13th December 2019
We have still not been able to finish the tracks and paths thanks to the wet weather but at least we have started on Rusthall now and it is good to see Bulls Hollow cleared. Some of the areas we usually clear, such as the new path that runs from the bottom of the Tarry Path steps, are so wet that I suspect we will only be able to strim, rather than use the flail.
The volunteers had a good day last weekend and have cleared most of the invading birch, as well as a great deal of the gorse, from the heather regeneration area between London Rd and Castle Rd. We will be back to finish the job in January. It is a pity to have to remove the gorse but if left, it will completely dominate our still quite small areas of heather. We will leave it around the edges of the heather, which is probably a relief to the volunteers, it is extremelly painful stuff to handle!
The students from Hadlow College did some sterling work at Denny Bottom, clearing quite a lot of gorse, bramble and birch scrub from the rock outcrops near the Toad. They also managed to remove quite a bit of the soil build up on the rocks, to prevent further growth occuring. We are most grateful for this help and the students were hard workers. I hope we can get them back again as we need all the help we can get controlling the scrub on this important site.
6th December 2019
Most of this week was taken up with preparations for the quarterly meeting of my Board of Conservators, which took place yesterday. This week also marked the end of an era, with the retirement of Julia Woodgate, who has mnaged the office and kept me in order for the last fourteen years. She has been a wonderful coleague and friend, who will be sadly missed. Her role has now been taken over by Gemma Stapeley, who will no doubt become just as valued as Julia.
The volunteers will be out tomorrow, clearing birch scrub and gorse from the heather regeneration area adjacent to Castle Rd and then on Monday, we have a group of countryside management students coming from Hadlow College to clear scrub, gorse and bramble from the Toad Rock area. We are extremelly grateful for this, as this site requires a lot of hand work to keep it under control and I really can't afford to employ contractors to do it.
29th November 2019
Work continues, although slowly with all the rain. Today is a blessed relief and the free draining nature of our soils means that it is already dry enough for the compact flail to get onto the Common. With luck, today should see the end of the path clearance on Tunbridge Wells and we can get over to Rusthall next week. There is a lot less to cut over there, so another couple of weeks should see us completed except for Happy Valley, which may well have to wait until the New Year.
We have been cutting back the rdges of some of our tarmac paths, which look much better for it and since the leaves are now rapidly disappearing, we will be getting on with clearing our drainage ditches in the next couple of weeks.
22nd November 2019
Work commenced this week pollsrding our ash trees adjacent to Langton Rd. Ash die back has really taken a grip this year and we felt we had to take action for safety. Probably a good ting that we did, the branches are very brittle and are exploding as they hit the ground! We will only take the trees down low enough to make them safe, then even if they do not survive, they will make great wildlife habitat as they decay. I am pleased to hear that resistant trees seem to be emerging and that we may be able to replant in future. I have noticed a number on the Commons that have remained fairly green, whilst surrounded by badly affected specimens.
Flail work moved over to the Toad Rock area this week but will be back on Tunbridge Wells to finish the areas above Church Rd next week. They will then be back to Rusthall to complete the work there.
15th November 2019
Work continued on the path and track clearance this week, with the focus on the section of Tunbridge Wells Common between London Rd and Castle Rd, as well as the Lower Cricket Ground and the Cherry Avenue on Edgcumbe Rd. We just need to finish cutting the triangle of land at the junction of Church Rd and Mt Ephraim and the section to the Northeast of Church Road that runs to the point near Belleville, then it is over to Rusthall, which is a much easier proposition.
We are still finding and removing the remains of rough sleeper's camps, which are revealed as the leaves fall and the vegetation dies back. Removing these is not the favourite aspect of my job but it has to be done. Sadly, I can only see this problem growing, as there seem to be more people than ever in this situation
As the leaves fall, we will also start clearing our drainage ditches and cutting back the edges of the tarmac paths to regain their full width.
8th November 2019
A much better week for us, with decent weather during the day, if not at night. Fortunately, the Commons are so free draining that we have been able to get a great deal of clearnce work carried on our minor paths and glades. With luck, as long as we don't get more torrential rain, we should get Tunbridge Wells Common finished next week and be ready tio move over to Rusthall the week after.
Unsurprisingly, given the weather last Saturday, our Volunteer meet was cancelled. However, we had a vist from the Kent High Weald Volunteers on Wednesday and managed to get the planned work carried out then. In fact, the rain did us a bit of a favour. We were planning to clear the gorse from the new heather area below the Victoria Grove and previous attempts to pop the gorse had not been very successful, so we were thinking we would have to cut the gorse and poison the stumps to prevent re-growth. As it transpired however, the soft ground allowed us to uproot the gorse with the tree poppers, a much more satisfactory way of controlling it. Whilst we were there we also collected some seed from the heather plants and spread it across the bare ground left by the gorse removal.
1st November 2019
Sorry it has been so long since the last posting. I was back last week but one of our dogs suffered a serious attack last Thursday and so I was somewhat distracted, rushing round emergency vets last Friday. Thankfully she pulled through and is now making a steady recovery.
The seemingly endless rain of the past few weeks is giving us real problems with getting on with our clearance of the paths and tracks. Hopefully we will get a good run at it next week. The anti-parking posts have been reinstated at Coach Road and new ones installed at the top of the old drive to Rusthall Elms. Unfortunately,quite a bit of damage was caused to the verges at Common View during the fireworks and bonfire last week. Our agreement to only access the site by the approved route and for only one vehicle to come on the Common was completely ignored and I clearly need to further reinforce the adge of the Common there.
The volunteers are due out tomorrow morning but with gale force winds and rain predicted, plus a rather crucial rugby match taking place, I am not sure how many will be turning up!
10th October 2019
I am off on leave this evening, so an early post this week and none next week.
The volunteers had a good morning last Saturday, clearing lots of birch seedlings from the new heather area below the Victoria Grove. We were lucky with the weather, in fact we were all sweating by the end of the task! We did attempt to uproot some of the gorse that is starting to take over parts of the site but this is not so easy to pop as the birch, so I think we will have to return later in the season to cut this and poison the stumps. Both this heather regeneration area and the one on the other side of Castle Rd have produced a lot of seed this year, so I am hoping that we will be able to harvest this next season and create further regeneration areas to allow our lizards to extend their range across the Common.
Our routine work continues, with the amenity grass being cut and more tracks cleared. There will probably only be one, or maybe two more grass cuts before the end of the season but we will try and make sure it is left neat for the Winter. More anti-parking posts have been installed on Rusthall Common and we are also restoring the stone barriers along Coach Rd.
4th October 2019
Work has continued on the paths, tracks and verges. It was nice to see the edges of Major York's all cleared this morning, it looks so much better. The rain drove them away early today but they will be back next week.
The first meeting of our Volunteers takes place tomorrow and we will be clearing around the Wellington Rocks, removing invading scrub from the grass between the Rocks and the Victoria Grove and using our tree poppers to remove birch seedlings from the heather there. Hope fully not in the rain!
27th September 2019
Last weekends events went well, we were blessed with fabulous weather for the walk across Rusthall Common on Saturday and it brought out quite a number of people.
The big, collector flail has been in all week and in spite of the rain, it got everything done, with very few problem. The collector was swapped fpr the hedging flail yesterday and he was back in at 4 am this morning to cut road verges where required, as well as cutting the hedge at Common View and topping holly alongside London Rd to thicken it up against road noise. I am very glad to have this finished before the ground starts to get too slippery.
I suppose we should not be surprised by the change in the weather, it was the autumn equinox last weekend and rain and strong winds are definitely to be expected.
20th September 2019
The scrub clearance machine has now finished it's work for this year and it is certainly easy to see where it has been! As well as clearing the holly alongside the Racecourse, it carried out extensive clearance around the site of the second Marlpit pond on Rusthall Common and through to the small pond next to the new path from Common View. Hopefully, we will be able to restore the second Marlpit pond, as well as extending the small pond that has had so much frog spawn in it since it was created a couple of years ago.
The big, collector flail will be in next week to cut the long grass areas and I am hoping that the hedging flail will also make an appearance to cut roadside verges, as well as cutting the hedge behind the recycling centre at Common View. Once that is done, the smaller flail will start it's work in earnest, cutting the small paths and the bits that the big machine cannot reach.
It is a busy weekend ahead on the Commons. On Saturday, I will be leading a walk around Rusthall Common, starting from St Paul's Church at 10.30. This is open for anyone to come along to and will last for about two hours. On Sunday, it is the Hospice in the Weald 10K run, which starts and ends on the Lower Cricket Pitch. Please be aware that this involves the closure of quite a few roads around the Commons, between 9am and Midday. Good luck to all those taking part.
13th September 2019
It has been a busy week, with all the holly clearance taking place. By the end of today, it should all be done, leaving only the Marlpit Pond on Rusthall to be cleared on Monday.
Yesterdays work party killing cherry laurel went well, with our volunteers using the tree poppers to take out small saplings and several hundred larger specimens injected with glyphosate. The teated trees have been marked with orange paint and the effects of the poison will become apparent next year. An excellent days work, which we hope to repeat when we can.
It is one of my quarterly board meetings of the Conservators next week and most of my attention will be on that. The clearance of the minor tracks will be continuing though, as well as clearing various camps that have been revealed by the holly clearances.
