We still haven't finished the grass cutting, thanks to the intervention of the weather. There are only one or two days work left, so hopefully we will complete next week. Perhaps last week I should have said "we must all hope for an exceptionally wet winter ..... once we have finished the cutting"
We are still waiting for identification of the fluxing from the horse chestnut trees mentioned last week but there is another odd thing happening on the trees in question. Some of the lower branches have produced new leaves and strangely, flowers. Whether this is some side effect of the suspected phytopthera, or a reaction to the weather we have had this year it is difficult to know. However, whatever the cause, it can only deplete the trees' energy reserves, leaving them more stressed and, therefore, more prone to other infections. I have also been told by a local tree surgeon that he has seen the same unseasonal leaf break happening on many chestnuts across the area. Worrying.
Close up of the bark 3.10.06
29th September 2006
Whilst we have all been enjoying the Indian Summer for the past few weeks, it is a relief to see that a change seems to be coming with the equinox. Although there has not been so much publicity recently, we are still in a period of persistent deficit as far as rainfall is concerned and we must all hope for an exceptionally wet winter.
Our grass cutting programme is now nearly completed and we have had both machines in operation this week. I have been particularly pleased with the results at Common View on Rusthall Common, although the number of anthills on part of the site means that the clearance will not be as extensive as I would have liked.
You may have read or seen news recently of a new disease that is affecting horse chestnut trees. I was aware that some cases have been reported as near as Ashford and I now fear thtat it may have reached Tunbridge Wells. The two large trees adjacent to Church Rd have lost their leaves very quickly and are now showing signs of fissures in the bark that are exuding black slime. It would obviously be a great tragedy to lose our chestnuts and I am sure I am not the only one in the town for whom these two trees in particular are favourite indicators of the arrival of Spring, since they are nmormally the first two major trees to put out leaves each year. I wiil be carrying out further inspections with a treee surgeon next week and will keep you informed.
2nd September 2006
Well, our new tractor did arrive and we have been busy cutting the minor paths across Tunbridge Wells Common. We have now been interupted by the weather but in spite of this, we should finish TW early next week and will then be moving on to Rusthall. The big collector-flail has also been in operation, clearing the areas previously treated with spray to control the bracken. This machine was purchased because it was clearly the most robust available on the market. However, it is not really a match for the Common, because we had pretty much destroyed the main bearing by the end of the week. We are re-building over the weekend and it should be back in action next week. We are becoming aware that these new machines are mainly designed for the golf-couirse market and that the Common is a much tougher proposition. We have already had to re-build sections of the machine with 5mm plate rather than the 3mm plate that the manufacturer used and I suspect that in six months time thetre will be little left of what we originally puchased. Having said all that, the areas that it has cleared do look great.
15th September 2006
As promised, the big collector-flail has been in again this week. We have cut and cleared the heather regeneration sites on either side of the old racecourse as well as the new areas of wood-pasture, and we have cleared the North side of the Terrace Walk. Next week we will be moving on to the area behind Fir Tree Rd car park, the area adjacent to Bracken Cottage Pond, the slopes at the junction of London Rd and Church Rd and the area around the Queen Anne Oak. When that is completed, we will move over to Rusthall Common to clear the area opposite Common View and the Marlpit Ponds, as well as the newly cleared areas adjacent to the Tarry Path. As I mentioned last week, we are still awaiting the arrival of the new tractor for our smaller flail and it looks as though it should finally arrive today (Friday). We hope very much therefore to be in full action with it next week on the minor paths.
8th September 2006
We have been struggling on with our old tractor for the cutting of the minor paths but it has been slow going. We are promised that the new equipment will arrive next week but I will not be holding my breath. On a more positive note, the big tractor and cutter wil be returning next week and we can commence clearing the areas that were treated with Asulox at the end of July. Now that the school holidays are at an end, we will also be having a sweep through to remove the camps that have been made over the Summer along with their associated rubbish and will also be clearing a number of encampments previously occupied by rough sleepers.
1st September 2006
We have managed to get part of the flailing of the minor paths done this week before the tractor that has been giving us so many problems recently broke down again, so apologies if you are still having to brush through overhanging vegetation on your favorite walk. The contractor involved is trying to source some new equipment asap but obviously this can take some time. Unfortunately, our new all singing, all dancing collector-flail that we aquired recently is simply too big to fit down the little paths.
There has been a noticable shortage of swallows and house martins in the region this year although there were plenty in Wales when I was there in May. We have had a few skimming the grass below Wellington Rocks in the past few weeks but I suspect that they are birds from the north and west on passage back to Africa.
25th August 2006
Sorry for the late posting of this weeks report. We seem to have a few problems with our software at present.
