwood, tree stumps and trunks, which will also provide a refuge for our reptiles, as well as excellent habitat for many of our invertebrates.
11th April 2014
Most of you will have heard the rumours or seen in the local paper that the owners of the Commons have announced that they intend to take a more commercial attitude to the Commons, starting with charging people to use the car park at Fir Tree Rd. It was a surprise however for all when a pay and display machine was installed there yesterday; I don't think any of us expected them to act this quickly. As a result, the car park was almost empty today, so we will see what happens. The revenue frrom this does not go into the maintenance of the Common, it goes for Targetfollow, the owners of both the Pantiles and the title of Lord of the Manor of Rusthall.
Away from the controversy, we have been continuing with work on damaged trees, removing a dead hawthorn from the side of London Rd and a dangerous sycamore behind the Forum amongst others. I hope that next week we will be starting to prepare the two newly cleared sites on Tunbridge Wells Common for seeding with our restoration mix. Conditions are excellent at the moment, with plenty of moisture still in the soil and nicely rising temperatures to assist germination.
4th April 2014
We carried out the first cut of the grass this week around the edges of the Commons; it is the first step towards getting everything looking decent again after what was a pretty rough Winter. We also cleared the last of the wood from the two new clearances we have done on Tunbridge Wells Common and I hope that we will be preparing them for seeding with our Restoration Mix over the next few weeks.
The Commons ponds have been surveyed this week, with pleasing results. Populations of Smooth and Palmate Newts were found in all of the ponds on both Commons and we still have Great Crested Newts at the Marlpits. Fir Tree pond is now full of tadpoles from the early spawning back in February, as is Brighton Lake.
28th March 2014
It has been a quiet week for work on the Common although I seem to have spent the whole week in meetings. We have been continuing with tidying up storm damage at various sites across both Commons. We have done all the serious or potentially dangerous work but I am still finding minor bits of clearance all over the place.
Don't forget that the clocks go forward on saturday night. I know it means an hour less in bed but it is worth it to start getting those wonderful longer evenings. It seems that some warmth will be returning this weekend as well, so I hope that the progress of Spring will start to really accelerate again now.
21st March 2014
Its the Spring equinox today and we seem to be having appropriate weather for once. Some sunshine, some showers and a few equinoctal gales. The leaves are already emerging strongly on the smaller trees and I see that the horse chestnuts are now starting to break as well; a sure sign that I will have to start cutting the grass very soon.
We finally removed the two fallen trees from Royal Victoria Grove, leaving just the two big rootplates to be dealt with. I hope to be getting rid of those very soon, as well as the stumps left alongside Rusthall Road by the recent clearance there. We have been continuing to deal with the more cosmetic after effects of the winter's storms on both Commons and this work will probably trickle on over the next couple of weeks. Use of the Commons over the last couple of weekends has been very high, with the resultant increase in litter problems that I would sadly expect, but it is good so many people are out there enjoying it.
14th March 2014
The last of the trees are down on Rusthall Rd and the trunks should be being clearer today. We then just have a bit of smartening up of the area to do, which should be finished next week. The new path from the Marlpit Ponds has been cleared but still needs some machine work to create bridges over the wet areas. This will be done when the ground is a bit firmer. This work has exposed a couple of little wet areas and a small pond that I didn't even know existed; some of them have frog spawn in them already.
Over on TW Common, we have managed to clear all the timber from the Winters clearances and we should be getting the big fallen trees in the Victoria Grove out next week. The brush from these trees and some of the log wood will be stacked on site to create extra habitat for insects and reptiles. Once the sites are cleared, we can think about preparing them for seeding with our restoration seed mix in the next few weeks.
I was a bit optomistic last week saying that we had dealt with almost all the remaining storm damage on the Commons. We will be busy again next week with various bits and pieces but I hope that should bring treeworks to an end.
7th March 2014
Apart from a few bits of tidying up, we have now finished all of our Winter work schedule. There are a couple of final trees to come down on Rusthall Rd near its junction with Langton Rd and the last (hopefully) bits of storm damage to clear away and then we can leave the birds in peace to get on with nesting. If this dry weather continues into next week as forecast, we should also finally be able to clear all the cut timber away, including the two big trees that came down in the Victoria Grove on Christmas Eve.