6th September 2019
The big collector flail has completed it's first round of cutting and the small flail is now in and commencing the cut of all the smaller paths. We have started down near the garden centre, with Brighton Lake being the first target area. The collector flail will return in a few weeks to clear the big, meadow areas such as the firework site at Common View and the hedging flail will be in soon to clear some road verges and cut the hedge at the recycling centre.
We will be starting some quite extensive scrub clearance next week, with clearance of the last big area of holly scrub at Happy Valley, holly adjacent to the Racecourse at it's junction with Major York's and holly on both sides of Hungershall Park. This is intended to allow more light and access into these areas, as well as encouraging greater biodiversity of flora and fauna. We will also be clearing blackthorn scrub around the site of the old, second Marlpit Pond on Rusthall Common, with a view to restoring the pond in the coming years. The machine carrying out this work will have an exclusion zone around it, so please do not enter any taped off areas.
We are also having a day poisoning cherry laurel on Rusthall Common, in the area to the South of Common View. Like holly, cherry laurel has taken over large areas of the Commons, shading out everything else and creating a monoculture. Our aim is to bring it under control and again encourage greater biodiversity. We will be uprooting small specimens with our Tree Poppers but larger trees will be drilled and have herbicide injected into them. The effect of this work will not be immediately apparent but over the coming months, lots of dead trees will start to appear in this area. We need to leave them long enough for the herbicide to get into the roots and kill the cherry laurel completely and we will then remove them next year.
30th August 2019
The storm back on the 10th caused a fair few issues, although mostly with minor trees. Happily, this had all been cleared by the time I returned this week.
The big flail started yesterday and even though he had to return to base to remove a complete car wheel and tyre that became jammed in the cutter when he ran over it in some long grass, he is making good progress and should finish this first visit next week. Provide of course that we do not find too many more surprises dumped in the long grass!
We will be cutting a number of overgrown path edges this weekend to clear the worst offenders and then the small flail will commence work next week on the annual cut of all the minor paths and tracks. As ever, this will be a long process, which will be ongoing over the next couple of months.
9th August 2019
The final judging session for Britain in Bloom took place on Monday and seemed to go well. This one was for the national competition. As ever with these judging days, I only get about ten minures with the judges, which is very frustrating since the Commons are quite big!
It seems that we are in for some fierce winds this weekend and with the trees still in full leaf, we could have some problems. With perfect timing, I am off on holiday tonight and will be away for two weeks. Even better, where we are going on the Suffolk coast has virtually no mobile reception! Julia will be holding the fort, so if you come across any issues with fallen trees, give her an email or a call and she will get things sorted with our contractors.
I will be back after the Bank Holiday and we will then be getting properly underway with cuting tracks and clearings with the big collector flail.
2nd August 2019
The Legend of the Rocks was agreat success, as was the Friends Strawberry Tea at the Spa this week; very tasty!
The grass has had another cut, ready for our final session of judging for Britain in Bloom, which takes place next Monday. We will also be cutting back the edges of various paths next week, where vegetation is collapsing over them. The worst of these is along the edge of Langton Rd, where the bracken has gone right over. This is of course a sign that Autumn is approaching, I notice that the rowan trees are already covered in berries.
26th July 2019
Britain in Bloom judging went well as far as I could tell. The Judges seemed interested in what we are doing; as ever though, we did not have enough time to properly explain the Management Plan. I think the judging this time was for the regional competition, we have a final day on the 5th of August, which is for the national competition.
Cricket week has gone well at the Upper Cricket Pitch, there have been games every afternoon. Sadly, the final game will probably not be able to take place after last nights thunderstorms. You know things are not good when the chap examining the pitch is wearing wellies! The Legend of the Rocks is also being staged at Denny Bottom over the next couple of days, I hope the rain does not spoil things for them after all the hard work that has gone into organising it.
19th July 2019
It has been another quiet week, although the problems at the Wellington Rocks are ongoing. We now seem to have another group of youths meeting on the Lower Cricket Pitch and leaving lots of broken glass and rubbish there as well. I met with the local Chief Inspector of Police during the week and showed him the problem areas. I am very grateful that he was able to find the time and we had an interesting discussion and came up with a few ideas to help alleviate the problem. Watch this space!
The Commons have a busy time ahead next week; it is Cricket Week for Linden Park Club and there will be games most days. It looks as if the weather is going to stay dry for them but it is forecast to be very hot. We also have another round of Britain in Bloom judging on Wednesday. This time it is for the main competition, so we will only be meeting the judges for about 15 minutes to take them across the main section of the Common, from Fir Tree Rd to Edgcumbe Road, taking in the rocks, the grassland below the rocks where the Harebells are now starting to bloom and on then on to the Royal Victoria Grove, before heading down to Castle Road to pick up their car. It's a pity we don't have more time but their schedule is very tight.
12th July 2019
A quieter week, with the bench renovations being finished off. We have also restored an old original wrought iron bench on the path from the Pantiles up to the Victoria Grove. We used to have two of these fine old benches but the one near Castle Rd was stolen some years ago and all that now remains is the foot-plate.
I am pleased to see how the wild flower areas on the lower Inner London Rd site are progressing. We extended them further out from the tree canopies a couple of years ago and the improvements are now showing, with lots of knapweed and vetches appearing We also planted yellow rattle into these areas a few years ago to weaken the grass and this has helped reduce competition.
We will be removing cleared vegetation around the Toad Rock next week, in preparation for the production of The Legend of the Rocks there at the end of the month. This is a community theatre event being staged by residents of the area and promises to be good fun. It is nice to see such community spirit still flourishing.
5th July 2019
A busier week than expected, thanks to an unexpected opportunity to carry out the clearance work at Brighton Lake earlier than planned.
All stillwaters are subject to the process of succession, whereby if left unchecked, they will eventually be lost. Reeds start to colonise shallow areas where silt is washed in, they in turn trap more silt and other plants start to take hold. Eventually, trees such as willow and alder will become established and gradually the area reverts to scrub. This was the situation at the eastern end of Brighton Lake and so we had been planning a clearance for some time. Our intention was to push back the reedmace and clear the encroaching trees, whilst leaving some of the reeded area as habitat for nesting birds and emerging dragonflies. As it turned out, the tree roots were so extensive that rather more was removed than originally planned, leaving just a small section of reeds out in open water.
We also carried out our annual treatment of bracken at various sites across the two commons this week. Again, if left unchecked, the bracken will cover large areas, decreasing biodiversity, hence the programme of treating sections with Asulox, a specific herbicide that affects only the bracken, leaving other plants untouched.
Work has also been going on all week to renovate the benches around the cricket pitch on Tunbridge Wells Common. This work is very kindly undertaken by the cricket club.
28th June 2019
A bits and pieces week, with the last of this year's bench renovation pretty much completed, some more grafittied bins repainted and stone anti-parking posts installed on Coach Rd. We have also had to clear a great deal of rubbish and broken glass from both the Wellington Rocks and the Lower Cricket Pitch.
This year's problems with fires, litter and glass have been particularly bad, especially around the Edgcumbe side of the Rocks. I have a meeting and a walk round with the new Chief Inspector in a week or so to show the extent of the problems, so maybe we will get some extra help. Unfortunately, as we all know, the Police are struggling with resources and manpower as well but I am sure they will help if they can.
I had another walk with the ladies of the W.I. on Tuesday. It was very enjoyable and I hope they found it so too. The orchids near Cabbage Stalk Lane Pond are still showing very well and all was green and fresh after the previous nights rain. I always enjoy showing the Common off and lets face it, there are worse ways to earn a crust.
21st June 2019
Midsummer's Day already, where does the time go?
Judging for Britain in Bloom seemed to go well, we will have to wait to see how we did. Clive Evans, the current Chair of the Friends joined us for the start of the walk and both John Barber, the former Chair and another committee member, Lynne Lane accompanied us throughout the tour. John was largely responsible for the very popular new maps of the Commons, as well as the new information panels and Lynne was the driving force behind the extremely successful Wild Child events earlier this year, so they were a very welcome addition to the group. We were very lucky with the weather and unlike last year, our Heath bedstraw was blooming in the grass below Wellington Rocks and our Common spotted orchids put on a splendid display in the grassland near Cabbage Stalk Lane.
I did a guided walk across Tunbridge Wells Common for the ladies of the W.I. last weekend, then with my hideous dental appointment on Tuesday, Bloom judging on Wednesday and one of my quarterly Conservators meetings on Thursday, it has been a busy week. Hopefully next week will be a bit quieter, although we will still be getting on with bench restorations and I hope to put in some protection at the end of the Coach Rd opposite the cricket pitch entrance, where the edge of the Common is being badly eroded by illegally parked cars.
14th June 2019
Cutting of path edges continued this week and not before time in some instances. The path from the traffic lights on London Rd towards the Royal Wells was particularly bad, so apologies if you have been forced onto the grass in the last week or so. We are also now repainting and cleaning some of our benches and unfortunately having to remove yet more grafitti from our bins, as well as replacing anti-parking posts that have either been hit by cars or simply rotted with age.
It was the Volunteers thank-you lunch last Saturday, held at the Forum, who kindly donated the premises for the event. We had speeches from the Chairman of the Friends and the Mayor, followed by a lovely buffet lunch and the presentation of certificates to our youngest volunteers. It was a very pleasant event as ever and thanks must go to all who put in their hard work to organise it.
