19th January 2018
Wednesday nights surprisingly powerful wind caused some more minor damage but it should all be cleared by the end of today.
Next week will see the start of our tree work programme for the year. First up is some clearance at Bishops Down adjacent to the A264, where we will be removing holly and scrub to expose a nagnificent Large Leafed Lime that has got rather lost under the tide of encroaching scrub. We will push back the woodland edge along a reasonable stretch to improve the area for wildlife and stop the scrub becoming a major problem in the future.
I know it is far too early yet to get excited but it is nice to see all the daffodil shoots coming up along the edge of Langton Rd and there was a very optomistic woodpecker drumming away this morning on a hollow branch near Wellington Rocks.
12th January 2018
The volunteers were out last weekend and carried out clearance work on the heather area adjacent to the Victoria Grove. This area was becoming lost to invading scrub and bramble, as well as overgrown gorse. We discovered a fair amount of heather still hanging on and hopefully this will continue to grow now and we will be able to coppice it next year and scatter the seed to extend the area.
The aftermath of storm Eleanor gave us a bit of clearing to do. The uprooted tree on Edgcumbe Rd was a bit of a problem but we managed to get it down with only minor damage to two of the cherry trees in the avenue. We should be starting on remedial treework arising from the latest survey of our roadside trees in the next couple of weeks,
For some time, we have been suffering from off-road motor bikes damaging sections of Rusthall Common and now it seems to be starting on Tunbridge wells as well. We will be putting up some more notices about this but I don't suppose that they will have much effect on the perpetrators. If you do see any of this sort of anti-social behaviour taking place, please telephone either 101 and report it, or call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. It is still difficult to catch these people but the more information the Police get about their habits and routines, the better able they will be to aprehend them and sieze the bikes.
5th January 2018
The main news of the week was Wednesdays storm. We have not suffered too badly, mostly just minor debris and a couple of small birch trees across paths. The only real problem is a leaning tree on Edgcumbe Rd, which I am concerned will damage the trees in the cherry avenue if it comes down. Unfortunately, most of my contractors are still on leave and those who are working are swamped with genuine emergencies elsewhere, so this work will not get done until next week.
The Christmas dog meetup seems to have become a regular event now and this years was a great success. We had a new lady organising it this year and she must be pleased with the results; £450 was raised for the Last Chance animal rescue centre and all who attended had a lovely time. Well done Iona.
28th December 2017
Not surprisingly, no work has been carried since last week except for clearance of litter and the emptying of bins; that never stops. However the Commons have been very busy with people enjoying the sunshine today. Wellington Rocks were covered with children having a great time this afternoon, with lots of dogs being walked as well.
Unfortunately, the motor bikes have also been out on Rusthall Common, causing a lot of annoyance and damage. If you do see them, we would be grateful if you could call the Police and quote CAD number 20-0735 with youir report. The more complaints they get, the more likely it is that they will respond.
That's it until 2018. Have a very happy New Year.
22nd December 2017
This weeks focus has all been on Happy Valley, where we are clearing the paths, glades and rock outcrops. The opening up carried out in this area over the last few years means that this is now a big task and it seems to have become our traditional pre-Christmas push, that brings all the flail and clearance work to an end. It's looking good there and it is well worth a visit.
The only other item of note, is the quite severe reduction that was carried out on a large lime tree at the top of the coach park area on the A26. Our tree survey revealed a worrying amount of decay in the base of the tree and there are large Ganaderma fungus brackets showing inbetween the butresses. The work should have made it safe and we will have to monitor it to see what happens in the future. It would be a pity to have to remove it completely; it is excellent habitat.
With yesterdays Solstice passed, we can now look forward to an extra two minutes light each day, all the way until next June. It's a good thought and one that always cheers.
Finally, may I wish you all a very Merry Christmas.
15th December 2017
We have been busy this week, with new anti-parking posts being installed at Rusthall Grange and many of our tarmac paths being cut back to full width. We have also spent some time at Wellington Rocks, winching off the more obstinate of the small trees that are growing in the cracks and would cause problems in the furure if left. The volunteers did a great job a couple of weekend ago clearing the smaller scrub and scraping away the soil that has built up in the cracks, so hopefully, this problem should be reduced in future.
We will be starting work clearing Happy Valley next week, This is a big job now, since we have opened up so many areas there in recent years. We also carried out the latest section of our roadside tree survey this week and although there are not many problems, a serious one was identified at the top of the Common near St Helena. A large lime tree near the A26 has some worrying decay in it, and it will be reduced to make it safe next week.
8th December 2017
Most of my week has been taken up with organising and preparing for one of the quarterly meetings of the Conservators which took place yesterday. It is always good to get it out of the way , so that I can concentrate on planned work for the next quarter. The Freehold Tenants group once again offered funding for some extra projects over the Winter, so I am looking forward to organising these as well. They include installation of a hard path on some parts of the Racecourse, the removal of the rest of the cherry laurel near St Pauls Church and the clearance of the holly scrub that is starting to shade Fir Tree Pond.
The new information panels are continuing to go in on Tunbridge Wells Common and seem to be being well received. As ever, there are a few people moaning as they see them going in; the main adverse comment seems to be "more money being wasted by the Council". Just for information, the money for these panels came from grants and donations from individuals and local companies.
I am starting to see a few fieldfares on the Common now. Clearly the advance of the cold weather in Europe is pushing them over to us. I have to admit, I am rather welcomong this cold spell, it would do our trees good to have a proper Winter rest and a cold snap would probably get rid of some of the alien insect species that seem to have arrived in recent years. Of course what we really need now is water; whether it comes as snow or rain I don't mind.
1st December 2017
A big week for the Commons, as our splendid new information panels are starting to be installed. The first four are in at various points on Rusthall Common; hopefully, the other six will be erected on Tunbridge Wells Common next week. Each one is specific to its site but they all have the new maps at their centre. A lot of work has been done to get to this stage, so it is lovely to see them finally going in.
This week saw us carrying out the last of the track clearance with a two day session at Denny Bottom and Bulls Hollow. That brings one of our major annual tasks to an end. All that is now left is Happy Valley and this should get a clearance in the run up to Christmas. Happy Valley has become such a major task after the opening up of the last few years that we tend to think of it as separate from the other track and path clearances.
We have also continued cutting back the edges of many of our tarmac paths this week, and will continue next week with work on the path leading to St Pauls, as well as the Lower Cricket Pitch and the path from the Royal Wells to the traffic lights on London Road.
24th November 2017
The strong winds this week brought down a lot of the leaves from the trees, making it worthwhile for us to get on with clearing some of our surfaced paths. The edges grow in surprisingly quickly, reducing the width of the path unless we cut them back on a regular basis. With the leaves finally going, it is also time to start clearing some of our drainage ditches. This year we intend to re-dig some of them, rather than just remove the build up of leaves as we normally do.
The main task of the week was the clearing of some of the silt from Fir Tree Pond. As with all ponds, the periodic removal of silt needs to be done to prevent the natural process of succession continuing and ultimately leading to the loss of the pond. We have removed the outer ring of vegetation, leaving the centre of the pond intact so that there are plenty of invertebrates still there to re-colonise the newly cleared area. The weed and silt that was removed has been placed in a sunny spot near the pond with logwood and brush incorporated into it, to form a refuge for the frogs and newts that will be back in a few months time to breed.
17th November 2017
As usual at this time of year, we have had to carry out repairs to the surface of the car park at Fir Tree Road. Several potholes, some of them getting quite large, have been filled but the main effort went into sorting out the entrance. Here we had to cut out quite a lot of crumbling tarmac and replace the whole section. Hopefully this should last for some time; however, if we have a frosty winter, we will no doubt be back in spring repairing more holes. We also carried out quite a major repair to the front wall of Brighton Lake this week, replacing an area of missing sandstone.
Annoyingly, just as we are approaching the end of all the path cutting, the tractor has developed a major problem and has gone off to have a new wiring loom fitted. Hopefully it will be back quite soon and we can finish our work. We should be at Apsley Street this coming week, where a lot of hand work is involved, although we may need to return with the tractor to finish the job when it becomes available.
10th November 2017
The first outing of the year of our volunteers took place last Saturday morning but did not go to plan. Nine intrepid volunteers turned up, which was quite remarkable given the weather forecast. Our plan to try and dig out the roots of invading scrub on Wellington Rocks and remove the soil degenerated into a mud bath and I had to cancel the task about eleven fifteen, by which point we were all soaked to the skin. We will try again next time but I suspect we will simply be cutting the scrub and poisoning the stumps; we will have to think again about how we remove the soil.
