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18th December 2015

We are still finishing off Happy Valley as there was a bit more than we thought to clear. The guys have done a great job, though, and it looks lovely; have a walk over there during the holidays and see what you think. We should be moving over to Bulls Hollow next week to get rid of the scrub and cherry laurel cut by the volunteers and to clear the central part of the hollow as well. The new posts are going in on the drive to the Mount Edgcumbe to protect the Common's verge and I hope to clear the surface of the path into Happy Valley from St Paul's next week before the Christmas break.

So there we are, another year over; it's the shortest day next week, so longer days ahead, always a nice thought. I will be back in the New Year and, in the meantime, can I wish everyone Season's Greetings? Only trouble is, it is hard to tell quite what season it is!

11th December 2015

We have carried out a lot of clearance work at Happy Valley this week, clearing the slopes of bramble and gorse re-growth and opening up the views again. We should have this completed by early next week and then hope to move on to Bulls Hollow. We will be clearing out the hollow itself and clearing scrub and cherry laurel cut by the volunteers in their last two work parties. I hope also that we will be putting in new anti-parking posts alongside the drive to the Mount Edgcumbe, where cars have started parking on the edge of the Common and damaging it. 

Annoyingly, we are experiencing problems with motor bikes on Rusthall Common again. They seem to mostly target the Bumps but I have also seen tyre tracks on the Tarry Path near the pond. If anyone knows who this is or gets a numberplate, please let me know and I will pass it on to the Police.

4th December 2015

We have now finished the repairs to the ground at Lower Green Road, where it was left in such a sorry state after the installation of the new gas main earlier in the year. The contractors did a lovely job and have restored the drainage network under the grass, brought in appropriate topsoil and landscaped the whole area as well as seeding it. If the current mild weather lasts another couple of weeks, the area should soon start to green up nicely. If it gets too cold and that does not happen, we will re-seed on the other side of Winter. In case you are wondering, the gas company will be paying for all this. I agreed with them that we would carry out the reinstatement because I knew we would get a much better job that way.

The same contractor has just got a new attachment for his tractor to help clear all the fallen leaves from the wildflower areas alongside Inner London Road. These should be going next week to help keep nutrient levels down in the soil to aid the wildflowers. Once the leaves are out of the way, we will be scarifying the grass and adding in more yellow rattle seed to continue the weakening of the grass that competes so strongly with the wildflowers.

27th November 2015

We have made a start on our winter tree clearance programme now, with the removal of a couple of dead roadside trees, and next week we will hopefully be carrying out some reduction work and dead wooding on the three old boundary oaks near Hungershall Park. These are some of the oldest trees on either Common, so we will be very gentle with them.

Also next week we will be trying to sort out the mess left by the gas main installation at Lower Green Road and, if the weather looks suitable for germination, we will also sow it with our restoration grass mix. Still no sign of any action by South East Water to resolve the problems of the sodden ground in the same area.

Am I the only one to have noticed the Common appearing on the latest Premier Inn advert? Don't know why they chose us as a location as there is no Premier Inn here, but the image of the two benches at the start of the ad is definitely taken on the triangle at the top of Church Road.

20th November 2015

The heavy winds this week caused only minor damage across the Commons but did bring down most of the leaves, making it much easier to survey our roadside trees properly and make decisions on work requirements. It also now enables us to start clearing drainage ditches and clearing surfaced paths; there is obviously little point doing this until all the leaves are down. We have managed to repair the holes in the surface of Fir Tree Rd car park this week before the frost can get to work on them.

We finally seem to be getting somewhere with our problem of sodden ground at Lower Green Rd. An analysis of the water has pointed to a damaged water main as its source as I always suspected and South East Water should be commencing work very soon to try and resolve the issue. I have been waiting for some action on this issue before I carry out repairs an the lower section of land damaged by the gas work there earlier in the year but now hope to be able to start on that in the next few weeks as well.

13th November 2015

Happily, we have our email all back working again and we are working our way through unanswered mail. What a relief to be back in contact again.

The cutting and clearance of our paths has finally come to an end and we are now starting to turn our attention to tree work. There are a couple of clearly dead trees to be removed from Major York's Rd and near the garden centre but generally our roadside trees are in good condition and barring any unexpected storm damage, we should be able to focus our efforts on habitat improvements over the next few months. 

The volunteers started on a new clearance project to remove scrub and expose further rock outcrops at Bulls Hollow last weekend. This work will continue through the Winter with input from our contractors when required. It is pleasing to be able to improve such a lovely, yet little known location.

6th November 2015

We stiil cannot send emails; who thought it could be so complicated to get this problem resolved. We should definitely be back online next week sometime and will be responding to all outstanding messages as soon as possible. I can only apologise again if you are still waiting for a reply from us. If you are waiting and it is urgent, you could always try me on 07860 750597.