Judging for the conservation section of the Britain in Bloom competition will be taking place next Wednesday, when we will have two hours with the judges to show off as much of the Commons as we can. Unfortunately, I am going to be having a surgical proceedure on my gums the day before, so I will probably not be as talkative as usual. Thankfully, members of the Friends Committee will be joining us, so I should be able to leave a lot of the talking to them.
7th June 2019
The grass has been cut, which is a big improvement and we have started cutting with the small flail in key areas such as the path between Neville Park and Bracken Cottage, the perimeter of Fir Tree car park and the path from the Sainsburys roundabout. The big hedging flail was in last weekend and cut many of the roadside verges. We are also starting to prepare for the upcoming Britain in Bloom judging in a couple of weeks. I clearly remember this time last yea, when as now, the Heath bedstraw in the grass below Wellington Rocks was starting to flower. I had last years judging route planned to show this off but the weather suddenly became roastingly hot and by judging day everything was brown and dead. Fingers crossed for this year.
Our bench renovations were delayed by the need to replace some damaged parking barriers and the re-painting of grafittied bins but we hope to be getting on with it next week.
It is the Friends Volunteer thank-you lunch at the Forum tomorrow. It is always a nice event and once again the Mayor will be in attendance. This years Mayor, James Scholes, is also one of our longest serving Conservators, so especially nice that he will be joining us.
31st May 2019
It has been half term this week and the Commons, and especially the Wellington Rocks area have had a lot of visitors. Last night (Thursday), was incredibly busy in this area and we have had to clear huge numbers of bottles and disposable barbecues from both the Rocks and the Royal Victoria Grove. Happily, there was little broken glass and much of the rubbish was in, or on, the bins, so it was much easier to clear. The forecast for Saturday is for very warm weather, so I expect my litter contractors will be busy again.
We are busy cutting sight lines at road junctions and another cut of the amenity grass is due for next week. We have also been clearing footpaths, repainting bins and replacing damaged anti-parking posts. Next week we hope to get on with the bench restoration, which was postponed whilst half term was upon us.
Some of you may remember the problems we had last year with an illegal camper near the traffic lights on London Road who hoarded large amounts of rubbish. He appeared again this week on the Lower Cricket Pitch and I issued him a notice to quit straight away. Remarkably, he seems to have vanished already but I suspect it won't be that easy. If you spot a large camp somewhere on the Commons, please let me know!
24th May 2019
The lack of rain is starting to bite now and I notice that the grass is slowing down already. I had to rescue several hundred tadpoles from Cabbage Stalk Lane pond today, where there is virtually no standing water left, and move them to Bracken Cottage pond. Sadly many more had already succumbed and the crows and magpies were feasting on them. Cabbage Stalk Lane pond is not very deep and it never filled properly at all during the Winter. Whilst it is a shame that it has dried out too early this year, occasional drying out can be very useful to our amphibians, as it means that these ponds cannot support fish, which are terrible predators on tadpoles and efts.
We will be starting on bench renovations next week and we are beginning to clear sightlines at road junctions. We had to take urgent action at the junction of Rusthall Rd and Langton Rd this week,where it was becoming very dangerous. This should actually be cut by KCC but they seem to have forgotten the area this year.
10th May 2019
Sorry for the lack of reports for the last couple of weeks, I was away in Scotland, having a lovely time.
Spring has progressed whilst I was away and the Common is looking great, with pretty much everything in full leaf now. Unfortunately however, this is revealing quite plainly how much our Ash trees are suffering from dieback.
Work continued whilst I was away, with repainting of our graffitied bins, clearance of a couple of small fallen trees and removal of some old camps left by rough sleepers. Unfortunately, we are having more problems with large fires being lit at Wellington rocks at night by groups of youths, who smash bottles against the rocks, causing real problems for our litter contractors, who have to be there early to clear the site before children turn up to play on them.
We will be commencing work on renovating benches in the coming weeks and we have three more commemorative benches to install at various locations. Britain in Bloom judging starts in the middle of June, so we will be starting to prepare for that as well.
18th April 2019
As the weather started to get better this week, the Common has got much busier. This is also of course because of school holidays and it has been nice as always to see how popular the rocks are with youngsters. Unfortunately of course, the warmer weather has also brought about some of our usual problems with fires at night and broken bottles, so our long suffering litter contractors are having to come in early to clear it away before families with small children arrive in the morning.
The second cut of the grass is underway as I write this, so the Commons should look fairly smart for the holiday. Another transformation is due to take place next tuesday, when the outfield at the Upper Cricket Pitch will be mown. The club will then have a fair bit of work on their hands preparing for the first home game, which will only be a week away. Like the rest of the common, the cricket ground is incredibly dry and it is going to be difficult to get any seed to germinate on the outfield at the moment.
12th April 2019
Finally all our tree works are finished for the Winter, what a relief! The planned cut of the grass never took place but I am assured they will be in early next week, so it should all look good for the Easter break.
The Wild Child event went ahead on Tuesday and was another great success as far as I could see. I am not sure what the attendance count was in the end but there always seemed to be lots of young dhildren there, having a great time toasting marshmallows and getting both muddy and happy.
The Noise, our group of litter-picking youngsters from local churches turned up in good numbers from Wednesday onwards and did a great job. As well as litter picking, part of the group brought spades and spent much of their time cutting back overgrown path edges and clearing steps. Most of the litter that was cleared came from roadside edges, behind parked cars. The bulk came, perhaps unsurprisingly, from Castle Rd and London Rd, much of it the remains of take-aways that get thrown out of cars and then are spread around by foxes and probably rats. A huge thank you to all the youngsters involved, their efforts have been much appreciated by many users of the Commons and happily, they seemed to have had plenty of fun whilst doing it.
Repair work took place this morning on the surface of Fir Tree Rd car park. I am hoping that there will not be any more serious frosts now, which could damage the new tarmac but I felt I had to get it done before Easter, which is always a very busy time.
5th April 2019
Inevitably, the treework did not get finished whilst I was away last week but the last of it is being done as I write. I will be very happy to now be able to leave everything to get on with the activities of Spring.
The second cut of the grass should be taking place next week and we will hopefully be able to start achieving a good standard of finish.
Next Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, we will have quite a number of youngsters from local churches up on the Common picking up litter and clearing the edges of parths that have become overgrown. I am delighted to have this help, we do our best to keep the Commons clean but there is always rubbish that has been thrown into the long grass and bushes that gets missed. Let's keep our fingers crossed for good weather and I hope they have a good time and discover bits of the Commons that they didn't know before.
On Tuesday, the next in the series of Wild Child events for young children will be held on Tunbridge Wells Common, near the Royal Victoria Grove. The recent one held at Rusthall was wonderfully supported and I hope this one is as well.
22nd March 2019
Still finishing off the last of the treework and chipping the last of the roadside trees that were cut. Hope fully, it will all be over next week. Just as well because bird nesting is reallly starting to take off. Hopefully, we will also be atarting grass cutting next week and that will mark the change of year for us on the Common.
Did a quick tour of the ponds on Rusthall Comon this morning and it is good to see so much spawn. In fact, in several places the tadpoles are al;ready leaving the egg mass and starting to swim. It was also good to see that our Coralroot bittercress seems to be spreading out and colonising new areas. Coralroot (Cardemine bulbifera)is probably our rarest plant and is really quite unusual. It is a close relative of the extremelly common Ladies smock (Cardemine pratensis), which is also starting to show. I wonder if it will be another good year for our orchids as well.
I am away next week, so there will be no update.
15th March 2019
We are still fiddling about trying to finish off our work before the start of bird nesting but it is proving a problem as ever. We have spent a lot of time and effort over the last few years sorting out all of our roadside trees and the benefits are showing, with very few problems on the Common after the stormy weather. The trouble is however, that not everyone else in the area is doing the same, so every time we have a blow, my contractors dissapear on emergency callouts!
Spring is progressing and the weather is behaving exactly as one should expect, with lots of equinoctal gales and blustery showers. With the temerature gradually warming and day length increasing rapidly, the grass is starting to grow and the mowing machines are being prepared for the start of amenity grass cutting in a week or so. As ever, the moles down by Brighton Lake are busy clearing out their tunnels, creating molehills everywhere which will give the mowers a workout on their first visit. Fir Tree Pond is full of frogspawn and the level of birdsong increases daily. It won't be long before the ducklings appear on Brighton Lake, water birds are always amongst the earliest to produce young. If you are one of the many people who like to feed the ducks there, can I please put in my annual plea to give them things like sweetcorn or bird seed, a diet of bread is not really very good for them.
8th March 2019
We are getting on well with the tree work. In fact we are unusually well placed to get everything done before the birds commence nesting. We have some oaks to fell and some to pollard or deadwood at the junction of the path coming up from the Pantiles and the path that runs behind the cricket pavilion. This is a very busy spot, so there may well be some disruption for walkers if we have to close the paths temporarily. Of course, the fact that this spot is so busy, is why I am paying particular attention to these trees. After that, all that will remain is some crown lifting of holly near the traffic lights on London Rd, to make sure that we don't have a repeat of the big illegal camp in the area this Summer. Hopefully, next week we can get the big tracked chipper in to clear all the brush left from the tree works.
We have also been busy removing as much grafitti as we can from our trees and as soon as we get some settled weather again, we will be able to re-paint the bins and posts that have been affected as well. The stonework at the Bat Cave has been repaired and the grafitti there also removed.