Wednesday saw another visit by the High Weald Project volunteers and they were much more fortunate with the weather. A very productive session took place near the Royal Victoria Grove, where scrub and bramble was hand cleared from our original heather site, as well as the new site blow the Grove. It is difficult, labour intensive work to clear it without destroying the heather, so committed volunteers are the ideal workforce.
3rd November 2017
Getting very close to finishing the annual cut of the common; Denny Bottom and Bulls Hollow still to do and then a big push around Happy Valley in December.
We carried out some repairs at Brighton Lake this week, where the stonework around the spring that feeds it needed fixing. We should be replacing the missing stones from the front wall next week. We also started on cutting back the edges of our surfaced paths. If left unchecked, the grass covers them remarkably quickly. There will be much more of this taking place when the leaves are all off the trees. We can then start clearing our drainage ditches as well.
The first volunteer day is scheduled for this Saturday. We will be clearing invasive scrub from Wellington Rocks and the grassland between the rocks and the Victoria Grove.
27th Oct 2017
What a lovely day to end a rather grey week. The autumn colour is really starting to show now, as well as a lot of berries to augment the huge abundance of acorns and beech mast; it is proving to be a year of plenty for our wildlife. It was also nice to see three buzzards soaring above the Upper Cricket Pitch this morning. Not a sight we would have seen a few years ago.
We are halfway through our final cut of the year now on the amenity grass and the guys are doing a nice job to leave it neat for the winter. We are getting close to finishing the cutting of all the tracks as well, so it will soon be time to turn our attention to trees. On that subject, it was pleasing to see how little damage last weekends storm caused to our trees, our work to reduce or remove dangerous specimens seems to be working.
For the past few years, we have been growing poppies on the two triangles of land next to the Old Post Office as part of the WW1 commemorations. This year, we tried a later planting to try and have some flowering around Rememberance Day. Happily it has worked and there are some poppies currently flowering, They have no doubt been helped by the unseasonably warm waether recently.
The clocks go back this weekend, so it will be dark soon after five next week. It is always a sad day but don't forget that it is only about seven weeks until the shortest day now.
20th October 2017
Having been on leave for two weeks, I returned to immediately go down with a horrible chest infection, hence no report since the middle of September. It is good to finally be back and recovering.
Work continued as planned without me, and we now have a splendid new flight of steps at Rusthall near the Tarry Path.
The big flail had been in and has now finished it's work. The small flail continues to work it's way around the Commons and is making good progress. Hopefully, we should be finished cutting in the next few weeks.
Last weekend was meant be the first time out for our volunteers and we would have been clearing scrub from Wellington Rocks. Sadly that had to be cancelled due to my incapacity, so it will vbe the target for the next meet on the4th of November. Apologies to anyone who was planning to attend and my thanks to Chris Gurr for getting the word out to as many of you as possible at very short notice. We also had a task planned for the Kent High Weald Project volunteers on the Wednesday before, and although I could not be with them they went ahead, clearing scrub from the heather areas around the Victoria Grove. I have to say that I was very impressed with what they accomplished, so many thanks to them.
We had a large tree come down across the Tarry Path yesterday blocking it. This was cleared this morning and the path is now open again. It looks as though we have some serious winds coming through this weekend, so there is a good chance that there will be more problems. So if you are out on the Common this weekend, keep an eye out for falling debris!
22nd September 2017
So here we are at the equinox and whilst the west side of the country is suffering the sort of winds that are expected at this time of year, we are having a lovely day. I am hoping that this will last for a while as the forecast suggests, since I am of the Suffolk for a couple of weeks.
Most of this week has been taken up in preparing for the quarterly Conservators meeting that took place yesterday but the clearance of paths has continued. Next week hopefully, we will be installing a new set of steps on Rusthall Common to link the Quirky Tree clearing to the new path in the small valley below. This steep slope can be very slippery in the Winter, so this should considerably improve matters. Path clearance will be continuing as well and I hope that the big flail will be returning the week I come back to start cutting the large glades and meadow areas.
15th September 2017
Clearance work has now resumed in the area between the Victoria Grove and Castle Rd. This is one of the main areas of tracks and rides, so it is always good to get it out of the way. We will continue the process next week and will be moving on to the other side of Castle Rd.
Lots of signs of Autumn now, with many swallows and martins passing through on their way South. We are also seeing the first signs of colour on some of the trees. However, if the vegetation on Wellington Rocks seems to be dying off early, it is because we have sprayed it prior to the volunteers starting to remove it next month. Hopefully by killing the roots off, we will find it easier to loosen and remove the soil that has built up on the rocks over time.
8th September 2017
A quiet week with our contractors away doing other work; the small flail will be back next week to continue clearance and I hope we will be able to instal the new flight of steps at Rusthall, connecting the Quirky Tree clearance to the small valley below. Most of my time this week has been taken up with preparing reports for the forthcomiong Conservators meeting, as well as writing articles for various publications, such as the Friends magazine and the Town Crier.
Sunday is Heritage Open day, when many public or historic buildings open their doors. As part of this, I will be leading a guided walk of Tunbridge Wells Common for anyone who wishes to turn up. The walk will start from the car park on Fir Tree Rd at 10.30 on Sunday morning and will last about two hours. The route will take in a variety of terrains and so is sadly not suitable for wheelchairs or those with serious mobility issues.
September 1st 2017
A short week because of the bank holiday but a useful one. The big flail has completed it's first tranche of work, cutting paths and verges and has returned to base. It will be back in a few weeks time to start on our meadows and open areas but this year we will be starting to alter the cutting regime to reflect our new Managment Plan.
Having opened up many new clearances and glades in recent years by clearing scrub and secondary woodland, we will now start to try and maximise their wildlife potential by creating greater structure within them. In effect, this will mean leaving areas to develop within the clearances to create greater age ranges and habitat variety; these areas will then be fully cleared every two or three years to prevent the scrub returning. This is going to take a few years of experimentation to determine the most succesful ways of improving biodiversity, which is really of course the main aim of our management the Commons.
25th August 2017
The big flail has returned as hoped and is starting to work it's way around the main paths and road edges. The smaller machine will now follow, getting to the bits that the big machine cannot reach. We have also been relacing more missing and damaged posts this week. Many of our anti-parking posts are starting to reach the end of their lives now, so this will be an ongoing task.
As one might expect at the end of August, signs of Autumn are getting clearer every week. The Horse Chestnuts are almost already gone thanks to the continuing moth infestations but the bracken is starting to go now as well and it won't be long before we start to get colour on many of our trees. The heather that we have managed to regenerate on many parts of the Commons is now in full bloom and is making a lovely show.
18th August 2017
Returned from my break to find that TWBC had installed new skype phones throughout the Town Hall. As seems to be standard with new technology, our splendid new phone did not work at all for about a week, so apologies to anyone who could not get through.
We carried out clearance in the Tarry Path section of Rusthall common this week, clearing the slope near the Quirky Tree where we will soon be constructing another flight of steps. The new path in the area was also pushed back and opened up. The big collector flail made it first appearance of the year as well. In accordance with long standing tradition, it immediately broke down and has gone back to be repaired and should return to the Commons next week
We seem to have a number of new owls on Rusthall Common. Someone is turning old branch stubs on our oak trees into owl faces, complete with eyes and beaks; one or two have the faces of baby owls as well alongside the parent. They are nicely done and are quite charming; I love the fact that whoever is doing them has kept the whole thing quiet, it is a bit like having our own Banksy! See if you can spot them when you are out.
4th August 2017
An extension to the path from the Marlpit Ponds was put in this week. We extended the path back towards Common View, to link up with the main path from Rusthall Rd. This path got almost impassable during winter rains, so I hope this will be a big benefit for walkers on Rusthall Common. We also did some more clearing at the end of Hungershall Park, to improve access into the new area of Common that has been opened there. Hopefully, when the big collector flail starts cutting the main paths in a week or so, it will now be able to access this area and start the process of reducing the nutrient levels in the soil by cutting and removing the grass.
We currently have some extra security on the Commons, with patrols at night from a local security firm. They have been patrolling for a couple of weeks now and they seem to be doing a very good job. They are mostly there to prevent problems around the cricket ground and pavilion but the beneficial effect seems to spread to the rocks as well.
28th July 2017
A good week, with much progress on our cutting tasks. As many will have noticed, we have cleared the edges of Major York's and Hungershall and cleared all the minor tracks in the section of the Common to the west of Major Yorks, including clearing the path at the rear of Brighton Lake. We have also started clearing the tracks between Fir Tree and Bishops Down, in preparation for the arrival of the big collector flail that will hopefully be in next week.