Now that the Winter work is out of the way I guess it is time to start thinking about grass cutting, which should get underway in the next few weeks. We will again be leaving our wildflower area uncut below Church Rd and it will be interesting to see what starts to appear after the extra planting and seeding that took place last year. There are definitely signs of life down on the two grass triangles at the end of Vale Rd where we sowed Poppy seed into the new beds last autumn. Fingers crossed for a good display in the Summer.
28th February 2014
The work on roadside trees along Rusthall Rd has just about been completed; we strill have a bit of tidying to do next week but it should not require the traffic lights any more, maybe just some stop and go signs at crucial moments. We have cleared a lot of scrub and taken down a number of ivy covered hawthorns, as well as pollarding some large ivy infested ash trees. Hopefully this should be the last we need to do in this area for a good few years. There was a moment of unexpected tension when a human scull rolled out into the road as we cleared one ivy covered tree. Fortunately, it turned out to be a resin model; pretty convincing though! It is now adorning the office of the boss of the contracting firm who were doing the work.
Just round the corner, between Coach Rd and Common View we managed to finish the cutting for our final new path through the woods near the Marlpit Ponds. We have only done the cutting for this path so far to get it finished before the birds start nesting but we will be back when the ground dries up to carry out some machine work and install culverts where the run off from the steep bank crosses the route of the new path.
There is a great deal of spawn in Fir Tree Pond now and I have seen the Heron down there on a regular basis. He will be hunting the frogs as well as eating the spawn but fortunately, there is plenty to go round. I saw a number of Brimstone butterflies on the wing at the start of the week, as well as a couple of over-wintered Tortoiseshells. Spring is definitely springing.
21st February 2014
Well, the big news of the week is that the frogs are back in Fir Tree Pond. It is always a cheery moment, signalling that Spring is not too far away. I must admit, I thought it would still be a little too cold for them but clearly I underestimated their enthusiasm. The level of birdsong is definitely rising as well and I heard a couple of Woodpeckers drumming away near Royal Victoria Grove this morning.
The stump grinding on the new clearance there is all finished now and we are just waiting for the ground to dry up so that we can remove the wood. Once that is done, we can start to think about preparing both of the newly cleared areas for seeding.
Next week should see the last of the tree work being carried out - the clearance of potentially hazardous trees next to Rusthall Rd and the cutting of a new path between the Marlpit Pond site and Common View. I had set myself a target of getting everything done by the end of February so that we don't stray into bird nesting season and it looks as though we are just going to scrape home. It looked unlikely that we would get it done for a while but the weather has relented just enough. I suppose I had better start thinking about grass cutting now!
14th February 2014
You have to feel sorry for the chap who has been carrying out the stump grinding this week below the Victoria Grove. It is not the most fun job at the best of times, but in this weather he must be utterly fed up. He has kept at it though and we are pretty much finished, except of course for the removal of all the cut timber which will just have to wait until we get dry conditions. Fortunately, the Common's sandy soils will make it very quick to drain if the rain ever actually stops.
We started clearing scrub adjacent to Rusthall Rd this week and this work will be ongoing over the next couple of weeks. In the second week, we will be removing some potentially dangerous larger trees and pollarding some others as appropriate. This will require traffic lights during that week, so apologies in advance for any inconvenience.
7th February 2014
We have now finished all the cutting below the Victoria Grove and have now started to grind out the stumps of the cleared trees. There is still no sign of any drier weather, so we will simply have to bide our time with removing the timber from the site. As we move towards Spring and the weather starts to warm up, we will prepare the site for seeding with our restoration grass mix, which helps greatly with stopping the birch and cycamore seedlings from taking over. It will then be interesting to see what will return from the original heathland species that were present before the scrub woodland started to dominate.
Over on Rusthall Common we have now completed the drainage work, which I hope has made life a little easier for both users of the Common as well as householders on the boundary.