We have been in contact with Hadlow College recently to see if there could be a mutual advantage in working together. The first signs of this partnership took place this week with two students starting a study of some of our new heather regeneration areas. They are working to determine the best ways to accomplish the regeneration process and I will be very interested to hear their findings in due course.
1st March 2019
The roadside trees are now finished and all the brush chipped, now we will move onto work in the interior of the Commons. Some lovely old oaks were exposed at Happy Valley in the recent clearance of cherry laurel. They have a fair bit of storm damage, so we will be pollarding them to make them safe, whilst retaining as much character and habitat as possible. We will then be pollarding some more oaks at Denny Bottom. These are almost dead but again, we will leave as much as we safely can to provide habitat. Once those are done, we have a few trees on the edge of the Racecourse to be reduced, as well as a group near the Upper Cricket Ground,
We seem to be suffering a lot from graffiti at the moment, on bins, seats and even on trees. Sadly, it is particularly unpleasant and hate filled, and is in some eye wateringly vivid colours, so we are doing our best to remove it as quickly as possible. We have also patched up the recent damage to the Bat Cave, which had broken open in another mindless bit of vandalism.
The glorious weather last weekend attracted a huge number of people to the Commons and our litter picker had a lot of clearing up to do. There were a lot of butterflies on the wing and I even saw a Pipistrelle bat out hunting last Saturday evening. Fir Tree pond has had plenty of frogs in it but the nights were a bit too cold for them to spawn. That all changed on Wednesday evening as the night stayed overcast and the temperature remained around ten degrees. By this morning, there was a mass of spawn in the pond and literally hundreds of frogs having a great time.
22nd February 2019
Work is progressing well with our roadside trees and hopefully we will finish them next week. We will then move on to work on trees in the interior that need attention; at Happy Valley, Apsley St, Fir Tree pond, the Racecourse and woodland edge near the Upper Cricket Pitch. We will try and get this done as soon as possible now; we are only a few weeks away from the commencement of bird nesting, when tree work has to come to a halt, barring emergencies.
If the weather holds, we will also be getting on with preparing and seeding those areas that were cleared of holly and cherry laurel over the Winter.
The weather is a joy at the moment; certainly nice for the kids on their half term break. I saw my first butterflies of the year last Friday, a couple of Brimstones on the edge of Hungershall Park. This morning, there were a few frogs in Fir Tree pond. Not bad considering we are not even at the end of February yet.
15th February 2019
Work has now commenced on our roadside tree programme, this Winter, we will be focusing on Major York's, Eridge Rd, Hungershall Park and Fir Tree Rd. Most of the work will simply involve removing deadwood but there are a few trees that will require pollarding and one or two that will be removed entirely. We try and reatain anything we can, as standing deadwood is fabulous habitat, however sometimes we just have to bow to safety considerations.
We also cleared Bulls Hollow this week, which pretty much brings our annual track and ride clearances to an end. Hopefully, if the weather continues to be kind, we can soon turn our attention to preparing and seeding the areas that were cleared this Winter, above Fir Tree Pond and at Happy Valley.
Still no frogs back in Fir Tree Pond but they will surely be back soon. At the moment, the nights are still too chilly but if we get a couple of overcast nights, with the temperature above 10C, they will be there I am sure. Meanwhile, the level of birdsong is increasing rapidly, with lots of woodpeckers drumming madly and the great tits calling endlessly to proclaim their territory. It is an exciting time of year, although of course we are almost certainly not finished with Winter yet.
8th February 2019
A much quieter week on the Commons work wise, if not weather wise.
In spite of the snow, half a dozen sturdy volunteers turned up last Saturday morning and although we cancelled our original plan, valuable work was still carried out. We were planning to try and get rid of much of the soil from the Wellington Rocks, as it acts as host to scrub and bramble that is always trying to take hold. We have regularly cleared this in the past but of course if we can get rid of the soil, we also get rid of the recurring problem. Unfortunately, the rocks were still covered with snow on Saturday, so we turned our attention back to the heather regeneration area below the Victoria Grove and completed the task of removing invading birch from within the heather stands. This has always been a nightmare job but with our new Tree Poppers, we laugh as we remove them, roots and all. They really are great devices and everyone seems to enjoy using them. Perhaps next year we could hold popping parties and charge people 10p a tree to have a go!
1st February 2019
We have finished the current phase of holly reduction at Apsley Street and I hope everyone will see and feel the difference in light levels down in Denny Bottom as the year progresses. We will be back there later to pollard a couple of large oaks on the steep bank, that are dying back quite severely.
Over on Tunbridge Wells Common, we have been clearing old, abandoned, rough sleeper camps. One in particular, at Edgcumbe Road, had a huge amount of junk and rubbish around it. We cleared over thirty bags of rubbish, as well as a couple of swivel chairs that were presumably removed from a skip!
The Kent High Weald volunteers were with us again this Wednesday and carried out more clearance of bramble and birch from the regenerating heather area just below the Victoria Grove. Our new tree-poppers proved to be ideal for this task and real progress was made. Hopefully, they will enable us to keep these heather areas clear of scrub in future, something we have really struggled with up to now. The Friends volunteers are due out tomorrow, we were planning to clear soil from the Wellington rocks to stop the continual re-growth there, so I hope there is no more snow, which could make life very difficult for us.
25th January 2019
We made a start on reducing some overgrown hollies above Apsley Street this week. The work, which is kindly being funded by the Friends of the Commons, has a number of purposes. Firstly , the trees cut a huge amountof light out to the residents down in the hollow and of course they are simply getting bigger each year and are leaning out over the houses and cars below. Also, like many of the roadside hollies on the Common, they are no longer effective at cutting road noise, since they had become a hedge twenty foot up in the air, rather than at ground level. The trees are being cut to around six foot and will be allowed to form a new hedge that can then be maintained. We have undertaken this process on several other areas of the Common and it works very well. Finally, it will allow much more light onto the top of the rocks as well, which will greatly help increase biodiversity in the area. We have also been over to Common view and have cut the hedge behind the recycling centre there.
The Friends are also funding three days of Wild Child forest school events on the Common in the next few months, so make a note in your diaries. The first day will be near Common View on Thursday 21st of February and there will vbe two sessions running from 10 am untill noon and then 1 pm untill 3 pm. There will be signage from Common View to lead you to the site. The second event is on Tuesday 9th of April and will be held on Tunbridge Wells Common with the same times for the sessions; there will be signage from Fir Tree car park on the day. The last day is Thursday 16th of April back on Rusthall Common, with the same times and again signs from Common View.
18th January 2019
We have been back to Fir Tree pond this week to clear the leaning trees exposed by the recent holly removal and it is now pretty much ready for seeding when the conditions are appropriate. Whilst they were in, the contractors also cleared the ivy covered tree that has been leaning ever lower on the path from the Pantiles car park to Hungershall Park, as well as a very dead, large birch on the path leading on towards tha Spa Hotel.
I have just been at a very interesting meeting with the supplier of a great new tool called a Tree Popper. It is an incredible simple, yet effective device that, as the name suggests, extracts small trees complete with their roots. There is no re-growth and it avoids the use of herbicides. Have a look on You Tube if you want to see what I am talking about. The Friends have very kindly purchased three of the micro poppers and one medium sized for our volunteers. It is the ideal tool for removing birch and sycamore saplings from our regenerating heather areas, which has been a real struggle in the past.
11th January 2019
Back to work with a vengeance this week, with lots of clearance taking place. We have been scraping off the mulch left by the big holly clearance at Fir Tree pond, so that we can seed the site in a month or so with our standard restoration mix of grasses suitable for our sandy soils. It should look very nice when it greens up and the extra light now reaching the pond should help warm the water for our early spawning frogs. If the weather continues as it is, they should definitely be back in mid February.
Over at Happy Valley, we have been removing the leaning and dangerous trees revealed when the cherry laurel was cleared near St Paul's. We have also been completing the annual clearance of bramble, bracken and invading scrub around the rocks and the steep slopes. It is always nice when this is done, it transforms the area. The volunteers were also there last weekend, clearing the edges of the path running from the base of the 101Steps towards the Beacon, as well as cutting and poisoning small cherry laurel saplings that were not cleared by the big machine last year.
I heard that someone slipped and fell on the steps just before Christmas, severely bruising their back. Please take note of the warning signs at the top and bottom of theses steps, they really do get very slippery when they are wet, especially the very old sandstone ones. We have provided alternative paths so that the steps can be avoided and we really don't want anyone else hurt.
4th January 2019
Nothing to reporrt, which I guess is a good thing in many ways. I must admit however, I will be glad to get back on with our work next week when our contractors return. We will then be getting on with finishing the clearance of paths and making a start on our tree work schedule. We will also be scraping the recently cleared areas at Happy Valley and Fir Tree pond to prepare for seeding in a month or so. Both these areas will also require work to clear some leaning trees and some thinning to allow more light through to the herb layer.
27th December 2018
As you might expect, no work has been carried out in the past week. However, I was in on Christmas Eve for the doggy event at Wellington Rocks. I was astounded at the number of people who attended, as well as the number of dogs racing around having a great time, it was lovely to see.
Even better, the event raised £610, which is going to the Last Chance rescue centre.
Well done to the organiisers.
Happy New Year.
21st December 2018
So here we are at the shortest day, it is always a relief to get past this point. This week has been unbearably gloomy, with the cloud and rain making evrything even more depressing. From here on though, it is onward and upwards and it won't be long before we start to notice the days getting longer.