We also put in the new bench for the outgoing Chair of the Friends at Happy Valley this week. It is on the rock outcrops overlooking the garden of the Beacon and the old pleasure gardens and is a very nice site. It was donated by the Friends in recognition of the huge contribution made by John Barber during his time in office. Amongst the many things that John pushed through during his tenure, were the very popular new maps of the two Commons and he has been the driving force behing the wonderful new interpretive panels that will soon be being installed. Possibly his biggest achievement however, will be the two new pedestrian crossing that he has fought so hard for and finally pushed Highways into agreeing. One will be at the crossing point of the A264 that leads to St Pauls Church and the other will be at the bottom of Major Yorks by the entrance to the car park.
21st July 2017
With internet issues and then a weeks holiday, it seems to have been a while since I posted anything. Work has been continuing , cutting sight lines and verges across both Commons and we have also started on cutting tracks and paths. We have repainted and restored a dozen of our benches, as well as replacing damaged posts at various locations.
On the 6th of July, I spent a couple of hours showing the Britain in Bloom judges round the Common. It seemed to go quite well but time will tell. The timing of the judging is somewhat unfortunate, as by the beginning of July, our spring flowers have largely gone and it is too early for the cutting to be underway to smarten things up. Fortunately, this years judge showed a good understanding of what we are trying to achieve through our management plan.
The geese have now left Brighton Lake and will not be back until next spring. It really was a great year for the waterfowl there, with the geese and ducks rearing good numbers successfully. We seem to have a second brood of moorhens as well this year, which is nice.
23rd June 2017
The hedging flail was in last weekend to cut the road verges, they were getting quite overgrown in places. We have started cutting some of the worst of the paths now as well and the flail cutter should be starting next week on the full cut of all our paths and tracks. This is a major undertaking that will continue over the next couple of months.
The main event this week was the construction of a splendid new flight of steps leading down to Fir Tree Pond. The previous two sets of step here had worn and rotted away, so this time we have upped the specifications considerably. The contractor managed to achieve an elegant sweep to the new flight, they would be just right for Fred and Ginger to dance down! The ground surrounding the steps will now be seeded but we need to wait for some cooler, damper conditions to do that.
15th June 2017
I am posting a bit early this week since I am on leave tomorrow.
Another relatively peaceful week on the Common. We have started to cut path edges now; the grass seems suddenly to have got very long. Our amenity grass received a much needed cut this week - it was getting very stalky. We are already half way through our scheduled twelve cuts for the year but hopefully it should start to slow down as we get into full summer and the ground dries out.
We will be spraying the Himalayan balsam tomorrow at Happy Valley, the Tarry Path and Castle Road. This invasive plant is causing major problems all over the country, wherever there are damp soil conditions for it. We killed a lot last year but there are still small pockets left; I expect it will take a few more years to fully eradicate it.
The goslings at Brighton Lake are now virtually the same size as their parents and will no doubt be departing in the next few weeks. It has been a very successful breeding year for them, as well as for the ducks and moorhens. It is quite difficult to keep track of the numbers of young, especially the ducklings but I think they have all survived this year.
9th June 2017
We have started to prepare for Britain in Bloom which will be judged next month. We are in the middle of cleaning out the old Cold Bath and Chalybeate Spring opposite the Pantiles and will be starting to cut paths in the next few weeks. There have been a few more posts re-installed and we will be commencing bench renovation very soon. It is also getting to the point where we will be cutting sight lines at junctions and there will be a visit from the big hedging flail to cut roadside verges.
We have had a disturbing report of a confirmed case of Lymes disease after a tick bite which occured in Cabbage Stalk Lane, just off the Common. Lymes seems to have a connection to deer and this of course is the part of the Common that sees the most deer. It has to be assumed therefore that Lymes is present in the whole area now, so walkers need to be aware. If caught in the early stages, Lymes is fairly easily treated with antibiotics; however if left untreated it can become a very unpleasant and intractible infection. There is usually a very distinctive rash that appears around an infected bite. It is circular and red and often a second red ring appears around the bite, leading to its being described as a bulls eye rash. I would reccomend Commons users to visit the NHS site for more information.
2nd June 2017
Sorry about the absence of a report last week, I was unexpectedly whisked away to Weymouth for the weekend; it was lovely.
The barrier is now in place at Fir Tree car park and in spite of the huge warning signs at the bottom of the road, there have inevitably been a few irritated drivers who have had to reverse the entire length of the road and out into Major York's. Mind you, we still have occasional people who think they can drive straight through to Mount Ephraim and that has been closed off for at least ten years.
Other than that, it has been a quiet period, with just some posts being replaced. A number of my contractors are on holiday next week but, when they return, we will be putting in the new steps leading to Fir Tree Pond and starting on bench renovations.
19th May 2017
The Commons are looking wonderfuly verdant after this weeks rain. I think virtuallly everything is out now, producing an incredible number of shades of green. The hawthorn is coming into full flower as well, creating that wonderful dreamy smell in the woods.
I now have a date for the installation of the barrier at Fir Tree car park that I refered to last week. It will be going in on the 30th of this month, that is the day after the forthcoming Bank holiday. There will inevitably be some disruption whilst this takes place but hopefully we will be able to keep the car park open whilst it takes place.
12th May 2017
A quiet week on the Commons, with the main event taking place being the third cut of the grass. We also installed the advance warning signs at the entrance to Fir Tree Rd, where the height barrier will soon be going in at the car park entrance. This will be 6' 6" high and there is no turning area, so please take note if you drive a large vehicle and use the car park, otherwise you will end up having to reverse out onto Major York's.
We also moved the large tree trunk that has been down at Brighton Lake for some time. It was taken up to Castle Rd, where it is now bolstering the defences to prevent unauthorised vehicle access.
5th May 2017
It looks as though all our seeded areas are now sprouting after this weeks rain; all we need now is a bit of warmth and to lose these persistant north easterly winds.
In spite of the cold and the lack of water, the Commons are looking wonderful at the moment as everything is prwetty much in leaf and flower. Down at Brighton Lake, the ducklings and goslings are growing fast and doing a great job of keeping the grass in the area under control; the rest of it will be cut again nnext week.
The Courier have a report this week that the Epic Bench has gone missing from the Common. I am surprised on two counts; firstly, that a bench being moved is newsworthy enough to report and secondly, it was returned to it's usual spot about a week ago. Perhaps that will be next weeks headline!
28th April 2017
Things are starting to slow down now, as we get to the end of the final Winter tasks; although it will not be long before we start on bench renovations and maintenance of bins and signs. The little rain that we have had this week has really helped my grass seed and I am already seeing hints of green shoots in one or two places. I mentioned last week that Cabbage Stalk Lane pond was drying up. In spite of the rain, things reached crisis point this week and I had to rescue the tadpoles that were crammed into rapidly shrinking puddles. Some were lost but I managed to transfer most of them to Bracken Cottage pond, which still has plenty of water in it.
Signs will be going up in the next couple of weeks, to warn of a new height restriction barrier that will be being installed on the entrance to Fir Tree car park. The barrier will be set at six foot six inches to prevent access to caravans and large campers, which have become an increasing problem in recent Summers. There will be no turning area when the barrier is in place, so drivers of large vehicles beware; you will have to reverse all the way out when the barrier is in place if you try and access tha car park.
21st April 2017
A Star is born! Well about fifteen stars actually, nine ducklings and six goslings. They have all hatched in the past week and are already posing for photos; they are remarkably unafraid. Just a reminder if you are amongst the many peoplle who like to feed them, bread is not really very good for them, try tinned sweetcorn or wild bird seed, it's much healthier.
We have now sorted the edge of the Racecourse where we did all the clearance and have re-dug the drainage ditch along the cleared length. We have put in a new pipe and silt trap at Bracken Cottage Pond and we have tidied up the area around Fir Tree Pond and prepared the site for the new flight of steps that wil be going in there soon. We really are getting to the end of the Winter work now.
Allthough the Common is looking great at the moment, the need for some rain is getting urgent now, not least for all the seed we have sown in recent weeks. Everything really is a bit of a dustbowl at the moment and with our sandy soils, tjhe problem is much worse rthan in most places, Cabbage Stalk Lane Pond has almost dried up already.
13th April 2017
We have now finished our work on the boundary oaks, allthough it took rather longer than expected. There just remains a large ash tree near the Spa to reduce and a couple of ivy covered hawthorns alongside Rusthall Rd to remove and the treework is all done. We are also in the middle of tidying the Racecourse, clearing the piles of chippings and getting rid of the ruts caused by the big machines that were operating there. The second cut of the amenity grass id complete and we are already achieving a good standard of finish. We are now starting to turn our attention to infrastructure maintainance, such as painting bins and seats, which will keep us busy for a while.