Although we have enjoyed a much coller period during August with reasonable amounts of rain, we are still losing water through evaporation from our ponds. All are at low levels, with the new pond adjacent to Cabbage Stalk Lane now being completely dry. This is not really a bad thing. Heathland is one of the strongholds of both amphibians and reptiles in the UK. Amphibians in particular are subject to heavy predation on their young from fish. Heathland ponds, therefore, drying out on a regular basis and being so inhospitable to fish, are excellent breeding sites.
18th August 2006
Many thanks to the Friends for their clearance of the Cold Bath and Chalybeate Spring last week, it certainly looks much better
The Schools Cricket Festival is due to take place on the Lower Cricket Pitch next week. At present, the forecast looks fairly gloomy so keep your fingers crossed for them.
11th August 2006
We have now completed our treatment of the bracken for this season. I am not sure if it will be quite as effective as usual since the bracken has hardened off very quickly this year due to the hot conditions and lack of water. We have also been cutting back bracken and scrub to reveal the rock outcrops at Happy Valley.
We will be cutting the main amenity grass areas this weekend after a four week gap. I am always pleased to be able to extend the gap during dry periods as it gives me another cut in reserve for the end of the season which seems to go on longer every year. It is certainly not unusual to still be cutting at the start of November these days.
4th August 2006
We have been removing a number of dead Elm trees this week. Dutch Elm disease is still with us and affects trees when they reach the height at which the beetle that is the vector for the disease flies. We still have quite a lot of elm scrub left on both Commons but sadly, it never reaches maturity. The disease triggers small bladder cells in the trees stem called tyloses. These cells are designed to stop the spread of infection by inlating and stopping the flow in the area of the tree affected by wounding. However, Dutch Elm disease somehow triggers all the tyloses in the tree at once, completely blocking the flow of nutrients and killing the tree very rapidly.
28th July 2006
We have now completed the current operations with the flail collector. It will be back in operation later in the year to clear some of the heather areas and some areas of bracken which will soon be treated with Asulox. This is a specific herbicide that only affects bracken and is widely used by English Nature and many County Wildlife Trusts. This will take place in early August during what is a very narrow time window when this herbicide is at it's most effective.
21st July 2006
We have again spent the week cutting and clearing our hay-meadow areas with our new flail collector. We have had a few teething troubles, in fact the reason I am looking rather glumly at the machine in the picture below is that we had just lost a hammer after hitting a lump of stone at the base of Edgcumbe Rocks. However, we were soon back in action and have accomplished far more than expected in the time. The first cut was always going to be the most awkward so I am very pleased how well we got on.
We seem to be suffering a number of fires at the moment, especially on Rusthall Common. I am pretty sure that most of them are being started deliberately. I hope for the sake of the culprit that he does not get caught by any of the Fire Brigade staff we keep having to call out. They look very hot in all their gear and I suspect that they may not be in a very good mood!
Flail collector in action - 18 July
14th July 2006
We finally have our new flail collector up and running and it has accomplished a surprising amount in its first week of use. We have cut and more importantly, cleared the rear of the Fairground car park, the recently opened up area adjacent to Cabbage Stalk Lane and the margins of the new pond, the area behind Master Transcriptions, the area opposite Bretland Road, the grassland at the rear of the Bishops Down triangle and the entire area of grass opposite the wellington Hotel. Not bad for four days work. We will be continuing next week with areas such as Edgcumbe Rocks, the Bumps, part of the area opposite Gorse Cottage.
7th july 2006
For those of you who don't get to see the local paper, I guess I should explain why there are a number of huge concrete blocks positioned on the edge of Rusthall cricket pitch. A closer look will reveal that the wooden posts are missing, having been sawn off at ground level by a group of travellers who then drove onto the pitch and stationed their vehicles around the edge of the ground. I am delighted to report that our local Police attended at once and were absolutely resolute in getting the travellers off the site as quickly as possible. Within an hour and a half they were gone and we were organising the blocks as a temporary barrier. We will be replacing the posts at the start of next week. Even though they were only there for an hour and a half, we still had several bags of rubbish to remove.
30th June 2006
We have carried out the first flail cut on our main paths on TW Common this week and will be back to continue on Rusthall in a couple of weeks time. I hope that our new cutter-collester will be in action in the next week and am intending to start with the newly cleared area by Cabbage Stalk Lane and then move on to Mount Ephraim, which will be a much more awkward task because of the number of ant-hills in the area (we want to retain them if we can).
Some of you will have noticed the huge hoarding that has been erected outside the Mount at the "South of France " on Bishops Down. This has been put up illegally by the developers on Common land without permission and we have instructed them to remove it. The developer is seeking our consent to temporarily widen the access road to the site, so hopefully that will make sure that they comply and remove this eyesore promptly.
23rd June 2006
We are staring to get an idea of how last years bracken control treatment worked now as this years crop develops. I have been very pleased to see how little is appearing on the slopes above the traffic lights opposite the Lower Cricket Pitch. I hope to have enough money in the budget to cut and clear this area with ouir new flail collector later in the year and thus start to reduce the soil fertility and encourage more floristic diversity.