It has been an interesting year and we have managed to achieve most of what we had planned. One of the big issues of the year has been finding a replacement for our outgoing Clerk, Rodney Stone, who has been there as a great support for my entire time as Warden. Our new Clerk, Giles Membrey, who will enjoy the title of Director of the Commons, has now been appointed and will take up his post at the start of February. We all wish him good luck with that.
Just a reminder for all our dog walkers, there will be a doggy get together at Fir Tree Rd on Christmas Eve, between 11 am and midday. There will I believe be a best dressed dog competition, as well as mince pies and mulled wine. Lets hope for good weather and another successful event; last year's raised a good amount of moneyy for the Last Chance rescue centre.
There will probably not be a report next week, so I will take this opportunity to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a happy and peaceful New Year.
14th December 2018
The dry, cold weather this week has allowed us to get machinery back on to the Commons and we have achieved a good week's work.
The drain running opposite Common View has now been re-dug, although we will have to replace one of the culverts when we can get some new pipe. Hopefully this will greatly reduce the chance of flooding during very wet episodes; it looks as though it might get a test over the weekend!
Over at Happy Valley, the flailbot has been clearing some of the steep slopes and looks to be a very usefull tool indeed. We have to do some work clearing one or two lumps of sandstone and removing some stumps to allow easier access next time but even without that, it is much faster than using strimmers as we have previously done. More importantly, it is a significant saving over the cost of hand work, I will now be looking for other areas where it can save money and time.
7th December 2018
Good progress was made with the path clearances this week. We are nearly at the end of the work on Tunbridge Wells Common and then there will only be a day or two on Rusthall to finish. Hopefully, we will soon get a period of dry weather, which will alow us to get the new remote controlled flail in to clear some of the steep slopes at Happy Valley, as well as getting in a machine to re-dig some blocked drainage ditches on Rusthall Common.
It was the quarterly Conservators meeting yeaterday and I was very pleased to be given the opportunity to carry quite a lot more holly clearance in the next year. This is again down to the generosity of the Freehold Tenants group, who have financed a lot of the capital works in recent years. I just need dry weather again to get on with it but I am sure the right conditions will soon arise, it is one of the great advantages of the common that it drains so quickly with it.s sandy soils. Funding was also agreed to push back some of the reedmace that is slowly taking over the Eastern end of Brighton Lake, although this will have to wait until next Summer, so that we do as little damage as possible to the surrounding grass.
30th November 2018
Not a great deal of practical work carried out this week, largely because of the wet weather. I have been mostly taken up with meetings and preparations for the quarterly Conservators meeting next week.
There has been a bit of ditching work at Rusthall to keep everything flowing as it should. As soon as the weather improves, we intend to re-dig the main ditch that from the old Rusthall Elms site through to Rusthall Rd.
The volunteers are due out again tomorrow but the weather looks extremelly dodgy. We are meant to be clearing gorse from the steep section of Happy Valley near the Beacon Hotel, but it may well be too slippery if the forecast is correct. We shall see.
23rd November 2018
The new posts are now in on Inner London Rd to prevent cars driving onto the grass. The area has taken a bit of a battering this Summer, with a lot of building work going on halfway down the road and all the scaffolders and builders trying to park. It is also being damaged at the bottom of the road, where peopel arriving or departing the hotel have been parking on the Common whilst loading or unloading their luggage. This is a classic example of the problems that an urban common has to face, and it is also a good example of how easily our budget vanishes each year.
We had a volunteer group from the Kent High Weald Project working on Tunbridge Wells Common yesterday. They did a great job removing invading birch scrub from the heather below the Queens Grove. as well as clearing bramble and oak scrub from amongst the nearby Yellow Meadow Ant mounds. Like the work at Denny Bottom that I mentioned last week, these are very labour intensive tasks that I could not afford to have done by contractors. This is where the volunteers are so important.
We have at least one more visit from this group coming up and our own volunteer group will be out on the first Satutday of the month until next April, when we stop for the onset of bird nesting.
16th November 2018
The posts have gone in on the Edgcumbe drive and we will be replacing a lot of the missing posts on Inner London Rd next week. This is a difficult area, where there is little parking available for any contractors vehicles when work is being done. However, although I have sympathy for the problems in the area, my job is to protect the Common, so that is what we will do.
There has been a lot of clearance over at Denny Bottom this week, on both Apsley St and Harmony St. The locals have formed a volunteer group for their area and the results are really starting to show now on Apsley St. Obviously, we are working closely with them and the contractors were able to get rid of a lot of cut material but this work is really useful to us. The rocks at Denny Bottom require a lot of very labour intensive work to clear them and to be honest, it is beyond what I can achieve with my restricted budget. We have blitzed the area in the past but the vegetation quickly starts to take over again, which is very frustrating. Hopefully, the new group will be able to maintain the clearances in future.
9th November 2018
We have had a brief pause this week, as contractors catch up with other commitments. I have been planning future works for the Winter period. We will be back to normal next week, continuing clearing tracks and long grass over at Rusthall, as well as maintaining drainage ditches before the inevitable rains arrive. I hope we will also be able to finish clearing the slope between Mt Ephraim and the coach park and installing some more anti parking posts to try and preserve the edges of the Common. One of the areas we will be targetting is the drive to the Mt Edgcumbe, where the verges are being destroyed.
Everywhere is looking stunning at the moment, the Autumn colours this year are as good as I can ever remember. It adds an extra pognancy to this weekends memorial services for the fallen. Rusthall Parish will be planting a Rowan tree at the junction of Coach Rd and Rusthall Rd tomorrow as part of the Queens Canopy project. Greg Clarke is attending and will perform the planting ceremony.
2nd November 2018
A less dramatic week, with the emphasis going back to clearing footpaths and tracks. We also cleared some bramble and scrub at the junction of Rusthall Rd and Coach Rd, to make room for a planned tree planting ceremony next weekend, where a Rowan is to be planted by Greg Clarke as part of the WW1 commemorations.
Another couple of lockable, steel bollards went in at key access points this week. This is part of our efforts to prevent unauthorised vehicle access, such as the ones suffered on borth Commons in recent years, when traveller encampments have caused major upset. This programme will continue as the budget allows.
The volunteers will be out on Tunbridge Wells Common tomorrow, carrying out heathland maintenance and clearing birch scrub and saplings. Over at Denny Bottom, a new volunteer group of residents will be out for their second work party, clearing the rock faces in Apsley St. I am very pleased to see this going ahead, my budget does not allow me to carry out the work that is needed there, especially since it is a very labour intensive site that is almost impossible for any machines to operate on. It was good to see what was accomplished in the first session there, last month but what woulld be even better, is if the work parties continue in future years, so the clearances are not just lost again under a tide of bramble and bracken.
It looks like we were in the nick of time with the weather. The machine that has been in completing the tasks that were delayed last winter by the sodden ground. finished its work yesterday, clearing some more holly scrub along Cabbage Stalk Lane. This was done to open up a nice Holm oak that had been hidden beneath the holly and sycamore, and it then cleared the remaining section of rhododendron and cherry laurel hedge near the three big boundary oaks next to Hungershall Park. This has opened up the new, small section of common that we acquired a year or two ago from the developers at the Pantiles, who discovered that they still had a tiny bit of registered common underneath the ramp to their car park. We will remove the small remaining section of the old boundary bank there to allow easier access for both people and our grass cutting machines. This will then allow us to reduce the soil fertility, to encourage finer grasses and wildflowers to develop and further increase biodiversity in the area.
It is a big weekend for Rusthall, with the bonfire and fireworks at Common View. Because of the reinforcement of the verge that we carried out there earlier in the year, it will be a little more complicated for the organisers this year, as they will have to use the old access point from Rusthall Rd. I am very grateful for their cooperation with this, I think we all agree that it is worth it to avoid the risk of allowing easy access to this area. No one wants to wake up to thirty caravans on the site one morning! Let's hope a good evening is had by all and that everyone remembers to put their clocks back when they get home afterwards.
19th October 2018
The continuing dry weather has again allowed us to get on with the work postponed from last winter. This time we have carried out major ckearance of holly, cherry laurel and sycamore scrub at Happy Valley, where the path enters from St Paul's. This is a continuation of the clearance there a couple of years ago, and I will treat the new clearance in the same way, scrape the mulch left by the machine and then prepare and seed with our restoration mix to stop all the birch and sycamore seedlings from taking over again. At the moment, we have left all the larger trees but we will probably have to remove some of these to allow more light to reach the ground flora. Rather than just felling the trees, we might ring-bark them and remove the tops to leave some dead poles standing. This can add a huge amount of extra life to an area; around seventy percent of the wildlife interest in a wood is reckoned to come from it's standing dead timber.
12th October 2018
An excellent week with lots accomplished. We finished the work with the big collector flail on Monday, cutting the grass at Common View, St. Pauls Church and a number of main tracks on Rusthall Common. The small flail was also in for a couple of days and has started at the Church Rd end of Tunbridge Wells Common, cutting and clearing road verges, path edges and the triangle at the junction with Mt Ephraim, before heading on to the Lower Cricket Pitch and Edgcumbe Rocks. In the coming weeks it will continue to work it's way accross both Commons, cutting all the tracks and paths, as well as getting into the areas that are too restricted for the big machine to access.