The Commons really are a dust bowl at the moment and unless we get some serious rain, we will start to suffer soon, especially with our very sandy soils. There seems to be a possibilty of a shower or two over the weekend, which will help our newly sown seed but we need a great deal more than that if we are to have a decent Summer and Autumn.
7th April 2017
It is not often that the school holidays coincide with a period of good weather, so the Commons have been very busy this week, especially of course around the Wellington Rocks.
We have been finishing off projects; putting in a new steel bollard on the footpath from the Rocks to the Lower Cricket Pitch to prevent vehicle access to the new clearing there. Installing the new anti-parking posts at Bretland Rd that I mentioned last week and sowing seed on the three new clearances at Castle Rd, Happy Valley and near the Spa Hotel. We now need some April showers get everything started. I hope that next week we should be able to tidy the clearing along the Racecourse and finish the work around the three big boundary oaks next to Hungershall Park.
31st March 2017
Sorry there was no post last week; computer problems again!
In spite of thinking we have finished the winters work, I keep finding little bits to be done. Because we did not suffer much storm damage this winter, we still had some money left in our tree budget. This week we spent most of that in getting all the roadside remedial work done that was identified in the first phase of our rolling roadside tree survey. There were a few trees on Major Yorks Rd that had to be pollarded an a couple of large ash tree on Bishops Down that needed reducing, plus a few small hanging branches to be removed here and there. There was nothing very serios found but it was good to be able to get it all cleared.
On Castle Rd, we have been scraping topsoil and landscaping the new clearance there. The topsoil has been used to create a bund along the edge of the road to prevent vehicle access and a couple of extra ditches now provide further protection. The area will now be seeded with our restoration seed mix and should green up quite quickly. Within the same clearance, our contractor has also dug a new pond, which just needs some rain to start to fill it. We also took the machine over to Happy Valley to scrape the area recently cleared of cherry laurel and prepare that for seeding as well. The seed will be going down in the next couple of weeks, and at the same time, we will be seeding the scraped area on the path between the Spa Hotel and Fir Tree car park.
Finally, I have a little money left in the post budget, so we will be putting in some anti-parking posts along the edge of Bretland Rd, where there is a great deal of erosion being caused by parking cars.
17th March 2017
We have made a start on carrying out reductions on the three big old boundary oaks at the end of Hungershall Park. A cherry picker was used to pull in the canopy by a metre or so and we have taken out some of the deadwood. Dead oak is a very hard wood, so it is only the small peices that have been removed; longer dead branches have just been cut back to make them safe. The point is of course, that this dead timber and all the little cavities are wonderful habitat for all kinds of invertebrates, mosses and lichens; a mature oak can support several hundred different species. In the same area, we have also reduced a group of beech trees adjacent to Hungershall Park. Still in the same area, we started work this week grinding the stumps of ll the holly we have taken down along the edges of the Racecourse and I hope that we can remove the timber next week. There are a few roadside trees on Major York's and Bishops Down that require some remedial work and that should be taking place next week as well. On Rusthall Common, the hedge behind the recycling centre at Common View is due for a cut this weekend, so by the end of next week, I hope we will have finished all the cutting and be able to leave the birds to get on with it.
Having got that out of the way, we will be starting to cut all the amenity grass next week or the week after. I hope to alter things this year to extend the wildflower areas on London Rd slightly. This will help get more light onto the sites and hopefully therefore, produce more blooms.
10th March 2017
We hope to be carrying out the remaining tree surgery work next week, with reductions of the group of beech trees on the added section of land adjacent to Hungershall Park, as well as doing a careful reduction of the three splendid old boundary oaks in the same area. These are some of the oldest trees on the Commons and so will be treated with a lot of TLC. We recently had the first phase of a rolling survey of our roadside trees carried out by a professional surveyor and we will also be doing the remedial works identified in that. It is pleasing that because of the extensive work undertaken on our roadside trees in recent years, only a small amount of work resulted from this.
Spring continues its progress with the first of this year's butterflies emerging; I saw two brimstones on the wing this week. They are always the first to appear and the orangetips will not be far behind, as the garlic mustard starts to come up. Quite a lot of the smaller, shrubby trees are starting to break with leaves now and I see that the magnolias are almost there. The large horse chestnut on Church Road, always the first major tree on the Common to come into leaf, is also starting to show as the buds burst and the level of bird activity is rising by the day. Wonderful.
3rd March 2017
Everything slowed down a bit this week as we start to reach the end of our winter programme. We still have surgery to carry out on the three ancient boundary oaks on the Hungershall Park edge of the Common, as well as some remedial works on a group of beeches in the same area. We were going to have done that this week but Storm Doris, or possibly Ewan, I have lost track, got in the way; we will do this as soon as we can. We have also been carrying out the first phase of a rolling, five year survey of all our roadside trees and I hope to carry out the remedial works identified in that over the next few weeks. Because we have paid a lot of attention to our roadside trees in recent years, the level of work required is fairly low.
The volunteeers will be out for the last time tomorrow at Denny Bottom, just removing seedlings and saplings that are growing among the rocks. They have again done some very valuable work across both Commons this year, especially at Edgcumbe Rocks and at Happy Valley but it is now time to leave the birds in peace to start nesting.
24th February 2017
We seem to be getting towards the end of our planned Winter work and I think we will be finished in time for the bird nesting season. It is getting quite close now, we already have a mass of frog spawn in Fir Tree pond and a lot of the hawthorns buds are starting to break. I also see that the hazel catkins are turning yellow with pollen and the geese have returned to Brighton Lake.
The chipping of cleared holly has been completed on the Racecourse and at Fir Tree pond and near the Bat Cave. Hoefully, we will be able to move on to grinding out the stumps next week. Down at the Fairground car park, we have put a fence along the edge of Cabbage Stalk Lane and have planted a new hedge alongside it. This should prevent the parked cars encroaching onto the Common and will present a rather more attractive sight than rows af cars in the future.
This week also saw a visit from a new bit of kit over to Happy Valley, where we cleared a lot of cherry laurel alongside the path that leads across to the Beacon. Cherry laurel is another of those non-native plants that can take over whole areas and form a monoculture with relatively little value for wildlife. The big tractor mounted flail unit that came in certainly showed how easily it can deal with heavy scrub such as this and I think we will find use for it in many areas of the Commons in future.
17th February 2017
Another busy week has seen us just about finish the felling and chipping on the Racecourse, leaving jusr the stumps to be ground out. Now that half term is over, we will be heading back to Fir Tree car park and pond next week to chip and clear what we have felled there as well.
We have also been over to Denny Bottom this week and have been clearing bramble, gorse and scrub around the Toad, as well as quite a lot of the rocks along Upper St. I am very pleased with the results, the whole area is looking much improved
This week certainly has seen a change in the weather and next week looks even more spring like. I have already seen several over-wintered butterflies on the wing and in one or two sheltered, sunny spots I have seen dogs nercury starting to flower, as well as the firat leaves of wild garlic appearing. I am expecting the frogs to be back in Fir Tree pond after the weekend as well.
10th February 2017
Work continued on the Racecourse again this week. We have now cleared all the holly and are currently chipping it, we will then be moving on to chip all the felled brush at Fir Tree pond and near the car park next week. We will then be returning to the Racecourse to remove some of the birch from the cleared area, grind the stumps and clean up the site and grade the surface of the Racecourse that has been churned up a little by the big tractor.
The weather looks a little more spring like after this weekend and I am wondering when we will see the return of the frogs to Fir Tree pond; it very often happens by Valentines Day. Don't think it will be quite that early this year but I bet it is not far away now. It is always cheering to see and is a sign that Spring really is close.
3rd February 2017
Most of our work has been concentrated on the Racecourse this week. We have removed most of the holly to open up both sides to sunlight and will be starting to go back through next week taking out the larger trees as needed. We will of course keep what we can whilst still allowing in the light and most of what is to go will be birch trees and sycamore. We will be leaving some trees on either side that are touching, to maintain ariel crossings for things such as dormice and squirrels. Once all is cleared, we will be grinding out the stumps, so that we can easily maintain the cleared area in future. We will be then cutting it on a rotational basis to encourage greater biodiversity in future.
27th January 2017
Work continued at Castle Rd this week and we have now cleared all the scrub; a surprising amount of it in the end. We have also started work on clearing the edges of the Racecourse between Hungershall Park and Major York's. This is to scallop the woodland edge and allow more light in to help increase biodiversity. The great majority of what we are cutting is holly, which has covered large areas of the Common since the loss of grazing. All the trees that we are cutting are simply being stacked at the moment and then a large tractor mounted chipper will be in later to deal with it.
