Warden's Report June 2017
Although this is our quietest period of the year, we had enough work finishing off projects to keep us busy.
The edges of the Racecourse between Major York's and Hungershall Park that were cleared of holly have now had the stumps ground out and the newly created margin has been graded to permit easy future maintenance. The clearance on the path from the Spa Hotel to Fir Tree Road has been seeded and has now started to green up, as has the large area cleared of cherry laurel near St Paul's Church at Happy Valley. Some further thinning of trees in this area is probably required to maximise the value of the clearance by permitting more light to the herb layer. This could be achieved by ring barking some of the smaller trees, leaving the dead timber standing for maximum wildlife value.
The area adjacent to Castle Road that was cleared of scrub has also been seeded and already has a good covering of grass. The area was again stump ground and the topsoil was pushed to the edge of the road to form a bund to prevent vehicle access. A small ditch was excavated behind the bund to increase its effect and it has also been reinforced with large sections of tree trunk in places. Whilst the machine was there carrying out this groundwork, we discovered that this area was formed of a pocket of thick clay. In view of this, we also dug a potential new pond within the clearance and diverted a drainage ditch to feed it. At present it is simply a hole in the ground and we will not know if it is viable until we have significant rain. If it does hold water, it will be a welcome extra habitat in an area that currently has no standing water.
This same area has, in recent years, become increasingly affected by Himalayan balsam. This invasive alien plant thrives in damp soils such as exist in this area of the Common. We have been tackling it with a combination of spraying and pulling for the last couple of years but the new clearances at Castle Road and the Tarry Path on Rusthall Common have revealed the full extent of the problem. It has all been sprayed again this year but there will probably still be residual seed that will require treatment next year.
The height restriction barrier has now been installed at Fir Tree Road car park, as has clear signage at the bottom of the road, warning of the height restriction and the lack of any turning area. The barrier has been painted in our usual Forest Green livery and been equipped with hazard markers. A key has been given to the cricket club to assist with deliveries to the pavilion. We are about to commence on this year’s bench renovation programme and, as ever, it will be aided by the club's maintenance of the benches around the perimeter of the ground.
There are still three projects outstanding from this year’s Freehold Tenants list. The new steps leading to Fir Tree pond are due to be installed during the week of our meeting and the second flight, which will improve access from the new trail running parallel to the Tarry Path to the clearance near Rusthall Road, will be installed soon after. The final project is the extension to the surfaced path that runs from the Marlpit Pond towards Common View. This will be undertaken towards the end of July.
As we move into the late summer, we will be starting on our routine clearance of all paths and tracks around the Commons, followed by the cutting and clearance of our clearings and meadow areas. This year we will be starting to implement some of the ideas from the new management plan and this will be noticeable on these meadow sites. We will be leaving sections of these areas uncut to start to develop greater structure and age range within the grassland and thereby increase biodiversity. The grass will then be cut on rotational basis to prevent succession into scrub.