Very pleasingly, we also commenced the clearance of holly scrub near Fir Tree Pond that had to be postponed last Winter because the ground was so wet. The machine is doing a remarkable job of clearing and mulching the scrub and should have finished work on this site by the end of the week. On Monday it will be moving down to Cabbage Stalk Lane, where it will be clearing more holly scrub to expose a nice holm oak that is curently being suppressed. Both of these tasks will allow a much richer and more diverse habitat to develop in these areas and in the case of Fir Tree, will also stop this important amphibian breeding site from becoming shaded from the early Spring sunshine that warms the pond margins and usually brings the frogs back to spawn by mid February, making it one of the earliest breeding ponds in the area.
5th October 2018
It was good to be back to a simpler week, with just the issues of managing the Common to deal with. It has been a busy one, with the big flail cutting all the large areas of long grass on Tunbridge Wells, it will be going over to Rusthall next week and should finish there by Wednesday. Once again, we have left parts uncut to develop into more mature vegetation and provide greater diversity within the habitats. These areas will be cut in a rotational manner, rather like coppice woodland.
We have also had the tree team in to deal with a few problems. One of the lime trees near Wellington Rocks that has a fairly serious fungal infection has been substantially reduced to make it safe and it should now be ok for a few more years. A large sycamore near Bracken Cottage has been similarly pollarded to remove a lot of dead wood from over the footpath there. On the Lower Cricket Pitch we cut a dead horse chestnut to make it safe but left the trunk standing for habitat. It is reckoned that around seventy percent of species in a woodland live in, or on, it's standing dead timber, so we try and leave it if we can. Finally, we removed a large birch on the edge of Tea Garden Lane that was completely rotten at the base. This was the most awkward, as it was too rotten to climb and we could not get the work platform anywhere near it. Fortunately, it was next to an ash tree and the tree surgeon was able to rope into this and lower himself into the crown of the birch and dismantle it in small pieces.
28th September 2018
Happily, I can report that our unofficial resident has now gone and all his rubbish has been cleared away. We will be clearing some of the scrub where his camp was to stop any other camps developing in the same place. You might like to know that Oleg has got a flat in Riverhead and the possibility of a job if he can sort his driving license out. I am pleased that he has found some way of getting his life back on track, but I am even more pleased that the Common is now clear.
We have also been clearing some abandoned camps across Tunbridge wells Coomon this week. One of them was huge and very well hidden. So far, we have cleared over thirty bags of rubbish from this one site.
Next week the big flail returns to clear all our long grass areas and we will be carrying out some reductions on a couple of suspect trees. It is good to be back to looking after the Common instead of trying to sort out social problems!
21st September 2018
The Heritage Day walk last Sunday was well attended and I hope all who attented enjoyed it as much as Moofy and I did. The two new surfaced paths are now installed on the Racecourse either side of Major York's and the ditch alongside the Racecourse below the Victoria Grove is being cleared out as I write. That is the good news for the week!
As any of you who use social media will be aware by now, the simple removal of the camp near the traffic lights on the A26, proved not to be so simple after all. We managed to get the huge amount of possessions and junk that had been accumulated there out onto the edge of the road but there it has remained since Wednesday. Oleg, the gentleman concerned, refuses to be parted from any of his property and I have no intention of trying to force the issue any further. I think I have reched the end of both my powers and my resources and so it is now down to other agencies to resolve this situation. I have to admit to feeling a bit sorry for Oleg, who is not in receipt of any benefits and I hope that the situation works out for him. Unfortunately however, I am also aware of the hygeine and public health issues that arise when someone lives rough in an area for any length of time and I have heard of a number of people whos dogs have come out of the area naving rolled in human waste, so he really has to go.
I also had to clear another camp early in the week and this one caused issues of a different kind. When the resident left the camp, which was in the woodland near Hungershall Park, the fire was not fully extinuished and it started to get into the leaf mould and spread in the strong wind. Thankfully, the fire service saved the day yet again and doused the whole area just in time to stop it becoming a lot more serious.
Let's hope that next week is a little more straightforward.
14th September 2018
The unexpected rain during this week has delayed the completion of the new paths on the Racecourse, but the good news is that we seem to have secured an adequate supply of the correct coloured stone and we should be finishing both sides next week. Whilst the machine is on site, we will also complete the clearance of the main drainage ditch that runs alongside the Racecourse, which got completely filled earlier this year by debris and soil washed down in the Summer daownpours.
As part of our drive to increase security and prevent unauthorised access, we have installed a new removable, lockable, steel, anti-vehicle bollard on the access path near Romanov Lodge. Similar bollards are planned for the end of Cabbage Stalk Lane and the entrance at the junction of Masjor Yorks and Fir Tree Rd in the coming weeks
I mentioned the successful clearance of the camp near Wellington Rocks last week but many of you will be aware of the huge encampment that has built up in the last month or so next to the path that runs from the traffic lights on London Rd up to Molyneux Park. This is actually the same person who was camping up against the garden wall at St Helena earlier in the year, and has been a nightmare to get rid of. Thankfully, we now seem to have jumped through all the hoops and the camp will be completely cleared next Tuesday. This will be a great relief to me and I know, to many of the residents who live nearby. I discovered two more abandoned camps near the Old Post Office this week as well and they will also be being cleared.
It is Heritage Open Weekend and as usual, I will be leading a walk on Sunday morning. This year it will again be on Tunbridge Wells Common and it will look at our current management of the Common, as well as the history of the site and it's connections to the founding of the town. The walk is free, open to all and will be starting from the car park on Fir Tree Rd at 10.30am on Sunday. It will last about an hour and a half and will finish back at the car park.
7th Sept 2018
Back from a lovely break and straight into the start of our autumn schedule. Work has started on the two new surfaced paths on the Racecourse either side of Major Yorks. As ever, things don't go smoothly, we went back to get the second load of roadstone to discover that the suppliers had sold all the rest of the stone we were using and the replacement was a totally different colour! We put some of it down as a bottom layer and I hope we can get the correct stone next week to complete the job; if not, it will be a two tone path. We also started clearing out the drainage ditch alongside the Racecourse that got filled up with soil and debris washed down in the big downpours we have had.
As many of you will know, there has been quite a large encampment in the woods near the Wellington Rocks that has built up in the last week or so. There were two tents, an appalling amount of rubbish, mostly alcohol related, and a sofa, being used by large numbers of youths who were gathering there and lighting large fires. I issued them with a notice to quit the site when I returned on Monday and, happily, they cleared the tents and possessions in the prescribed time and we were able to clear all the rubbish, including the sofa! I suspect they were probably some of the same group who caused all the problems at the Epic Bench last year. No doubt other, less troublesome, camp sites will emerge as the leaves start to fall; it is sadly inevitable with so many homeless people on our streets.
24th August 2018
The flailbot has been in and cut the bulk of the slope between Mt Ephraim and the coach park. It has done good job of accessing the steep slopes and can certainly get onto areas that would be impossible with a conventional, manned tractor but there are some bits that could not be done and we will return in a week or so and strim and tidy around the rock outcrops, as well as removing much of the self seeded scrub and poisoning the stumps. It was a usefull experiment to see what this machine is capable of and we will definitely get it back later in the year to cut the steep areas of Happy Valley.
I am away again next week for my final break of the year and, when I return, we will be getting into full swing with clearing the tracks, as well as installing the new sufaced paths on the Racecourse and digging out the drainage ditches that have been filled with debris by the summer downpours. We will also be starting the clearances at St Paul's and Fir Tree pond that were postponed because of the wet weather last winter.
We had a couple of complaints about broken glass on Wellington Rocks last Sunday. Apologies for this, and I hope it did not spoil the enjoyment too much. Most visitors are probably not aware of the problem that we have here almost every weekend in the Summer with youngsters gathering at night on the rocks, lighting fires, drinking and smashing bottles on the rocks. Normally, our excellent litter contractor gets there at about 5 am in the Summer months and clears everything before parents bring their children up to play there but unfortunately a vehicle breakdown stopped him getting there until later in the morning last Sunday. Once the kids go back to school and the nights get colder, the problem tends to die away, so relief is imminent. We put considerable effort some years ago into getting this area scheduled as an alcohol control zone but I just don't think the Police have the resources to enforce it with all the other issues they have to deal with on the average weekend.
17th August 2018
The big flail finished it's first sweep whilst I was away, it will return in late September for it's main task of cutting and clearing the meadow and long grass areas. The small tractor will be continuing it's clearance of the minor tracks and paths. I hope that next week we will be having a visit from a remote controlled flail that can operate on very steep banks. It will be clearing the slope between Gibraltar Cottage and St Helena, adjacent to the coach parking area on London Rd. If it works well, it will be used later to clear the steep slopes at Happy Valley.
Preparations are underway for the installation of two new surfaced paths on the Racecourse, either side of it's intersection with Major York's Rd. Those of you who use the Common in Winter will know how wet and sticky the clay in that area can be. We will have to wait until the ground is bone dry again, as the materials will have to be transported across the Common and I want to avoid as much damage to the ground as possible.
3rd August 2018
Work has continued with cutting the paths, both tractors have been in this week; it is very dusty, hot work in current conditions. We are also having our first cut of the amenity grass for about a month. It is really just a de-stalking excersise but the Commons look much better for it.