We finished the cutting of the big bank between the coach park on London Rd and Mt Ephraim last week. We have continued the clearance further this year, cutting and clearing the steep bank below Rocklea and Gibraltar Cottage. The bracken that covers this slope was treated earlier in the year, so hopefully there will be much less to clear next Autumn and we should avoid the annoyance of vegetation collapsing over the busy footpath there.

We are having to replace a lot of our anti-parking posts at the moment; I an a little worried that many of these posts that were all put in around fifteen years ago are starting to fail all at the same time. We could be having to spend a fair bit of money on replacing them and this is at a time when I was hoping to be able to put more new posts in to protect the verges at areas such as Lower Green Rd and Bretland Road, that are suffering serious erosion from traffic.

30th October 2015

Well we are in our new office now and the move went relatively smoothly. Unfortunately, we still don't seem to be able to send out emails, so if you are waiting for a reply from us I apologise for the delay; we hope to be back in action early next week.

It is Rusthall bonfire on Saturday and just for once it looks as though it might stay dry for the night. I am alwys both surprised and pleased with the speed and efficiency of the clean up operation that takes place after the event. I hope the event goes well and everybody has an enjoyable time; I might even get there myself this year.

It has been a mixed wek weather wise, which has slowed the end of the path cutting. We have had some lovely weather but a couple of the days, in particular Thursday, which brought the effects of the clock change very much into evidence; it was dark before 4pm, a taste of things to come.

23rd October 2015

Over to Rusthall this week, starting clearance at Happy Valley. We are clearing all the paths here first of all and then will be returning to clear the slopes later in the season. With luck, we should finally finish path cutting next week or the week after.

The clocks go back this weekend, always a miserable occasion. The Autumn colour is appearing quite strongly now but I suspect that it will only be a short period before the leaves come down, so enjoy it whilst you can.

We are moving offices next week, going from Calverly Terrace, where we have been for many years and going over to the Town Hall. Funnily enough, we are returning to the same office I started in twenty three years ago. It is obviously going to take a while before we are fully settled in but hopefully our broadband will be working by next Friday so that I can continue with my reprts. If we are not here, you will know what has happened.

16th October 2015

As hoped, we finished cutting the paths on Tunbridge Wells this week and we will be moving over to Rusthall now to finish there. To judge by the way the weather is starting to break down now, we have got there just in time. The only remaining bit of clearance work then will be the cutting and clearing of the big slope between Mt Ephraim and the coach park on London Rd. We will be clearing a bit more of the bank this year to start to bring the slope below Gibraltar Cottage into management.

Many of you will be aware of the new development that is due to start at the old petrol station opposite Kentish Mansions. As part of the preparations for the start of building, four large sycamores at the bottom of what was Stranges Avenue will be being removed soon by the developers tree team. Whilst it is always sad to see large trees come down, these are in a very poor state and would have had to come down soon anyway, especially since they are so close to the A26. As part of this process, we are getting the developer to also clear more of the damaged and leaning trees from the old avenue, which will giv us a chance to improve this "grot spot" over the next couple of years.

9th October 2015

The Volunteers had a good morning last Saturday, clearing all the new oak seedling near the Victoria Grove. This is a vital job to stop the gradual loss of the valuable acid grass habitat there and is perfectly suited for the Vols.

We have about one more days work to finish clearance on Tunbridge Wells and a couple of days over at Rusthall, so we really are getting near the end of this marathon task now. Once the leaves are down, we can then start on clearing drainage ditches and cleaning the edges of our tarmac paths. The leaves are not showing much sign of dropping yet though, in fact the Autumn colour is only just starting. However, I suspect that the first frosts will bring things on rapidly and that can't be far away, it's only three weeks till November.

2nd October 2015

We are getting to the end of the clearance with the big collector flail now. It still has some work to do on Rusthall, where I will be trying to cut and clear the edge of Rusthall Rd where we pushed back the woodland edge last year, but there is a large fallen tree opposite Dingley Dell that needs to be removed first. On Tunbridge Wells, there are a few areas still to be cut, including the wildflower meadows on London Rd. It looks as though this good weather will be breaking down after this week, so I am very pleased that we are nearly finished; the big tractor can have problems in wet conditions. There is still a great deal of work to be done with the small tractor but that is much less affected by the weather.

The volunteers will be out tomorrow for their first work party of the Winter. We will, as usual be clearing self sown oak scrub from the acid grassland between Wellington Rocks and the Queen's Grove. I say self seeded but actually the seeding is mostly carried out by squirrels; as we are cutting the result of last Winter's forgotten acorns, we can watch the little devils burying the ones we will be cutting next year!

25th September 2015

My week has mostly been taken up with meetings, as it was one of the quarterly meets of the Commons' governing body on Thursday. 