31st January 2014
In spite of the continuing deluge, we have made good progress with the clearance below the Royal Victoria Grove, as well as with the new path on Rusthall Common. Pretty much all the cutting below the Grove is complete and we should be able to move onto the stump grinding soon. Over on Rusthall, the path itself is now cut and there is just some tidying to do. We are planning to dredge the pond at the start of the path, below the steps as part of this job but that will have to wait for some drier conditions to get the machine onto the Common.
Still on Rusthall Common, we have been continuing with work to clear drainage ditches, but as this is having to be carried out by hand, it is comparatively slow going.
The Volunteers will be out tomorrow clearing holly from the edge of Fir Tree Pond to make sure that the pond stiil gets the benefit of any early spring sunshine to warm it up for our amphibians, who should be arriving soon to spawn if the weather stays as mild as it has been..
23rd January 2014
Work is progressing well on the clearance below the Royal Victoria Grove and we have started clearing the two fallen trees within the Grove itself. A few dry days have made life much easier there.
Over on Rusthall Common, we are now back continuing clearance of the new path next to the Tarry Path and we have been carrying out more work clearing the drainage ditches. We are hoping that the slight improvement in the weather will enable us to finish both these tasks in the next couple of weeks.
17th January 2014
Well the winds seem to have abated but the rain keeps on coming down without mercy and it is making life very difficult. We have started our new clearance below the Victoria Grove and next week we will be starting to clear the two trees that came over in the avenue. For the moment, this will just have to be stacked and left there until conditions improve. The same applies to the timber from the clearance; we will simply cut and stack for the present. At least this way we can get all the felling finished before the nesting season commences in about ten weeks time.
Over on Rusthall Common, we have been concentrating on making sure all our drainage ditches are open and able to carry all the water away. As soon as conditions permit, I intend to get a machine in to re-dig the ditch that runs from the old Rusthall Elms drive to the beginning of the High St.
10th January 2014
Thank goodness things seem to be calming down a little. We are still clearing away storm damage and making damaged trees safe but I think we are fairly well on top of it now. We still have not been able to do anything about clearing the Victoria Grove as it is still much too wet to get the heavy machinery that we will need onto the Common. Fortunately, once the rain actually stops, the Commons sandy soil drains very quickly so it should not be too long before we can get on with it and make a start on our proposed clearance in that area as well. The same thing applies over on Rusthall as well, where we had to halt work on our new path in the central section of the Common.
2nd January 2014
As you can imagine, it has been a fairly fraught period over Christmas and the New Year. The storms have caused a fair amount of damage, both with sodden ground and destruction of trees. The most dramatic and saddest was the loss of a beech tree from the centre of the Victoria Grove, which also took down a lime from the adjacent line of the avenue. The beech was probably the largest tree in the Grove and it has left a large gap. Beech trees are usually very shallow rooted and this one was no exception; as is often the case, the entire root plate has lifted. We will be clearing it and the other storm damage away over the next few weeks but I am concerned about causing unnecessary damage to the ground whilst it is so sodden, so there may be a bit of a delay.
20th December 2013
Work has been underway this week to clear drainage ditches across both Commons; probably just as well given the rain that we are getting at the moment. We have continued with the clearance of the new path on Rusthall Common and good progress is being made. I don't suppose the work will be finished before Christmas but I hope that the route should at least be passable by then.
It is the shortest day tomorrow. It always lifts my spirits to think that the days will start getting longer, even if the worst of the weather is probably still to come. Definitely a reason for celebration.
I will be back in a couple of weeks to let you know what happens on the Commons in 2014. If the weather permits, we will be getting on with a new clearance on Tunbridge Wells Common between the Victoria Grove and the Racecourse straight after the break.
I hope you have a great Christmas and New Year.
16th December 2013
Sorry for the delay in posting this; our system fell victim to Friday 13th!
We had a good day with the volunteers last week, with lots of useful clearance at Bulls Hollow and the clearance of the ivy that was starting to completely obscure the Loaf Rock at Denny Bottom.
Still over at Rusrhall, we have started on cutting a new path through the woodland in the central section of the Common. This path will run from the bottom of the steps down from the Tarry Path and make its way through the little valley back towarfds Rusthall Rd, coming out near the junction with Sunnyside Rd. This work will open a new route through an area that has been unaccessible for many years and should largely complete clearance work in this compartment of the Common. Whilst we are there, we will also be clearing silt from the pond there to re-open some usable clear water for our amphibians.