The final judging for Britain in Bloom seemed to go well, although it is difficult to tell really, they can be quite inscrutable. There was lots of scribbling in their notepads as we went round, but I suppose that could taken either way.
I am off to the seaside for a week, so there will be no report next week. Hopefully work will continue in my absence, and then when I return, we will be preparing to put in two new, surfaced paths on the Racecourse, one either side of Major York's Rd. Regular users will know how wet and muddy these areas get in the winter, so hopefully these paths will make a big difference.
26th July 2018
On further investigation, it would appear that the two sightings of Purple emperors last week were of two seperate butterflies, one male and one female. Let's hope they met up and we will have them breeding on the Common's; that would be great.
The big collector flail started today, clearing main paths and rides. It will be back in next week for another day and then return again the following week to complete this section of the work schedule. The smaller flail will follow behind, geting the areas that the big machine cannot get to.
We have our final judging session for Britain in Bloom next Monday. It was disappointing when I showed them round last timme, since the heatwave had killed most of the grass and wildflowers. This time I will at least be able to show them our Harebells, which are now in flower near the Wellington Rocks. I am always amazed at how tough these delicate seeming little flowers really are; even without the current conditions, they manage to survive all the kids and dogs that trample through the grass.
20th July 2018
We finished the treatment of bracken, Japanese knotweed and Himalayan balsam this week. You will notice the tips of the treated bracken turning yellow over the next couple of weeks but we have to leave it uncut for the rest of the summer to get the best results. We have very little knotweed on the Common and it is relatively easy to treat; I assume that the poor soils of the Common mean that it is not as vigorous as on other sites. The balsam was treated aggresively last year and was heavily knocked back by that. This year we have been killing as many as possible of the remaining plants, but inevitably we will have missed a few. Having sprayed the bracken in the worst affected area this year, it should be much easier to spot any remaining balsam next year and we hope to eventually eradicate it from the Commons.
Two reports came in this week of a purple emperor butterfly on Tunbridge Wells Common. One of the people who reported it managed to get the photo above. It really is a very striking creature, not least for its size, with a wingspan of up to ninety millimeters as well, of course, as its rather beautiful markings. According to Ian Beavis from the museum, this is a male. Another purple emperor was sighted nearby recently that he believes, by the description, may have been female.
13th July 2018
We are getting on with cutting our tracks and paths; hopefully the slow down in growth since the weather turned hot will allow us a chance to catch up with ourselves: so far we have mostly just been responding to emergencies with sight lines etc. This work will continue over the next few months and the compact flail that is currently cutting will soon be joined by the big collector flail on it's first visit of the year.
Have just done a walk across the Common for the Britain in Bloom judges; actually, they were running late, so it was more of a jog than a walk. It is sad that most of our wild flowers, such as the heath bedstraw in the grass below Wellington Rocks, are now just parched and brown. When we planned the route a couple of weeks ago, it was all looking lovely. Still, I expect the judges understand the situation; after all, it is because of the poor, sandy, free draining nature of the soil that the plants have died, but without that poor soil, it would never have become a common in the first place.
6th July 2018
Well we certainly chose a good time to disappear to Devon last week; it was fabulous.
The heatwave has certainly slowed our grass down, in fact the grass below Wellington Rocks looks like the savanna now, there could easily be a few lions lurking in there. Hopefully I can now relax about running out of scheduled cuts.
The judging for Britain in Bloom started this week. It is a shame that it was not a couple of weeks earlier, the Heath bedstraw in the grass near the Victoria Grove was wonderful when it was flowering this year but the heat has finished it off. We have two more judging sessions later in the month, one for the South East competition next week and then the national competition at the end of July. Who knows what the Common will look like by then if the heatwave continues as forecast.
I am struggling to get work done at the moment as some of my contractors are going on holiday and others are just very busy (and too hot I suspect). The work is starting to back up now, so I will have to try and crack the whip a bit!
I did a walk of TW Common for the St John's cub troop yesterday evening after the downpour; 43 cubs and their leaders and helpers! I think that they all had a good time, they certainly enjoyed throwing the ball for Moofy, she was shattered when we got home, and that takes some doing. It was very pleasant to spend a couple of hours with such a nice group of children.
22nd June 2018
Thats it, midsummer has passed and it is all downhill from now on!
Work got underway this week to start clearing paths and tracks. We started at the Victoria Grove, which will be part of the tour for the Britain in Bloom judges in a couple of weeks time, cut paths to the seats above the cricket pitch and cleared the track from Bracken Cottage to Neville Park.
I will be away again next week but work will continue with the repainting of some of our bins, various bits of sight line clearance, strimming the steps at Highbury, removing a fallen tree near Hungershall Pk and cleaning out the Cold Bath and Chalybeate Spring near the Forum.
15th June 2018
Sorry there has been no report for a couple of weeks. It has been a mixture of holiday and computer issues.
The change to good weather is causing incredible growth all across the Commons, we are busy clearing sightlines at junctions and have already started to cut some of the paths. We are already a third of the way through our scheduled cuts of the amenity grass, so it needs to start slowing down or we could have difficulties later in the year.
The plus side of all this is that everywhere looks wonderful and we are having a fantastic year for our wild flowers. Our rarest plant, Coralroot bittercress (pictured left), has appeared in greater numbers and has spread further from it's original sites. Our Common spotted orchids have gone mad, we have a new group at the junction of Fir Tree Rd and Major York's, the plants at St Paul's have appeared in greater numbers and spread and the main colony near Cabbage Stalk Lane has spread much wider and has hugely increased in numbers, with over two hundred and fifty plants flowering there this year.
The hedging flail is due to come in this weekend to cut the verges. He wiil be coming in very early on Sunday to try and avoid the traffic and how good a job he can do will depend on how many cars are left parked on the Common overnight. I hope we will finally be able to cut the big Lime up near Wellington Rocks next week and with luck we will be able to sort out the dead tree on the Lower Cricket Pitch at the same time.
18th May 2018
Back from holiday to find that the final tree is still intact, as we are apparently waiting for a part to be shipped from Japan to mend the work platform. In the menatime, I have found another job that it is needed for; this time it is a horse chestnut on the Lower Cricket Pitch that requires felling and removal as it is almost completely dead
We have nearly finished the current run of bench restorations, there are just three more that overlook the Wellington Rocks that should be completed this coming week. These seats are popular with mums who can keep an eye on thier offspring playing on the rocks. In fact they are so popular that the ground in front of them has been work away to the extent that users feet cannot touch the ground when they are sitting on them! We will have to rob some soil from nearby and fill in the holes.
The third cut of the grass will take place next week; that is already a quarter of the scheduled cuts for the year. Fortunately, our sandy soils should mean that the growth rate slows as we get into Summer proper and everything starts to dry out, so we always seem to get away with just 12 cuts. Let's hope it is not a wet year.
I see the ducklings are starting to appear on Brighton Lake. If you are one of the many people who like to feef them, please remember that bread is not really very good for them; wild bird seed or things such as sweetcorn, or enen lettuce are much better.
4th May 2018
Once again tha rain stopped us getting the last of the tree work finished but it is looking as though we will be able to do it next week. All that remains is the reduction of a large lime tree mear the cricket pitch that is badly infected with Ganoderma and the chipping of the last of the brush currently stacked in the Victoria Grove. Once that is finished, we can leave the birds to get on with nesting in peace.
The second cut of the amenity grass is currently underway and will be finished at the beginning of next week. Already the results are a huge improvement on the first cut, with a much better standard of finish. With the amount of rain we have had and now some warmth, I suspect that we have got it under control just in time. Everything will be growing like mad in the next few weeks.
I am hoping to finally get away for a break next week, so no update until the middle of the month. It is looking as though I have chosen the right week for once.
27th April 2018
We finished the tree work in the Victoria Grove this week; it stayed dry enough for the big work platform to come and go without causing much damage at all. A chipper will be in next week to clear the arising from this work, as well as the final tree job, which is a large lime tree near the cricket pitch, which needs a substantial reduction for safety reasons.
The first cut of the amenity grass took place last week. Some areas were so full of anthills that the machine could not cut around them nd we had to bring in a big rotary mmachine this week to flatten them. The second cut will take place next week and we should be able to get a much neater finish. There was also a couple of areas at Denny Bottom that were added to the contract this year that got missed, and these too will be cut next week.
20 th April 2018
At last we have been able to get on with finishing off the outstanding jobs.
The verge at Common View has been reinforced with some sections of tree trunk. This will take a bit of time to consolidate but once the vegetation starts growing through it will become less intrusive. We have graded the cleared area at Bishops Down and it has been seeded with our restoration grass mix, as has the bank adjacent to the path that runs down beside the Edgcumbe Hotel.
The first cut of the amenity grass has been carried out. It is a little rough in places where we had to bulldoze large numbers of molehills and it is still a bit wet on sections of Rusthall but it is already a huge improvement. The next couple of cuts will enable us to get a good finish.
The big machine came in and work continued on deadwooding and tidying the trees in the Victoria Grove. Quite a lot was accomplished this week and the machine will return next week to finish the job and chip the resulting timber.
The sun has also brought many trees into leaf and has brought out the cherry blossom. Wild cherries are in flower across the Common and the avenue on Edgcumbe Rd is looking spectacular.