The Hospice in the Weald fun run took place last Sunday with good attendance. As ever, the organisers cleared up promptly after the race and the only grumbles I have heard concerned the extensive road closures that the race involves.

Work has continued with the clearances all week and we are making good progress, although there is still much to do.

21st September 2015

Here we are at the autumn equinox, so we can no longer pretend it is still summer even if it does feel like it on some days. The weather has allowed us to continue with our clearances and we are now getting on well with the large areas.

Over at Lower Green Road in Rusthall, the gas board have now finished the installation of the new main and we will be repairing the damaged area where they stored their materials as soon as possible; until then we have fenced the area off. This work will obviously be funded by the contactors who caused the damage.

We have also had to fence off the area above the gas work, where the ground remains sodden. I have for some time thought that this was due to a leaking water main, rather than the new spring that has been suggested. It seems unlikely to be a sudden appearance of a new spring, given the fairly dry winter last year and the relatively dry summer since. Water rising through the road surface at the crossroads has been a problem for some years and I suspect that the last time they tried to solve this issue, the water was diverted onto the Common, causing the problem that we have now have.

11th September 2015

Work has continued on cutting and clearance this week and we are making good progress. We spent quite a lot of time at Brighton Lake clearing the grassland behind it and clearing scrub and bramble from the wall at the rear of the path. There has been damage to part of the edging wall, which seems to have been pushed into the water. We hope to repair this next week and reinstate the damaged section of path.

It is very pleasing to see so much of the heather seed that we have planted in recent years starting to grow; the heather flowers make it easy to see the extent of the colonisation at this time of year. I was particularly pleased with the large clearance bordered by Castle Rd, Mt Edgcumbe Rd and London Rd.

It was also very nice to see a buzzard soaring over the centre of town yesterday as I was on the Lower Cricket Pitch. They are getting much more common these days and I often see them at Eridge Park and on Ashdown Forest, but it is still a thrill to see one over the Common.

4th September 2015

We had a great break in Suffolk and seem to have judged the time to be away perfectly from what I saw of the weather here.

In spite of all the rain, I was pleased to find that good progress was made with the cutting whilst I was away. The big machine has been busy and will finish the first tranche of clearance early next week. We will then have a pause as another cut of the amenity grass is carried out and some stump grinding is done near the Victoria Grove where we took out some self sown oaks that were invading the acid grassland there. After that, the big flail will return to start on the large meadow areas.

Now that the big flail has made a start, the smaller machine will come in to neaten the areas already cut as well as clearing the smaller paths, so the Common should start to look a lot tidier in the next few weeks.

14th August 2015

Yesterdays rain meant that we were not able to cut the grass as planned this week but we will be on it at the start of next week. Fortunately, the geology of the Common means that it drains remarkably quickly, we could almost have started mowing today, except for a few places. But then the geology is the whole reason for the Commons existence; it was the part of the Manor of Rusthall that was so difficult to farm successfully that it was known as the Wastes of the Manor historically.

The weather also halted the flail tractor, that would have been back in yesterday but it will return next week, along with the big collector flail. We have been repainting graffitied bins and metalwork this week and will be replacing our old bylaw signs over the next few weeks as well.

I am away for the next two weeks, returning after the Bank Holiday. It is a happy thought that the schools will be starting again then as well, so things should get somewhat quieter for our poor, long suffering litter contractor. He has had a difficult Summer but he has, as always, managed to keep things under control. The paths and tracks have suffered a bit as he has had to concentrate on emtying the bins and clearing the hot spots such as the Lower Cricket Pitch and Wellington Rocks but they will be getting a proper clean soon, We are lucky to have Bryan and we are also lucky to have quite a few users of the Commons who routinely take a bag with them when walking there and pick up any litter they see. Their help makes a big difference.

8th August 2015

Definitely high Summer now, the Lammas growth is starting to show on the trees and as our sandy soils dry out, the grass is slowing down, allowing us to increase the gap between cuts. This should allow us to continue cutting until late Autumn.

The long task of cutting and clearing the tracks has now started and will continue through the next two months. We hope to increase the area cut again this year, primarily in the section between Mt Ephraim and the coach park on London Rd where the bracken was recently sprayed.

We seem to be having a lot of problems with rough sleepers at the moment. We have had to clear a number of camps recently and I am discovering, or getting reports of, new ones on a weekly basis. It is a difficult situation to deal with; no-one wants to make these peoples plights worse but the public health risks and the sheer mess left behind mean that we cannot ignore the problem and have to move people on. Definitely not my favourite part of the job.

31st July 2015

A much quieter week thank goodness, without any major problems at the Rocks. There is still plenty of clearing up to do but it is just the usual litter that goes with people enjoying the Common. Happily the weather allowed us to carry out our bracken treatment this week. There is only a very short window of opportunity for this treatment, which is only effective at a certain stage of the plants development.