6th December 2013
We were able to take advantage of the continued dry period this week and installed a hard surface on the path leading to the Marlpit Ponds on Rusthall Common. Almost 40 tonnes of stone had to be put down, so we were very lucky that the conditions allowed heavy machinery to repeatedly track over the area without causing too much damage. The shift of attention over to Rusthall meant that the clearance on Tunbridge Wells Common was temporarily halted but we will return to that next week and should be able to finish then.
Thursday's strong winds stripped the majority of the remaining leaves off the trees and brought most of the autumn colour to an end. The colours of the last few weeks were absolutely stunning, it was one of the finest displays I can remember and went on very late; it is, after all, only two weeks to the shortest day now.
29th November 2013
It has been a busy week and much has been accomplished. Bracken Cottage pond on TW Common has been cleaned out and the outlet repaired. This should fill up nicely over the next few months and will return to its proper depth now the leak has been sealed. We also partially dredged Fir Tree pond (left), removing much of the reed mace that was starting to take over one corner. There is now a good depth of open water ready for the return of our frogs in just a few months time. We will clean out the other side of the pond in a couple of years.
We have continued with our clearance down near Castle Rd and work is progressing well. Next week will probably see the end of this task, after we have cleared a new path through to Wellington Rocks and ground the stumps below soil level.
The wildflower areas next to London Rd were raked with a chain harrow to prepare them for seeding with Yellow Rattle this week. We also sowed some Devils Bit Scabious, Cowslip and Knapweed seed in the same areas. The Yellow Rattle is going in because it is parasitic on grass and should help reduce the problem of the grass outcompeting the new wildflowers in these areas. Further down London Rd, outside the Old Post Office, we have created two new seed beds on the little triangles of grass there. These have been sown with Poppy seeds which should come up next spring. This is to commemorate the centenary of the start of the First World War next year; you may see Poppies appearing elwhere on the Common too.
22nd November 2013
Well the weather certainly did not cooperate as we hoped, and my contractors spent a pretty soggy week. We have started on the clearance near Edgcumbe Rd but conditions have made progress fairly slow. It really was not easy getting the fire going apart from anything else. We will continue next week and should finish without too much trouble. As well as the clearance, we will be creating a new path through the remaining woodland towards Wellington Rocks. Once all the cutting is done, we will grind all the resulting stumps below ground level, so that future maintenance of the site will be easy and inexpensive. As we approach next spring, we will be seeding the area with our restoration grass mix, just as we did on the recent clearances further down Castle Rd.
Now that the leaves are dropping quickly, it will soon be time to start to clean some our paths and clear some of our drainage ditches. We are still waiting to put in the new surface on the path to the Marlpits on Rusthall; I think we need some frosty weather before that happens now.
15th November 2013
The improvement in the weather this week allowed the Common to dry out somewhat and we were able to complete the grass cutting and path clearance at Happy Valley. We have carried out a great deal of work in this section of the Common in recent years, which means that there is a lot of maintenance to keep everything open. It is a lovely area and it can be properly appreciated in the winter when the leaves are off the trees and the views open up showing the dramatic topography of the site.
We also managed a final cut of the amenity grass areas this week to leave everything neat for the winter. All the cutting equipment will be going into mothballs now, but it will not be long before they are back again; probably around the middle to end of next march.
Hopefully the weather will continue to be cooperative next week as we are planning to start on the first of the winter's clearances. This will involve opening up between the two paths that come down from the Wellington Rocks to the top of Edgcumbe Rd. To accomplish this we will mostly be removing young birch and sycamore saplings although there are one or two of the larger trees that are damaged enough to need remedial work or possibly even felling. When it is finished, it will not only open another sunny glade for the benefit of our reptiles and invertebrates but will also partially re-open one of the classic old vistas across the Lower Cricket Pitch towards Trinity Church tower.
If we are very lucky with the weather, we may also be able to put in the new path we plan on Rusthall Common to improve access to the Marlpit Ponds area.
Page last updated: 07/03/2017