We seem to be seeing quite a few buzzards on the Commons now. They have been increasing in numbers for some time locally but this is a new occurence for them to be in such an urban area. My little Yorkie is starting to get nervous and is trying not to look too much like a rabbit!
20th January 2017
The brush at Happy Valley has now been burnt and just the stumps remain to be dealt with. As the final work there for this year, we will be getting a large machine in soon to cut back the edges of the path from St Paul's to the Beacon.
Pleased to see that we seem to have been successful in our repairs to Bracken Pond. The rain of the last few weeks has brought the level in the pond up substantially, certainly higher than it has been for some time. We will be putting in a new overflow next week, before it gets too full.
The new path that some of you will have noticed near the old Swan car park should be completed next week as well, just one more load of crushed sandstane to be delivered and then rolled in.
We have also started clearance work ready for a new flight of steps to go in at Fir Tree Pond, as well as clearing holly to open up the Bat Cave glade to more sunlight. We have also carried out clearance of scrub alongside Castle Rd to improve the area and create a new woodland edge. This will then be graded and seeded and a new bund created next to the road to stop vehicle encroachment in the future.
13th January 2017
The volunteers were out last weekend for their first task of the new year. They cleared a large amount of cherry laurel from the area near the newly cleared rocks at Happy Valley, making quite a difference to the views there. We were meant to have been burning it all today but the Friday 13th weather intervened and we will have to do it next week.
We also cleared the 101 steps this week. They had been getting more and more covered over with grass in the last couple of years and had almost vanished. The trouble is that the steps are worn and slippery and so not many people use them any more, especially since we have provided alternative ways of getting up and down the escarpment. This means that there is no footfall to stop the grass from covering them.
9th January 2017
With Christmas, New Year and an internet problem last week, it has been a while since I posted anything. Hopefully, you all had an enjoyable break, from both work and my ramblings.
Christmas was pleasingly quiet on the Commons but I got back into the swing of things last week with a guided walk to lead, various meetings to attend and then the Volunteers out last Saturday. They continued with some more scrub clearance around the newly exposed rocks at Happy Valley, which made a considerable difference to the views across the rocks. We will be back to get rid of all the cut scrub very soon.
We have lots to get on with in the first quarter of the new year, so I will be putting some pressure on my contractors to get it all done before the birds start nesting. To judge from the number of great spotted woodpeckers calling across the Commons in the last week, that is not going to be too far away.
23rd December 2016
The work at Happy Valley is now almost complete, just a bit of tickling round the edges still to do. I must say that the contractors have done a wonderful job and the area has been transformed.
Far more of the rock outcrop has been re-exposed than I had expected and the removal of the fallen trees from the Cheesewring Rock has let much more light into the area. It obviously looks a little raw at the moment but it will soon start to soften; it would be very much helped by some rain now to wash all the rocks down, perhaps storm Barbara will oblige.
Wonderful to be past the shortest day now, it is always surprising how quickly the longer days start to show; a very cheering thought. I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and lets hope that 2017 is slightly less surprising than this year was!
16th December 2016
Work got underway at Happy Valley this week to clear the area around the Cheesewring Rock. Thanks to generous funding from both the Freehold Tenants and the Friends of the Commons, we are able to clear the fallen trees that have been leaning against the rocks for many years and also to remove lots of soil that has built up over decades and re-expose quite a lot more of the rock outcrop in the area. We will also be pushing back the holly that is leaning over the path to allow a great deal more light into the area. Obviously, it all looks a little raw at the moment, but as soon as we have some rain to wash down the newly exposed rocks it will all start to blend in. Work will be continuing throughout next week and I hope that it will be completed in time for Christmas, so go and have a look.
9th December 2016
A slightly quieter week this time. The volunteers had a good session last weekend, treeplanting near St Helena on Tunbridge Wells Common. We had a few more trees than we needed there, so we have also planted the bund at the rear of the scrape carried out last week near the Spa. As well as the planting, we also started on clearing path surfaces now that the leaves are pretty much all down.
Had an interesting walk round both Commons looking at the proposed sites for new interpretative panels. Our old ones have certainly seen better days and the Friends have been leading the way to get the funding for new ones. These will hopefully be going in over the next few months and will complement the excellent new maps that they produced last year.
2nd December 2016
A useful week, with lots accomplished. We carried out reductions on two large chestnut trees adjacent to the A26 at the bottom of Major York's Road, one of which recently lost a substantial limb. I must admit I was pleased with what was done; I suspect that when they are in leaf next year it will not even look as though they have been worked on, which is, of course, exactly what one wants. We also dredged and re-puddled Bracken Cottage Pond, which has not been holding water properly for some time now. We won't really know if this is successful until we get some rain to fill it but if it is still leaking, we have now got it to a condition where it will be an easy fix next summer with some clay matting. Whilst the machine was in, it also carried out a scrape on the edges of the path from the Spa roundabout, where it meets the old Racecourse. We removed scrub here last winter to let more light in and we will now grade and seed the area to create another new glade. The topsoil that was scraped off has been used to form a bund near the road which we can plant trees into to provide more screening from the traffic.
25th November 2016
Back to normal this week with contractors finishing off the last of the grass and path cutting on Rusthall Common and starting at Happy Valley. Over on Tunbridge Wells, we have removed a dead oak on the edge of Major York's, another dead tree adjacent to Hungershall Park and cleared the hanging deadwood out of a large scots pine near the Racecourse.
We willl be carrying out some extensive remedial work on the two large horse chestnuts on the edge of the A26 next to the Swan garage next week. One of these trees lost a large branch a month ago and we need to carry out an overall reduction to lessen leverage and weight on them. We will also be carrying out work to repair the leak in Bracken Cottage Pond that has resulted in low water levels for some time now. A machine will be re-puddling the bottom of the pond and the dam, so expect some mess!
18th November 2016
We installed two new notice boards this week. One in Fir Tree car park and one at Common View. My main contractors have been unavailable through pressure of work but will return next week to continue with roadside tree clearance as well as finishing off flail cutting on Rusthall Common.
We are now only around four weeks away from the shortest day. In spite of this, the weather has remained remarkably mild and not at all seasonal. On a nunmer of nights this week, I have seen a pipistrelle bat hunting in my garden as the light fades; quite remarkable really.
The volunteers were out during my absence last week and did some splendid work clearing the top of the Edgcumbe Rocks. The whole area is looking great, why not go and see for yourselves this weekend.
4th November 2016
We managed to install our new anti-parking posts at Lower Green Rd whilst it was closed, so hopefully that will ease the situation there. The final cut of the grass has been carried out, so hopefully it will stop growing soon. We have made a start on clearing the big bank between Mt Ephraim and London Rd, and we should be carrying out some tidying of the road verges next week. That should bring us pretty much to the end of the autumn work period.
I am away for a week now and on my return, we will be looking to get on properly with the winter tree work schedule.
28th October 2016
The weather continues to be amazing and now seems to have brought lots of ladybirds with it; they are everywhere at the moment. I wonder if the prevailing easterlies of the last few weeks have pushed them across from the continent. We also seem to have quite a few buzzards soaring over the Common, I have noticed a pair three times this week, very low down today as well.
We have started to put in granite anti-parking posts on Lower Green Rd over at Rusthall. The road verge there has become very badly eroded by parking cars in recent years. We will be finishing this task next week, taking advantage of the closure that KCC are planning to put in new drainage pipes and repair the damage at the crossroads. If I can squeeze it out of the budget, I plan to do the same at Bretland Rd, where the same erosion is occuring.
We have carried out more remedial works on roadside trees this week, removing several dead birches as well as a dead oak on Major Yorks Rd.
Sadly, the clocks go back this weekend, don't forget.
21st October 2016
With two of my main contractors on holiday this week, it has been quieter than usual on the Commons. We started the task of cutting back the edges of our tarmac paths with the footpath crossing the path at Common View and will be continuing this work as the leaves drop; it is not worth clearing most of them until then. I have been preparing plans for treework over the coming months and there has been some work undertaken to replace damaged posts.
The autumn colour is starting to come through now. It is difficult to know what effect the prolonged dry weather will produce for us but at the moment, things are looking promising for a lovely late autumn. It is only a week until the clocks go back now. That can be a depressing moment but we have been really blessed with some wonderful weather recently; it has brought us to within seven weeks of the shortest day with very little stress, so I think we should be grateful.