We have been a bit delayed starting on path clearance but the small tractor will definitely be in next week. This will start to push back the edges of some of the main paths and prepare the Common for the arrival of the big flail, which will be starting work in mid August. Both machines will then be in operation for several weeks to clear all the tracks and paths, as well as our meadows and areas of long grass.

24th JUly 2015

Sad to report more serious vandalism at Wellington Rocks and the cricket club last night. There was obviously a major party at the rocks which were covered in detritus and a huge amount of broken glass this morning. In addition, the covers were out on the nearby cricket pitch, as they have to be prior to a weekend game since the club has moved to a higher league. Some of the youths moved over onto the pitch and utterly destroyed the covers, slashing the coverings and bending and flattening the frames beyond repair. These covers cost the club £12,000+vat just a couple of years ago; a huge sum of money which the club cannot possibly afford to lose. Obviously this could have very serious consequences for their future.

If the weather permits, we will be spraying the bracken next to the path comimg down from the Royal Wells to London Rd next Monday. We will be using Asulox, a chemical which targets only bracken and ferns and is harmless to everything alse. We have used this product on many areas of the Common in the past and it has proved very effective indeed. The results of the treatment will not become apparent until next year. If only there was a similar product that only affected bramble! 

17th July 2015

We had a lovely break but in case you are wondering, of course the bathroom was not finished; that was clearly too much to hope for. However I did return to the Friends Tea Party on Wednesday at the Mt Edgcumbe, which was very pleasant indeed. The Friends are an excellent organisation who give us much help and it was very cheering to hear that they now have over 400 members.

Judging for Britain in Bloom also took place on Wednesday and we were able to spend some time walking the Judges through the centre of the Common from Wellington Rocks to the Pantiles. We were blessed with excellent weather and I hope they enjoyed their walk.

Less pleasant to return to was the damage and mess around the Wellington Rocks, where we are again having problems with groups of youths lighting fires on the rocks and leaving large amounts of broken glass and litter behind. With so many youngchildren and dogs up there the following mornings, this is causing real problems for our long suffering litter contractor.

Work will start in earnest clearing our paths and tracks next week. This is a major task and will take quite a time to complete, so it could take a while before we reach your area of the Common.

26th June 2015

We have finally managed to get the hedging flail in to cut the grass around the edge of the Commons. The last few weeks have been a bit of a saga of machines breakinbg down and tractor drivers injuring their backs, so I am very glad that we finally got there. We have had a similar situation with the smaller machine that was meant to have cut the grass at Denny Bottom two weeks ago. However having eventually teached us yesterday, the operator ran straight over a piece of steel bar hidden in the grass and wrecked the cutters! The machine will hopefully be repaired and return early next week.

Orchids are strange things. We have had a couple of common spotted orchids appearing in the grass near Cabbage stalk Lane pond over the past few years on the area that we cleared of scrub some time ago. I have been noticing a few extra spotty leaves there as I have been walking the Common this Spring, but I was unprepared for the sight that is there at present. This year we have over forty orchids at the site and the group has spread over a much larger area.

I am away for the next couple of weeks, so there will be no reports. We are retreating to the Suffolk coast whilst our bathroom is gutted and rebuilt, I just hope there will be a working bathroom awaiting us on our return.

19th June 2015

The hedging flail finally made it on site last night after problems with the driver last weekend. It made one pass along Hungershall Park and the PTO link broke and it had to head back to Cranbrook; very frustrating! It will be back as soon as it is repaired and in the meantime, I have had an emergency sigtline cut at the crossing opposite Vale Rd, which is the one I was most worried about. This was done by another contractor who was in today clearing the grass in the Victoria Grove and lifting the canopies of the trees in the avenue; this has really improved the appearance of this key feature.

I have been looking at our wildflower experiment on the grass between London Rd and Inner London Rd with some concern over the past month, as nothing much seemed to be happening there. However, in the last week or so, quite a bit of interest has started to appear. Ox eye daisies are now starting to show, along with knapweed, heath bedstraw, birds foot trefoil and most pleasingly, yellow rattle. The rattle is important in the development of the area as it is a parasite of grass and as it spreads throughout the sward, it will weaken the competition from the grass and allow the wildflowers to spread across the site more easily. It has taken three years to get to this stage and I am pleased to finally see some signs of progress.

                        Common Knapweed

Yellow Rattle

12th June 2015

We had to deal with a few damaged trees this week after the unseasonal winds but fortunately nothing major was affected. This weekend should see the big hedging flail on site to cut many of the road verges. The big roadside bank opposite Union House is in urgent need of cutting, as is the verge adjacent to the crossing point opposite Vale Rd. In order to do areas like these, the machine has to come in very early on Sunday morning as this is the only time we can avoid parked cars and heavy traffic. We started work this week preparing for the vist of the Britain in Bloom judges in the middle of July. Ridiculous really given that they will only be on the Common for about fifteen minutes but I guess we all want our town to do well.