13th April 2018
It is groundhog week again. The unremitting rain has again caused a postponement of the planned works and all we managed to achieve this week was the scraping of mud off some of the path surfaces. Next week is promised to be warm and dry, so theoretically. we will be able to cut the grass, instal the vehicle defences at Common View and carry out the remedial treework at the Victoria Grove and the cricket pitch. However, I seem to remember the last two weeks were promised to be dry as well, so I will wait and see.
Meanwhile, Spring is springing in spite of the cold and wet and many trees are starting to break into leaf. As ever the big horse chestnut on the edge of Church Rd is the first to show itself. I even had my first bat of the year hunting the edges of my garden on Monday.
Those who read last week's report wil be wondering why I am here writing this when I should be on holiday. That got postponed as well by unforseen circumstances, mind you, given the weather, perhaps it is just as well.
6th April 2018
Once again hoping that next week will allow us to complete our tree work programme in the Victoria Grove and on the big lime tree near the cricket ground. We should also be reinforcing the verge at Common View to stop illegal vehicular access and hopefully, seeding the steep bank that runs down the side of the Edgcumbe Hotel. Now that the weather is hopefully improving, we should also be scraping the mud from the surface of the path next to the garden centre, as well as at Bracken Cottage pond.
I am on leave next week, so I hope that this will all take place smoothly whilst I am away, along with the first cut of the grass.
29th March 2018
Once again most of our plans have been scuppered by the weather again this week, it is simply been too wet to get heavy equipment on and off without causing a great deal of damage to the ground. Hopefully things will improve next week. Looking back to this time last year, exactly the same problems were occuring and we ended up finishing the last of the tree work in nid April. I imagine the same thing will be happening this year.
If the weather permits, we are hoping to start the grass cutting next week. Because we got a very late cut in last Autumn, it is still not too bad but I look forward to seeing it all start to look reasonably smart again.
The Red Oak that I mentioned last week will be being reduced this Saturday. Hopefully, this will stabilise the tree and we will be able to leave it for a few more years before the next stage of reduction takes place.
23rd March 2018
We finally finished the roadside treework this week, which is a relief. I am hoping very much that we will be able to carry out the required work in the Victoria Grove next week, along with a reduction on one of the large lime trees near the criket pitch that has a fungal growth at it's base. Finally, we will be carrying out a twenty five percent reduction on the large red oak near the traffic lights at the junction of London Rd and Church Rd. This tree is infected with a severe root and basal rotting fungus that will probably mean that we will lose the tree completely within ten years or so. We are carrying out the reduction now for safety and to try and manage it's decline and preserve it as long as we can.
The clocks go forward on Sunday morning, meaning that it will be light until around seven thirty in the evening next week. That is always a cause for celebration, even if I do keep hearing rumours of a return to cold weather on the way.
16th March 2018
We have finally been able to make progress on our roadside trees. Langton Road has now been done and we hope to do the work on London Rd next week. With luck we will also be able carry out the required works in the Victoria Grove.
We also had a clear-up at Stranges Avenue, next to the new development near the Forum. Two dead tree were removed and the surface of the avenue was scraped clear. We still have some clearance of holly and bramble to undertake but this long running grot-spot already looks a lot better.
We now have spawn in many of the ponds. Hopefully there is enough for the centre of the spawn masses to be insulated from this weekend's threatened cold blast. Brighton Lake has been quite a sight this week, as lots and lots of amorous Toads have been enjoying themselves. I have never seen so many in there.
9th March 2018
All change with the weather again. Lets hope that we have turned the corner and Spring can now get fully underway. Certainly the level of birdsong has greatly increased and lots of our resident species are actively looking for nesting sites. The frogs arrived back in Fir Tree Pond on wednesday night and there is quite a lot of spawn there already. Certainly, or local woods are showing lots of bluebell leaves emerging already, as well as dogs mercury and cuckoo pint.
We are still struggling to get work finished, the snow has caused delays for most of our contractors and as birds nesting is almost upon us, some of the planned clearance work may get delayed until the autumn. However, I hope that a team will be in next week to carry out deadwooding and remedial works on some of the trees in the Royal Victoria Grove, and that we will also be able to carry out the roadside works identified in this Winters tree survey.
2nd March 2018
You will not be surprised to learn that almost no work was done this week. Tomorrows work party has been postponed for a week, although it now looks as though todays heavy snow will not be arriving as predicted.
The Commons have looked lovely but I have to say I am disappointed by the efforts of the kids. Last time we had snow like this, the Lower Cricket Pitch had so many snowmen on it that it looked like a chilly version of the Terracotta Army. This time there are virtually none. Perhaps the snow is too powdery to stick properly.
It looks as if the thaw will be setting in this weekend but please take care if you are using the paths. They have been trodden to ice and will take some time to clear, especially in shady areas.
23rd February 2018
Well so much for Spring, it feels positively arctic again! There were signs of a few amphibians moving towards the ponds at the beginning of the week but I imagine they are regretting it now.
Still no sign of contractors at Fir Tree pond but I live in hope for next week. The work at the bottom of Major York's seems to be coming to an end, so hopefully next week the town will be a bit easier to get rthrough. Having said that, it will be nice to have a safe crossing point linking the two sections of the Common. We could do with another crossing at the top of the road as well but given how long it has taken to get this one agreed, I don't think there is mich chance.
Next week will see some tidying of the edge of Major York's where the holly has been reduced, and we will be clearing some leaning trees behind Fir Tree car park. We will also be grinding the stumps of the trees removed by the roadside at Bishops Down and preparing the area for easy future maintenance. There is also a considerable amount of dead-wooding that is needed on the trees in the Victoria Grove, and that should be taking place next week or the week after.
16th February 2018
Our plans to carry the roadside treework this week were scuppered by Highways, who decided to change the dates for our traffic lights at the last minute. However, given the chaos that the closure of Major York's Rd has caused throughout the area, it is probably just as well. We hope to able to go ahead in about three weeks.
The contractors are being being delayed on their current site at the moment, but I hope that we will be able to go ahead with the clearance of holly scrub at Fir Tree Pond next week. I will be glad to have this all done and out of the way before the frogs return. It is still probably at least a week away judging from the current long range forecast but I saw my first butterfly of the year today, so who knows. It was a lovely over-wintered Red Admiral, sunning itself near Cabbage Stalk Lane Pond. In fairness however, I must not get too carried away, the pond was still partially frozen!
9th February 2018
The brush at Bishops Down has now been cleared away, leaving just the stump grinding and a general tidy up to finish. It is important to leave the clearance in a state that allows easy future management of the area, as we we are also creating a maintenance cost for the future. There is no point doing the work and then letting the area just return to scrub.
The next clearance project will be the removal of holly scrub to the south of Fir Tree pond; this should commence within the next couple of weeks and is designed to reduce shading of the pond, as well as increasing biodiversity in an area which is just a monoculture of holly at the moment. It is clear looking at the forecast, that the frogs will not be back in the pond by Valentines day this year but it will only take a couple of damp nights with the temperature over 10 Celcius to get them in the mood for spawning.
We will be commencing on the required remedial surgery picked up in annual roadside tree survey in the coming week. We will be concentrating on the section of the A26 between its juction with the A264 and the Frant Rd roundabout, as well as the A264 between the junction of Rusthall Rd and St Pauls Church. Some traffic control with lights will be required, so apologies for the inevitable inconvenience.
2nd Feb 2018
The tree work at Bishops Down is now complete, apart from the chipping of the brush which will take place next week. The clearance has exposed the Lime tree as we wished and has also created a nice south facing scallop in the woodland edge that has the potential to make a good wildflower area in the future. The cutting of the holly alongside Major York's is also complete for the moment and should start to create a good hedge alond the roadside over the next few years.
The largest tree to be lost in the recent storms was at Bulls Hollow, where a large beech tree in the bottom of the bowl came down, bringing some yew trees with it. The boggy conditions there, together with the shallow rooting nature of beeches left this tree vulnerable, especiially as it was very leggy, having been reaching for the light from the hollow. Although it is sad to see the trees come down, I have to admit that there is a bright side in this case. Of all our deciduous trees, beech casts the heaviest shade and so with this tree gone, suddenly the Hollow is flooded with light. It has also created excellent conditions for the creation of a new pond there; something that has been at the back of my mind for some time. As well as draining water away from the rocks and making the area more useable, a pond would be of great benefit to wildlife and create much greater diversity within the area. It would look rather nice too.
26th January 2018
We have been clearing the scrub from around the base of the big Lime tree on Bishops Down but it will have to wait until next week, when a proper arb team will be in to remove the larger, ivy covered birch trees next to the road.
Some of you will have also noticed a lot of holly being cut olong the edge of Major York's this week. We are taking the roadside holly down to about six foot, to cause it to break from the base and form a hedge which will be much more effective at blocking road noise. It will also have the added advantage of allowing a lot more light into the woodland behind it. This is a technique we have used very successfully on other areas of the Common and it should only take a fewe years for the benefits to show. Once the hedge is established, it will give us the opportunity to carry out further clearance of the holly behind it, allowing a much greater diversity of plant life to develop, with lots of follow-on benefits for our invertebrates and birds.
The storms keep on coming and again we lost a few trees, allthough again only relatively minor ones. One of the areas affected was the Victoria Grove, where some quite large bits of deadwood came down. With this being such a heavily used area, we will have to carry out remedial works on one or two of the trees in the avenue, but I will be doing my best to preserve as much of the damaged areas as I can; it is such wonderful habitat for all kinds of things.
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.
Page last updated: 13/12/2019