14th October 2016
We have now almost completed the full clearance of grasslands on both Commons for the year. This is one of our major undertakings, so it is good to have it finished. The consistently dry weather of the past couple of months has really helped us with easy access for heavy equipment. The contractor who has been carrying out most of the work has now gone on holiday to Nepal for the rest of the month, to mountain bike, trek and white water raft in the foothills of the Himalayas. Let's hope he survives because I have plenty more for him to do when he returns.
Work has also been done this week clearing potentially dangerous trees, the main one being a large, dead, multi-stemmed sycamore near the Forum. We are leaving the main part of the lower trunk in pklace, as standing dead timber provides excellent habitat for so many inverterates, as well potentially for bats. More tree work will be taking place next week to remove some dead or dying roadside birches. I also hope to be able to cut and clear the steep bank below Mt Ephraim, between Gibraltar Cottage and St Helena; this then only leaves Happy Valley to be cleared.
7th October 2016
The volunteers had a good day last weekend, in spite of the rain. We managed to remaove a lot of invading scrub, bramble and ivy from the top of the rocks and we also removed quite a lot of the matted roots to re-expose the actual rock surface. My contractors have been there since, carrying out a lot of work that the volunteers could not do, such as cl;earing the sheer faces and crown lifting some of the larger trees. Between them, they have made quite an impact on the site, which is looking really good. The volunteers will be returning there next month to clear more vegetation from the rest of the top of the outcrop.
Work has also progressed well with the general clearanceof the rest of the Commons, with a lot of effort around the Queen Anne Oak, the edges of many of the roads and the paths behind Fir Tree car park. The hedging flail was in last weekend to cut a lot of the steep banks, such as the one opposite Union House. We are close to finishing Tunbridge Wells Common now and with luck, we should be moving over to Rusthall next week.
30th September 2016
Our contractors were committed elsewhere this week, so a quiet week on the Commons. We should be back to speed next week and I am hoping that the hedging flail will be in over the weekend to cut the steep roadside banks.
The volunteers are due to meet for their first session tomorrow, although the weather does not look too promising. I plan for us to cut and clear some of the encroaching scrub, ivy and bramble at Edgcumbe Rocks
Many of you will have been aware of the work taking place at Inner London Rd over the past few weeks, where a new water main is being installed. I knew this was in the pipeline, if you will excuse the pun, and had been worrying about the collatteral damage that could be inflicted on the Common. It is very pleasing therefore to see how much care the contractors have taken to avoid damage and the respect they have shown the Common. It does not happen very often, so a big thank you to them.
22nd September 2016
Work has continued with the path cutting and good progress has been made in the central area of Tunbridge Wells Common. We are now clearing around Edgcumbe Rocks and have cut back all the minor paths below the Racecourse.
I was on the new path at the Marlpits this morning, checking how it is settling in. It was nice to see several Common Darter dragonflies egg-laying into the new ponds on either side of the path. It is amazing how quickly these little ponds get colonised.
We dug in the big tree trunks that we had delivered to the Lower Cricket Pitch this week as well. This was of course, where we had problems with a group of travellers driving on and causing damage earlier in the year. Hopefully, this will stop them in the future.
16th September 2016
We finished work with the big flail this week. The new unit is giving a good cut; this showed up particularly on the wildflower areas on Inner London Rd. The small flail still has plenty to do on both Commons and this will be going on for several weeks yet. The two remaining areas then be cleared, Happy Valley and the big slope between Gibralter Cottage and St Helena, are both too steep to be cut with machines and they will be hand cut and cleared later in the autumn.
Delighted to say that the path at the Marlpits was surfaced with crushed sandstone this week; in the nick of time as is transpired. The path will recieve some more work to compress and consolidate the new material next week but it already looks as though it shoud be successfull in provideng a better, less muddy surface.
The metal goal posts at Comon View seem to be finally giving up the ghost. The remains of these posts will be removed as qas possible and I don't have any plans to replace them, so I am afraid it is back to using jumpers!
9th Septenber 2016
Work has continued in my absence, although possibly not as much of it as I had hoped! The minor paths continued to be cleared but the path I had hoped would be sufaced at the Marlpits was not done. I am doing my best to get that achieved as soon as possible now that I am back; it has to be done before the weather gets too wet.
The big collector flail returned this week to start clearing the glades and large areas of long grass. We have a new unit this year and it is making a nice job. It has already achieved quite a lot on Tunbridge Wells Common and by the middle of next week it should be going over to Rusthall, where ther will be about another week's work. The small flail will continue to come along behind, clearing the areas that the collector flail is too big to get into.
Things are looking encouraging over at Lower Green Road, where the water seems to have stopped bubbling up through the road surface at the crossroads and there is still some flow away into the ditch alongside Rusthall Road. Hopefully now the sodden area of the Common will start to slowly dry out.
It is Heritage Open Day tomorrow and as usual there is a guided walk on the Commons. This year we will be walking Rusthall Common and are to meet at 10.30 at St Pauls Church. The walk will be a general look around the Common to talk about the history and current and future manangement; it will probably last about an hour and a half.
12th August 2016
Sorry there was no posting last week; we were having problems accessing the web site management system.
Work to clear the edges of the Common and many of the major paths with the big, collector flail has now been completed. The machine has departed and will return at the beginning of September to clear all the big meadows and clearings. Actually that is not strictly true; it will be a different machine that returns to do that. Our old flail, that has given us sterling service for about ten years, has finally come to the end of its life. It has broken down and been repaired and bits have been replaced many, many times - in fact, I doubt if there was much of the original flail left at the end! This time the main three-point linkage gave up the ghost just before we finished at Common View and the flail had to be de-coupled from the tractor and left there for recovery. Our contractor finally admitted that it had suffered enough and has brought a nice new machine to replace it.
Ironically, just as we had decided to leave the sodden area of ground at the top of Lower Green Rd to become a wetland, Highways think they may have discovered the root of the problem and repaired it. I spoke to the Officer in charge up there today and he was quite confident. It looked as if the water flow through the carriageway at the crossroads was lessening already. Obviously, we will have to momitor the situation for while to make sure but it is certainly looking encouraging.
I am off on my hols for a few weeks; we are taking the dogs to the seaside in Suffolk for the rest of the month. I will resume posts on my return.
29th July 2016
A busy week for the Common. It was cricket week up by Wellington Rocks and with the start of school holidays as well, the Common has been very popular. Work has continued with path clearance and we have now nearly finished the bench refurbishments.
The big flail is due to start work on Monday. It will be focusing on main paths, as well as areas such as the crossing at Vale Rd where the grass is getting very long and starting to impede visibility for pedestrians. This work will probably be finished by the end of next week and then the machine will leave the Common for a while. It will be back at the start of September to clear all the big areas of long grass and the hay meadow. These are always left to the end of Summer to allow flower seeds to set before we cut.
The short, amenity grass is due for another cut next week as well. Thankfully, it is starting to slow down now as the sandy soils of the Common dry out and so we should be able to increase the time between cuts. I certainly hope so, or we will run out of contracted cuts early this year.
22nd July 2016
Work has continued with the clearance on the Commons, this week was focused on the Denny Bottom area. This is always a difficult area to deal with, both for access and the terrain. We have just cleared the edges of the Common there so far but will be back later in the year to do more.
The hot weather seems to have finally arrived, bringing with it our usual seasonal problems with litter. School holidays are also upon us and the levels of rubbish and unfortunately, broken glass, left overnight around Wellington Rocks are rising rapidly.
Our work to renovate the seats across Tunbridge Wells Common is underway again. This week we did the seats around the Lower Cricket Pitch and next week we will be moving on to seats around the Racecourse and down near the Pantiles.
15th July 2016
The Britain in Bloom judges spent a considerable amount of time with us on Monday as planned. It was very enjoyable: I always like showing the Commons off. It seemed to go well, although only time will tell.
On Tuesday we installed a new bench at the end of the Royal Victoria Grove, next to the path that comes straight up from the Pantiles. It has a lovely outlook along the length of the avenue, as well as a nice view of the Wellington Rocks. Hopefully, its position will be welcomed by those who have just walked up the hill for practical as well as visual reasons! The bench is being paid for by the Friends and is in memory of a lady who left a handsome bequest to them. A plaque will be installed when the wording is agreed.
Wednesday was the Friends Tea Party at the Royal Wells; very pleasant.
Thursday, we sprayed a lot of Himalayan balsam around the Commons, as well as treating various pockets of bracken.
All in all, a varied and enjoyable week.
8th July 2016
Most of this week has been spent trying to get everything ready for Britain in Bloom judging day next Monday. We have been entered into the conservation category this year, so it is much more involved than usual. I will be spending a couple of hours showing the judges round Tunbridge Wells Common this time, as opposed to the ten minutes that I normally get.