I had another guided walk to lead this week. This time it was for the U3A, the opposite end of the age spectrum to the Cub Scouts who came out a few weeks ago. This walk was meant to have taken place a few days after the Cub's walk but got cancelled at the last minute because of the threat of bad weather. This turned out to be a very good move as the original day was absolutely dreadful and as it happened, we moved it to probably the best day of the year so far.

5th June 2015

We are currently out cutting sight lines on all our road junctions. This weather is perfect for growing grass and it is quite difficult to keep up with it. The big hedging flail should be in next weekend to cut the road edges; they are getting very long now, especially on the bank opposite Union House. There are also a couple of key paths that get overgrown, such as the one that goes behind the cricket pavilion on Fir Tree Rd and they too will be cleared over the next week. A cut and clearance is due to be carried out at Denny Bottom next week but this can be very difficult to do properly, as there are always parked cars left there and if we strim anywhere near them there is too much risk of causing damage with flying stones.

30th May 2015

Half term brought a lot of families out onto the Commons, allthough admittedly the hail, rain and freezing winds of Friday did dampen things down a bit. We are very lucky oecause of our geology; even after all that rain yesterday, the Common drains so quickly that the Cricket Club are able to play today without any problem. 

Of course the geology is the whole reason for the Commons existence; it was only because the poor, sandy soils made them virtually useless for agriculture that Common Rights were granted over what was known as the Wastes of the Manor of Rusthall many centuries ago. It was the arrival of the Town in the 17th Century and the many visitors who came to take the waters that later established it as a place of leisure and resort and protected them from development. This in turn eventually brought about the Acts of Parliament that culminated with the creation of the Commons Conservators and have given us the present situation whereby the people of Tunbridge Wells and Rusthall are assured access in perpetuity and the Commons are protected from encroachment. 

22nd May 2015

This is very much our quiet time workwise on the Commons. We carried out another cut of the grass this week and renovated another three benches but of course all cutting and clearing is on hold for the next couple of months as nesting is now in full swing. I will enjoy the pause and the beauty of the burgeoning Common whilst I can, because before we know it, we will be back cutting all our paths and then the big machine will arrive to cut and clear the long grass areas.

I have just been given the dates for this years Britain in Bloom judging and again the Commons will be taking part. We will get about fifteen minutes to show the Judges around, which is of course a woefully inadequate amount of time but their day is so busy I think we have to be grateful for that. I always find that a bit of bribery goes down well on these occasions, so I will be presenting the Judges with copies of our wonderful new maps that came out in the last year. If you have not seen these yet, they are available to download from our website or the Friends website.

15th May 2015

The blanket weed problem in Brighton Lake seems to have been resolved, at least temporarily. Hopefully the excess nutrients have been consumed and the pond will now settle down. We will be planting more surface covering plants later in the year to help reduce light penetration, which should help prevent further blooms of algae. The pond is becoming increasingly populated now with the arrival of ten Moorhen chicks over the past week joining the goslings and ducklings. We are still continuing with our bench renovations and the two seats at the lake will be rubbed down and repainted next week. Sadly and very annoyingly, one of the benches is badly damaged where several disposable barbecues have been used actually on the seat of the bench. What, if anything goes on in these peoples heads!

Yesterdays wet weather lead t the cancellation of another guided walk that I was due to lead. This time it was to have been for the U3A; the other end of the age spectrum from last weeks Cub Troop. The walk has already been re-scheduled but it is a shame as everything is looking so wonderful at the moment.

8th May 2015

Hopefully the stormy weather that we had this week is going to bring a change and we will start to lose the cold northeasterly winds that have been dominating our weather for several weeks now. There was a fair amount of minor damage caused during the winds and there are a number of trees uprooted and leaning into others. Fortunately, these are mostly away from paths and are reasonably well lodged; if possible I will leave these in place as they will provide wonderful habitat as they slowly decay.

We re-dug and seeded our poppy circles on the two triangles outside the Old Post Office site this week. These are of course part of the ongoing commemorations of the First World War and will continue until 2018. We have planted later this year, as recommended by the British Legion, so that the display of flowers will continue through the summer.

We are now well underway with this year's seat renovation work. As usual, we are renewing ten benches and this year we are trying to concentrate on some of the popular positions away from the Wellington Rocks area. We will have to replace the timber on some of them but most only need sanding down and repainting. The local oak that we use on our benches stands up remarkably well to the weather and all the other indignities that they are subjected to; we seem to get about fifteen years wear out of them even in the most popular areas.

Happily, I managed to avoid a lot of the Election coverage last night as I was conducting a walk across the Common for a local Cub Scout troop. It was quite an enjoyable experience being around such energy and enthusiasm; they were especially fascinated by the mounds made by Yellow Meadow Ants in the grass below Wellington Rocks, particularly when we found some of these tiny creatures and they started to realise how many of them there must be to create such large and numerous nests.

