Warden's report December 2018
Lack of availability of contractors has been an issue throughout the period, with our main contractors being somewhat overwhelmed by work. Attempts to find alternatives has had mixed success. In spite of this, most of the work scheduled for the period up to December has been carried out, although some is still underway.
The annual cut of our long grass and meadow areas has been completed but the clearance of all our minor paths and tracks is still continuing. It is likely that the final clearances at Happy Valley and Bulls Hollow will not take place until the new year. The cutting of surfaced path edges has commenced now that the leaves are mostly down. The main drainage ditch alongside the Racecourse to the North of Major York's Road has been dug out and the culverts cleared.
The remote-controlled flail was used to cut the steep bank below Mount Ephraim and proved to be a cost effective method of clearance on this difficult terrain. It was supposed to have also been used to cut the steep escarpment at Happy Valley but unfortunately the contractor no longer has the machine.
The contractors who were due to carry out the clearances of holly and cherry laurel at Fir Tree pond and Happy Valley are still catching up on other work and therefore have still been unable to come to us. However, they have put us in touch with another contractor with similar equipment, who is actually based more locally. This has proved to be a very useful contact and the delayed clearance works have now been completed to an excellent standard. Although the machine being used by the new contractor is much smaller, it has proved ideal for our conditions. It is more manoeuvrable, its rubber tracks cause less damage to the ground and it cuts just as quickly as the larger machine. As luck would have it, this contractor has also just purchased a remote-controlled flail, so the planned clearance of the steep slopes at Happy Valley will still be going ahead in the next few weeks.
New steel bollards have been installed on key access points. New anti-parking posts have been installed alongside the drive to the Mount Edgcumbe Hotel and we have replaced fifty small posts along the edge of Inner London Road where there have been numerous issues with builders’ vehicles parking on the grass, as well as with guests of the hotel parking there whilst loading or unloading their luggage.
The roadside tree survey is underway and the trees already identified as in need of remedial works have now been made safe.
As ever, we have had to clear a number of camps from the Common. Several old abandoned camps emerged as the leaves started to fall, with over thirty bags of rubbish having to be cleared from the worst of them. The most difficult camp to remove proved to be near the junction of the A26 and the A264, where a huge collection of junk was accumulated by one individual. In spite of us pulling all of it out onto the grass by the traffic lights, he still refused to go and spent about another ten days living there before we finally moved him on with the assistance of the Borough Council.
The Friends volunteer group have carried out their first couple of work parties for this season. The first work party removed reedmace from Cabbage Stalk Lane pond and cleared willow from the margins; invading birch scrub was cleared from the regenerating heather site near Castle Road the following month. This heather area is doing very well and certainly justifies the efforts made there. The volunteers also cut back birch saplings and bramble on the edge of the site to allow the cutting of the holly near London Road. The holly trees were subsequently reduced in height to maintain them as a hedge against road noise. The next task for the volunteers will be the clearance of gorse from the slopes of Happy Valley at the Beacon end of the site.
We have also had the first of two visits from the Kent High Weald volunteers, funded by the Freehold Tenants. This group did excellent work clearing birch and bramble from the heather site below the Royal Victoria Grove, as well as removing bramble from amongst the ant hills in the adjacent grass.
I am delighted to report the formation of another volunteer group by residents of Apsley Street, who will concentrate on their immediate area. They have already cleared some of the rock faces there and hopefully they will be able to keep them clear in future. The labour-intensive nature of keeping this site properly maintained without grazing is beyond our current budget, so this work is particularly valuable. If this group remains operational, a cooperative approach could be very valuable. There are a lot of large holly trees on top of the rocks that are starting to block much of the light to the properties in the Bottom. These trees will require control in the near future and I am hoping that if the initial clearance is carried out by us, the residents’ group would take on the subsequent management. An offer has also been made of some financial assistance with the initial clearance.