Although most work has been aimed at Bloom, we have still been cutting a few paths and sightlines. After this week, we will be able to start our more organised clearance of the minor paths, section by section. The next step will be to get the big flail in to start cutting and picking up along the main paths and rides.
1st July 2016
We have again been cutting paths and sight lines across the Commons, concentrating this time on the areas at the bottom of Major York's and around Harmony St on Rusthall Common. We have also carried out work to kill the Himalayan balsam along the edges Castle Rd, which is becoming quickly obvious as the spray takes effect. This is an invasive alien weed that is becoming more and more of a problem across the countryside, especially in damp areas and on disturbed soil. This makes it a terrible problem along our rivers, where it is increasingly taking over the banks and overwhelming all other types of vegetation. We do not have too much of a problem on the Commons as yet, with it concentrated mainly near Castle Rd, but we have also seen it at Happy Valley this year, as well as at Bulls Hollow, so vigilance is going to be required in the future.
We will, weather permitting, be carrying out more spraying next week, this time using Asulox, which is a selective herbicide for bracken. We have tried a number of ways of controlling bracken in the past, cutting and crushing it to try and weaken it, even pulling it, which proved to be an inpossible task. In the end, like many wildlife sites, we realised that carefull use of this very efficient and selective spray causes far less collateral damage and it has proved to be a very useful tool that made a huge difference over the last ten years.
24th June 2016
We have made good progress this week, in spite of the unbelievable weather. Much of the epicormic growth has been cleared from the bases of the lime trees on Eridge Road, so it should be easier for people to see clearly when leaving their property; we will finish cleaning the growth off the lower trunks next week.
We made a good start on clearing overgrown main paths and have also cleared vegetation back from the edge of Major York's, where the clearance took place over the winter. This work will now continue over the next couple of months.
I have been very pleased with our common spotted orchid crop again this year. In the area near Cabbage Stalk Lane Pond in particular, numbers have been excellent. The first orchids appeared there a few years ago, with three plants initially showing. Numbers grew slowly, until last year when we had a sudden jump to around forty specimens. When I checked them today, the plants have spread considerably in area and I counted eighty five blooms. I am very pleased and just hope they last long enough for the Britain in Bloom judges to see them this year.
17th June 2016
Mercifully a much quieter week, with only normal Commons business.
We seem to be spending most of our time catching up with clearing site lines and trees overgrowing paths at the moment. There has been a sudden spurt of growth everywhere, so the main paths are also in need of a trim. I don't know why this always comes as such a surprise, because it happens every year at this time. The epicormic growth on the Lime trees opposite Brighton Lake will be being removed in the next week, they have certainly put on a huge volume of growth now that we have pollarded them.
We have had a brief pause in our bench restoration programme but we will be resuming work in the next couple of weeks, with twelve more to do.
Midsummer's Day next Tuesday; where on earth does the time go?
10th June 2016
Sadly, we chose the wrong week to visit the North York Moors: the weather was appalling! To make matters worse, having come home a day early, I had only been back about half an hour when I started to get messages that the Lower Cricket Pitch had been invaded by travellers.
They gained access by moving one of the big tree trunks that surround the area and eight or nine vehicles and their caravans were ensconsed. As usual, they turned up on a Friday evening, knowing that it is harder to start proceedings to recover the land over a weekend. With the help of Terry Hughes from TWBC, we issued a notice to quit from the Conservators on Saturday morning but it still meant that the earliest court date we could get would have been the following Thursday.
By Monday, they had already started fly tipping garden rubbish on the site from work carried out locally and there were a couple of fire pits in the grass, so I was extremelly grateful when the Police stepped in on Tuesday morning and issued them with notice to quit the site by three p.m. that day. Thankfully the Police stayed on site having issued the notice, so the rubbish on the travellers vehicles departed with them rather than being left behind as usually happens.
Our excellent litter contractor moved in as soon as they were gone and we had the site cleared of everything except the garden waste by the end of the day and had also re-secured the perimeter. Sadly, we did find the remains of a butchered deer in the bushes; I hope it wasn't one of ours from the Common. As they left, they said that they would be returning next year, so I guesss my task now is to improve the defences before they do.
Obviously, our heartfelt thanks go to TWBC and the Police, without whom the situation could have been much worse
27th May 2016
The Common is being cut again, so hopefully will be looking good for the Holiday weekend. We continue with the benches and we will be bringing in the hedging flail to cut the roadside grass either this weekend or next. We should also be cutting the grass at Denny Bottom next week, having cut back the edges of Still Green already and it will be very soon time to start on sight lines and then the edges of some of our main paths. It is amazing how quickly this stuff is coming round, the year is half over already.
I am away next week, heading for the North York Moors. It seems we have timed it right, there is due to be a heatwave up there next week; it is allegedly going to reach as high as 12 Celcius! Never mind, our cottage is near Whitby, which I am told is home to the world's best fish and chips.
23rd May 2016
Apologies for the late posting, we had problems with getting online last week.
Work on the benches is progressing well, aided by the installation of new timber on the six benches at the South of France, funded by the Friends of the Common. The South of France is the area of Bishops Down, outside Chancellor House. It gained that name as it is reputedly the warmest spot in the Town. It is certainly a nice sun trap and is well protected from Northerly and Easterly winds.
13th May 2016
Everywhere is suddenly so green, we really are at the peak of Spring. The horse chestnuts are now in full flower and this year they seem to be particularly splendid; the ones outside the Forum look magnificent. It is also proving to be a good year for violets and as the garlic mustard comes into flower, lots of orange tip butterflies are showing. I am also starting to notice quite a few spotty leaves in the areas where our oechids will bloom, so hope fully we are in for another good display in a months time.
We are planning a major renovation of benches this year. This is being funded by money from the developers of the old hospital site, who are required to make contribution to compensate to some degree for the extra pressure that this development is likely to place on the Common. The money is meant to be aimed at the area of the Common closest to the site, so will be starting next week, repainting and restaining the benches in that section. Some of the benches will need new timber and this may take a little time to source.
6th May 2016
What a difference a week can make! Trout fishermen often refer to "the change in May", meaning the sudden increase in insect life and therefore fish activity. We are certainly seeing a dramatic change in May this year, I seem to recall that it was still Winter last weekend. I heard a cuckoo on Tuesday, not only the first of this year but I think in fact the first I have heard for several years. I still have not seen a swallow or martin this year but I heard the unmistakable sound of swifts screaming overhead yesterday, even though I couldn't see them.
We will be cutting the grass again next week, already our third cut of our scheduled twelve for the year. I always start to worry that we will not have enough about this time of the season but with our very sandy soils, we can usually increase the gap between cuts as the Summer wears on and the grass slows down.
29th April 2016
As is often the case at this time of year, we have had a relatively quiet week on the Commons. We did carry out a bit of clearance of bramble along the edges of the path running from opposite the Spa Hotel to Fir Tree Road that was widened over the winter, and this has neatened up the area. There has always been a large area adjacent to this path dominated by nothing but bracken. I plan to scrape the bracken litter and topsoil away this year and try and establish a meadow area there instead, by sowing it with our restoration grass seed with an appropriate wild flower mix included.
The cherry tree avenue along Mount Edgcumbe Rd is now in full flower. We replanted the avenue several years ago as the old, original trees were reaching the end of their lives. We chose Great White Cherries for the new avenue and they are now getting big enough to start to make a real show. These will go on to be quite large trees, that should become a very dramatic sight in future Springs.
22nd April 2016
The second cut of the grass is underway. After this, we should be on our two weekly routine and the quality of the finish should quickly improve. The final finish on the edges of Major York's last week certainly improved the look of thinga as well. We suffered some annoying damage this week over at Common View on Rusthall Common, where a lorry reversed into the new posts installed to stop vehicles going on to the grass and uprooted two of them. Fortunately, the damage was spotted at the time and the vehicle number taken, so we are claiming the costs of the repairs from the company.
Spring is in full flow now, especially it seems, at Brighton Lake. As well as the thirteen mallard chicks that are racing about everywhere and the five moorhen chicks that are slightly less manic, we now have six goslings hatched as well. I know that these birds are much loved and give a great deal of pleasure to many people, but I do worry about the level of feeding that is going on. Bread is ok in small amounts, but far too much is going into the pond and I worrry that they might get killed with kindness. Instead of the usual white bread, it would be much better to put some wild bird seed on the grass, or sweetcorn, they like that. Lettuce leaves are a good snack fo them, as are porridge oats or rice. Whatever you put down for them though, remember that many other people are feeding them as well, so please keep the amount down.