1st May 2015

Sorry not to have posted for a few weeks, we have had lots of problems with the web site management system.

Happily, things seem to have calmed down a bit since my last post on here. We have had a repeat of the bottle smashing and fires at Wellington Rocks but not as serious as over the Easter holidays. The Common is there for everyone and I guess that youngsters enjoying themselves up there at night is all part of that; I just wish they would think of the possible consequenses to small children and dogs of the broken glass.

We seem to be getting on top of the blanket weed problem at Brighton Lake which I am pleased about. Apart from anything else, it is not a good time to have to be working in the pond. It is full of tadpoles and the fifteen mallard chicks have now been joined by six goslings. As usual, these are proving very popular with local photographers; it is remarkable really how tolerant the parents are.

It has finally dried out enough at Sunnyside Rd and we have been able to carry out the drainage work we had planned there. We have excavated the silted up pool above the drain in the middle of the grass and used the spoil to create a bund behind the culvert to help prevent future flooding during heavy rains. We have also installed a pierced liner under the soil to hold back moisture and create a wetland area there. This will be seeded with marginal and aquatic wildflowers such as meadowsweet, hemp agrimony and marsh marigold to provide an additional habitat in the area as well, I hope, as looking very attractive.

On the other side of Lower Green Rd we are still having severe problems with waterlogging, to the extent where it is currently impossible to cut the grass. I had a meeting with a Highways engineer yeaterday and we have agreed a course of action to try and solve the problem. He thinks that this is being caused by most of the gulleys in the are being blocked, causing the water from the drains on the A264 to find its own way through our porous soils. I on the other hand think that we may have a leaking water supply pipe in the area; there are certainly a lot of water and sewage pipes passing under the crossroads there. He will get the drains cleared, I will make sure all my ditches in the area are running properly and we will see what effect that has. If that does not work, he has agreed to install a new pipe under the Common there to drain the boggy area, so one way or another, I hope we will get this resolved in the coming months.

10th April 2015

As so often happens during the Easter break, there have been problems with partying youths at the cricket pavilion this week. They have been climbimg up on the roof, breaking tiles, damaging the lights, smashing chairs etc. The poor groundsman is tearing his hair out as he is already busy enough preparing for the first home game of the season in a couple of weeks. The wonderful weather has happily also brought many families out onto the Common having a lovely time climbing on the rocks or just enjoying a stroll with the dog. 

The horse riders returned at the start of the month as well and it is nice to see them back, I am always pleased with the way they respect the Winter riding ban. The first cut of the grass started today; we have commenced over at Rusthall so if he has not got to your area today, he will be back on Monday. Just in time, as the grass has suddenly really taken off in the last week. It is also good to see the new grass seed starting to germinate on the clearances that we carried out this Winter.

The sunshine is also having a dramatic effect on Brighton Lake, which has developed a huge bloom of blanket weed. This filamentous algae can be a real problem and is caused by an excess of nutrients in the water. The only explanation for this I can think of is that we released these nutrients into the system by stirring up the silt at the bottom of the pond when we dredged it a couple of years ago. As well as being unsightly, this bloom can cause problems for our fish and amphibians and when it has consumed the nutrients and dies back, the rotting process can seriously deplete oxygen levels in the water. Having spoken to the Environment Agency about it, the only solutios seems to be the physical removal of the mats of weed as they form until the nutrient levels drop. Once that point is reached, the problem should resolve itself. Unlike the blue green algaes that can appear during hot conditions, this blanketweed is not poisonous.

27th March 2015

Work is finished at Tea Garden Lane, or at least for the moment. There are still areas of verge that need protection but I have pretty much run out of money and the nesting season is upon us. We will continue next Winter and push the woodland edge back a bit further as well. Ultimately, I hope to produce a scalloped, graded edge to the woodland to maximise the value to wildlife as well as reducing potential liability. 

We have also now cleared the felled oak scrub by the Upper Cricket Pitch and tidied up the edges of Castle Rd. Sadly there was no spare timber at Rusthall that we could bring across to reinforce the verge here, so that too will have to wait a while. The only outstanding work remaining from this Winters schedule is the improvement to the drainage at Sunnyside Rd and this will be carried out as soon as the area has fully dried.

The clocks go forward this weekend, always a cheering moment. Don't forget to change your clocks and spare a thought for Brian our litter clearer, who always dreads the thought of people spending even more time enjoying themselves on the Common!

20th March 2015

I have been holding back funds during the Winter in case of any storm damage or emergency work that would arise. Since we are now only a month away from a new years budget, these funds have now been released and we have been carrying out work across both Commons with it. On Tunbridge Wells, we have taken down a number of ivy covered hawthorns adjacent to London Rd and Major Yorks and we are also removing the group of badly damaged, self sown oaks adjacent to the Upper Cticket Pitch. Over on Rusthall Common, we are removing a number of trees alongside Tea Garden Lane to let some light in and push back the woodland edge, we will then use the trunks for parking protection there and at Castle Rd. With luck, this should all be complete by the end of next week.

Cricket will be getting underway in just a few weeks now and there appear to be some problems with the state of parts of the pitch at Fir Tree Rd. There is a regular group of dog walkers who meet there most mornings and chat whilst throwing balls and sticks for the dogs. Over the course of the Winter, a fair anount of damage has been caused to this area and the groundsman is concerned that he may not be able to repair it in time for the start of the season. As soon as conditions permit, he is planning to prepare the damaged area and seed it and will be putting a fence around the area to keep the dogs out whilst it germinates and grows. If you are one of the group that meets there, it would be much appreciated if you could move to another area of the pitch whilst this essential work takes place.

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned spotting a Red Kite at Eridge Park. This was really just a glimpse although I was pretty sure it was a Kite. Yesterday, whilst walking the dogs on Ashdown Forest, I had another sighting; this time it was a fabulous view and there was absolutely no doubt as to what I was watching. It slowly passed over my head, sitting on the wind with barely a movement of it's wings, justs twists of it's big wedge tail as it slid across the breeze only about a hundred foot above me. Wonderful.

13th March 2015

We spent a bit of time this week clearing fallen and dangerous trees at Bulls Hollow and at the entrance to Happy Valley opposite Rusthall Cricket Club. We also planted some new ones on the edges of the clearance on the path from the Pantiles to soften the new woodland edge and added qyite a few native on the edge of Major Yorks Rd to thicken the woodland edge there and try and cut out more of the traffic noise. We have now sorted out the edge of the Common near Brighton Lake that was so badly damaged by a large vehicle and done some reseeding at Lower Green Rd where the grass was left too wet to cut last year. It is looking as though the work carried out by Highways to resolve the drainage problems there might have done some good, although it was not a very wet winter, so we shall see.

Next week should see us finish off the last of the tree work with some pushing back of the woodland edge adjacent to Tea Garden Lane and using the tree trunks to try and stop traffic erosion there. Some of the trunks will probably be moved to Castle Rd to try and end the same problems there as well.

6th March 2015

Obviously things were busy whilst I was away; Fir Tree Pond is already full of frog spawn. There are quite a few overwintered butterflies on the wing as well, allthough I still have not seen any of this years new Brimstones. Bumble bees are also quite active and the Canada Geese are back on Brighton Lake.

We have been finishing our two new clearances on Tunbridge Wells Common this week. Both the area adjacent to Fir Tree car park and the new glade on the path coming up from the Pantiles have had the stumps ground out, the landscaping completed and the seeding done. These are excellent conditionsat the moment, so we should see signs of germination quite quickly. We have also been clearing mud and leaves off the worst of the paths, allthough the one at St Pauls will probably need to dry out a bit more before we can clean that. The ground at Sunnyside Rd is also still too wet and we would cause  lot of damage if we started work on our planned drainage improvements there at the moment, so that will have to wait for a while longer to be carried out.

20th February 2015

We finished the reduction of the group of big beech trees at the junction of the Racecourse and Major Yorks Road this week. It has been a difficult and time consuming job and proved to be quite a challenging technical climb for the tree surgeons. The group has been shaped as best we can and hopefully the big reduction in leverage will help the trees which were left quite vulnerable to windblow after two of them were lost in last Winter's storms. The brush will be chipped next week when our contractor returns to also finish the clearing of the new glade just round the corner on the path coming up from the Pantiles. I am away next week, but when I return I hope to commence the landscaping of this site and the new clearance next to Fir Tree car park.

13th February 2014

The Volunteers had a good day last weekend, we are clearing scrub adjacent to the path leading from the Pantiles to Wellington Rocks to create a new glade and to enhance the woodland edge. The Volunteers have now done all they can and I have had a contractor in this week, burning the brush left there and cutting the stumps to ground level. In the next few weeks, we will have a machine arriving to prepare the site for seeding with our restoration seed mix as soon as the weather starts to warm up.

Monday was a glimpse of things to come with a bit of warmth and sunshine. The level of bird song rose very dramatically and it really did feel that Spring is quite close. We are clearly not going to have frogs back in Fir Tree Pond for Valentines Day this year, but it just needs a couple of damp noghts with the temperature over about 10 degrees and they will be back. I noticed a group of Canada Geese arrived on Brighton Lake this week and it will not be long before we see some ducklings there. On the subject of birds, I was walking in Eridge Park on Thursday and spotted a Red Kite. I have heard a few reports of these birds locally in the last couple of years, they are definitely spreading our way; it would be lovely to see them soaring over the Common. 