15th April 2016
The small flail has been in this week tidying the clearance alondside Major York's Rd. We have cut the bramble stumps and last little bits of holly by the edge of the footway. They are also clearing back bramble on the other side of the road behind the parked cars.
Had a fascinating day yesterday touring all the ponds on both Commons with an expert herpatologist, Dr Lee Brady, who is also the County Recorder for reptiles and amphibians. This was part of the ongoing work towards our new Management Plan update. I am pleased to report that our ponds are in good health and even the less obviously healthy , such as the one beside the Tarry Path are full of newts and frogs. One of the small new ponds we created on Rusthall Common a couple of years ago has already been colonised by frogs, there are good numbers of toadpoles in Brighton Lake and we found some Great Crested Newt eggs in the Marlpit. I learnt quite a bit as we went round and all in all. it was a grand day out.
8th April 2016
There has turned out to be a little more damage from the Easter storm than I originally thought although, happily, most of the fallen trees are in the areas of dense woodland and can simply be left as habitat. One or two paths were temporarily blocked but have now been cleared and I think we are now up to date. The most dangerous tree only came to light this week; we discovered a multi-stemmed rowan adjacent to Major York's Road that had snapped off at the base and was leaning out across the road, supported only by a hawthorn that it was leaning against. Fortunately, our main contractor had a team working in the area, so they came over and dealt with it. It required a temporary stoppage of traffic on Major York's Road but it was resolved pretty quickly.
We put in a new bench today that was generously donated as a memorial; actually, most of the benches that go in these days are donated. We will be carrying out a major refurbishment of our benches later this year, with twenty five of them due to be treated. This is being funded from compensation money that the Conservators have received, due to the major development at the old hospital site.
1st April 2016
Easter came and went with a bang. The winds caused comparatively minor damage; one or two trees across paths and a lot of small debris. We have cleared most of it now but there are a couple of trees still left to deal with. The rain last Sunday night caused more of a problem, with issues of flooding in Rusthall. Someone had made quite an effective dam in the large ditch alongside Rusthall Road between Coach Road and Common View, using logs, bricks and a paving slab from somewhere. I imagine it was just kids doing what kids do but the result was water over topping the ditch and flowing straight down the High Street. We have cleared it now of course but it was a very good dam; civil engineers in the making perhaps!
Nearby, we have put in new posts around the area of grass at the end of Common View opposite the One Stop. This was being constantly parked on and getting trashed, probably by people nipping into the shops; parking is always difficult there. Hopefully we have now stopped the problem and the area will recover quickly
18th March 2016
We cleared the remains of the chestnut tree near the Forum this week and have started stump grinding on the edge of Major York's but other than that it has been relatively quiet. With the winter clearance work now complete and the birds about to start nesting, we are entering one of our less busy periods on the Common. Having said that, we hope to be carrying out the first cut of the grass next week to get the Commons ready for the Easter break and we should be putting in a new bench on the edge of the cricket pitch.
Once the weather starts to warm up we will be turning our attention to renovating seats, and this year, with some extra compensation funding from the development at the old hospital site, we will be carrying out a major overhaul of around twenty five benches across both Commons. I also hope very much that we can find the money to install some new anti-parking posts to protect the Common's verges, especially in the Lower Green area of Rusthall Common.
11th March 2016
There was a good turnout for the last volunteer day of the season, including some new faces who I hope will be returning in the Autumn when we start again. The volunteers do a lot of good work throughout the winter, tackling some of the more labour intensive jobs that cannot be done by contractors machines. Last week was a good example, clearing gorse, invading scrub and bramble from amongst the rocks at Denny Bottom.
We got the planting done at the rear of the new clearances alongside Major York's. We put in around two hundred and fifty whips, all native species such as hazel, hornbeam and hawthorn. They were good size plants and clearly we got them in just in time as many of them were just starting to break into leaf. The wet ground will be a definite advantage to get them away and it looks as if the weather is on the up, which should provide excellent conditions for them. They will form a diverse and attractive new woodland edge over the next few years and should greatly help in reducing traffic noise intruding into the Common there.
The improvement in the weather over the last couple of days seems to have sparked a big increase in the intensity of the evening and dawn choruses; it was really lovely last night. Let's hope the birds know what they are talking about and spring is ready to get properly underway.
4th March 2016
The last of the treee cutting is taking place today, with the pollarding of some ivy covered hawthorns near Fir Tree Pond and the removal of a horse chestnut near the Forum. The hawthorns were in danger of collapse as the ivy was getting very heavy, so we have cut them to about six foot high to allow them to re-shoot from their base. This should help screen traffic noise a bit better and has the added bonus of allowing more light onto the pond as well as helping the saplings we planted there a few years ago flourish as they too get more light. It is a shame that we have had to fell the chestnut near the Forum, especially as it was close to breaking into leaf. Unfortunately, it had a very serious split at it's main break point and was in imminent danger of splitting in two. This tree has been popular in the summer for people to sit under and picnic, or just relax, so we really had no choice but to remove it.
The Volunteers will be out tomorrow for the last time this winter. We will be doing general clearance and tidying at Denny Bottom and then we will have to halt as the birds all start to nest. Next week we will be carrying out some late tree planting alongside Major York's Rd and that will bring our winter work schedule to a close. I guess I better start thinking about starting the grass cutting then!
26th February 2016
A quieter week than recently, mostly due to the fact that I have used up most of the budget! I am hoping to have enough left to carry out some planting at the back of the clearance alongside Major York's in the next couple of weeks to enhance the new woodland edge there and provide better screening from traffic noise. Other than that, we are pretty much done for that Winter, with just some tidying up of the path from the Spa to Fir Tree Rd still to do.
To my surprise, Fir Tree Pond already has quite a lot of frog spawn in it. I thoight that it had been too cold all week but clearly not. Whatever the weather does now, I think there is enough in there now that the centre of the mass at least will survive.
Moofy has survived her first week on the Common and I am actually very pleased with her. She has met a lot of dogs and had a great deal of fuss made of her. She is getting good on recall, so I have been able to have her off the lead a lot of the time. She will now sit and wait on command as well and she is pretty much house trained, barring the odd indiscretion. It's walking to heel next; I think that will be more of a challenge.
19th February 2016
We are still finishing off the last bits of roadside clearance and then next week we will be felling a badly split horse chestnut from the middle of the grass next to the Forum, as well as carrying out a small reduction on one of the beautiful old boundary oaks near Hungershall Park Rd. This tree is one of a line of very old oaks that must be amongst the oldest trees on the Commons. It has quite a lot of decay at its base but we obviously want to try and save it if we can, so we will be gentle reducing its height and spread to take some of the weight and leverage off it.
My new puppy reaches the end of her quarantine this weekend and so will be coming to work with me for the first time on Monday. Having spent the last four weeks terrorising our our two elderly small dogs, she is full of herself. She is in for a bit of a shock next week and is probably going to be taught her place quite quickly. I think the other two are going to enjoy this!
12th February 2016
Cutting alongside Major Yorks Rd is now complete and we are busy chipping the brush wood. This week we concentrated on the larger trees at the bottom of the hill, removing some leaning birches and pollarding a large leanibg oak. There is also a bit of clearance to be done on the path running from opposite the Spa to Fir Tree car park and more chipping there from when the volunteers carried out scrub clearance a few weeks ago; we hope to go straight onto that next week.
We put in a couple of new litter bins this week. One at the start of the Tarry Path on Rusthall Common and one at the junction of Castle Rd and Mt Edgcumbe Rd at Tunbridge Wells. Both of them are already proving popular, so hopefully that is a lot less rubbish that would otherwise have ended up littering the Commons.
5th February 2016
My contractors were unexpectedly available this week, so we have managed to finish the clearance along the Tarry Path. I am very pleased with what they have achieved; it looks a bit raw at the moment of course but that will soon change. It will be interesting to see what appears alongside the path now that we have let so much more light in. It is a shame there was not enough time to clear the bramble from the slope up to the cricket pitch. If the budget permits we will do that before the end of our winter work; if not it will be done next year.
Over on Major York's Road, we have completed the removal of all the scrub alongside the footway. There just remains some remedial work on some trees opposite the entrance to the car park and then we can get on with the stump grinding and chipping. If I can find the money within our budget, I also hope to carry out a planting scheme at the back of the clearance above Fir Tree Pond to enhance the new woodland edge and boost future protection against traffic noise. Again, if that is not done this year, it will be done next year.
We put in the new duck house on the island in Brighton Lake last week and I think it was just it time. There are definite signs of friskiness amongst the mallard population this week! Interestingly, whilst passing a heronry near another local lake yesterday, I saw at least six herons on the nests proclaiming territorial rights. Spring is definitely on the horizon.
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