6th February 2015

We have spent a fair bit of time this week chipping and clearing the brush left by the tree work carried out over the last few weeks; everything is looking a bit neater now. The clearance at Fir Tree car park has had the stump grinding completed and that is now waiting for the  machine to turn up to prepare the site for seeding. We also carried out some flail work to neaten up various areas, such as the Royal Victoria Grove and Cabbage Stalk Lane pond and installed a new dog bag dispenser at the Fairground car park. Actually, that should be re-installed the dispenser; we put it in some time ago, came back the next morning and it was gone! We found it in the bushes a couple of weeks later somewhat mangled. That is why, for those of you wondering, the box is now so low to the ground. When we found the post, it was so badly bent that that is as high as it will now reach.

30th January 2014

We have now finished the cutting at the new clearance at Fir Tree near car park and the brush has been burnt. The stumps will be ground out next week and the site tidied up. In a few weeks time we will be having a machine in to carry out various landscaping tasks and that will also carry out work at this site to prepare for seeding, which will take place when the weather is suitable. 

We have carried out the work on the large oak at Still Green; the tree proved to be in far worse condition than we suspected and we had to carry out a complete pollard to make it safe. This decision was made in part because of the heavy use of this path, especially by large numbers of children travelling to and from school.

The flail has been back in as well, clearing bramble and scrub from various sites across the Commons such as Royal Victoria Grove and Cabbage Stalk Lane pond. We have also been trying to clear bramble and weeds from the edge of London Rd in a couple of places but we are severely hampered by the cars that are constantly parked there. We dare not use strimmers near these or we end up with claims for damaged paintwork or glass.

26th January 2014

Much of our planned tree work is now complete but there are still some major jobs to finish. Many of you will have been aware of the loss of two of the group of beech trees at the junction of the Racecourse and Major York's Rd last year. This has left the rest of the group vulnerable to wind blow and so we are now reducing the remaining trees in the planting to reduce leverage and thus pevent further losses. We are shaping the remaining trees as a group but this is very tricky, particularly with a species such as beech which does not respond well to surgery works. The other outstanding job is the deadwooding and reduction of a very large oak on the footpath leading from the end of Woodside Rd. This path runs across a small residual bit of Common seperate from the main sites. The path is well used, including by "walking buses" that ferry local children to Bishops Down Primary and Rosehill Schools. 

Work is also continuing well at Fir Tree Rd where we are clearing scrub to open up the rock outcrop and glade at the Bat Cave. Pretty much all the cutting has now been done and we are now busy clearing the resulting mess prior to stump grinding.

I was pleased to see the works being carried out at the entrance to Neville Park off Major York's last week. The residents have funded the installation of wooden kerbing to prevent further erosion of the verge by parking cars and are planning to install more posts to stop people reversing onto the Common to turn round. Excellent!

19th January 2014

We had a productive week, getting on well with our tree cutting and also made a good start on the clearance of the rocks near Fir Tree car park. We are continuing with the cutting this week and should get most of the urgent remedial work completed on our roadside trees. This current cold snap makes it much easier for us to get on with this work and very much reduces damage to the ground as it is so much harder. We have a couple of trees that require the use of a cherry picker to do the work and with luck, the ground may even be hard enough to get one onto the Common later in the week if the frosts contuine.

We have had another occurrence of animal remains being dumped on the Common over the weekend. Again it was deer heads, skins and internal organs and again it was dumped in the bushes art the top of Harmony St. Whether this is from someone who is poaching deer, or a shooter I don't know but it is very unpleasant for our long suffering litter picker who has to clear it up. This has also happened at the layby in Coach Rd, which is a notorious spot for fly tipping. We have even had black bage full of fish heads and guts dumped there in the past; it is amazing how revolting people can be sometimes.

9th January 2014

Happy New Year to you all. It is good to be on the other side of the break: the evenings are already getting noticably longer, it is light until well after 4.30 on a bright day. The weather proved kind over the period and, although we had some minor issues, the winds were not very damaging. It looks as though this weekend might be a little more testing with strong winds forecast but we will wait and see. We had a bit of a fiasco with the volunteers last week.  I sat in my car staring at the pouring rain in Fir Tree car park last Saturday, saw no one and assumed that everybody had sensibly stayed at home. I only found out later that a couple of volunteers had in fact turned up but I think they must have been doing the same thing in their cars and we all went home without seeing each other!

We will be starting on our roadside tree clearance next week, with trees on Langton Road, Bishops Down, Major Yorks and Still Green on the list. We have also once again had generous offers of funding for extra work from the Freehold Tenants, this time to carry out futher clearance near the Bat Cave on Tunbridge Wells Common and a scheme to alleviate flooding problems at Sunnyside Rd on Rusthall Common. We should be commencing these tasks in the next few weeks.

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