I am seeing quite a number of lizards foraging in our new heathy areas which is encouraging. I have seen quite a few grass snakes too, especally around Cabbage Stalk Lane pond but I have not yer spotted any adders this year. If anyone has made any sightings, I would appreciate an e-mail. There seem to be far more green woodpeckers in evidence this year than usual. they are becoming a very common sight feeding in ths grassland between the Wellington Rocks and the Victoria Grove. They can be easily distinguished by their typical bounding flight of a few flaps then a dipping glide, their sulphur yellow rumps and af course, their distinctive laughing calls.
16th June 2006
Sorry there was no report last week, I was away for a few days. The grass cutting is finally under control and we will be cutting again this week. I am now starting to prepare for the cutting of the hay-meadow areas and the longer grass which will commence as soon as the seeds of the wildflowers have had time to set.
Further to the worries about the geese and her offspring, there was a report in the paper last week of a goose and her goslings being spotted walking up the high street. We thing they ended up in Calverly Grounds!
2nd June 2006
Thanks for asking; it was a disaster, with the entire Wye system on flood alert all week. However, the flood conditions meant that otters were foraging in the undercuts of the banks where the fish were hiding, so we had some great views. What total masters of their environment they are.
It seems that you had pretty dismal weather here too. I was surprised by the amount of further tree damage there has been with some quite large trees affected. I think that rather more damage was caused by the snow a few weeks ago than we thought. I will be making arrangements to have all the damage cleared away over the next few weeks.
I am aware that there is some concern over the wherabouts of the greylag goose and her brood on Brighton Lake. Having reported the happy event three weeks ago, I too was concerned when they vanished but I could find no evidence of fowl (!) play so I suspect that she has lead her brood to a quieter area. If anyone has any other information, please e-mail me. Subsequently, a clutch of mallards has hatched out on the same pond and I notice that they star in the Courier this week.
19th May 2006
The unsettled forecast for the next few days could easily produce more damaged trees and branches so take care. We hoped to be cutting the grass again this weekend but once again it seems we will be thwarted.
I am off for a break to the magnificent Wye valley where it is always sunny and warm, so no report next week.
12th May 2006
To my surprise and delight, the Greylag geese on Brighton Lake have successfully hatched their clutch of eggs. After all the disturbance of having a couple of fire extinguishers discharged onto the pond around the island the nest was on, they are to be commended for their tenacity
We are finishing the last of the grass cutting today and hopefully we can then settle into our two weekly routine. It has been an awkward start to the cutting season this year and I apologise that the grass has looked so untidy over the last few weeks
As well as the grass, everything else is growing at a fantastic rate as spring reaches it's climax. Don't wait to get out and enjoy it. It will be past it's dramatic best in another week.
5th May 2006
We have had to wait a long time for it but now that spring has arrived, it has done so with a vengeance. I hope many of you have been able to get out there and enjoy it.
We will again be attempting to get all the grass cut this weekend but the weather looks as though it may turn against us. If that is the case, we will be making a concerted effort at the beginning of next week.
28th April 2006
We have been having a bit of a purge on grafitti over the past few weeks; removing it as best we can from signs and seats and simply painting over the mess on litter bins. I know it will soon be back but the place looks so much better for this weekend at least.
We replaced the fence at the top of the slope above Fir Tree pond for the thirds time in three weeks yesterday. Our local youths are determined to turn the area into a cycle track and I am determined that it will remain a popular site for family picnics as well as for wildlife around the pond. I suspect that we could have problems over the bank holiday weekend.
In spite of our recent tribulations, the Common is looking lovely at the moment with all the new leaves emerging and all the wild cherry and blackthorn in blossom. Why not go for a wander this weekend and see for yourself.
21st April 2006
It was with immense relief that I watched the kids go back to school this week. It has been a lot more peaceful on the Common!
I will not dwell any more on the tragic events of last week. Suffice to say that the cricket club hopes to hold its first home game of the season next weekend. We should all admire their Dunkirk spirit and if anyone shakes a bucket at you during a game this summer, please give generously.
Many of you will have noticed the problem at Brighton Lake this week where two fire extinguishers were discharged onto the lake. To make matters worse, the foam was sprayed all around the island where a greylag goose is sitting on her nest. She was scared off her nest by the event and did not go back for several hours; time will tell if she returned in time. I am assured by the Environment Agency that the foam is non toxic, so we are letting it disperse naturally. There is also one of the extinguisher casings still in the pond where it was thrown. I have left it there for the present because it is close to the island and every time I try to reach it I am scaring the goose off her eggs again.
14th April 2006
Given that we are in the middle of the worst drought for decadea, I thought I was on safe ground in announcing the start of grass cutting last weekend. Obviously, we were overtaken by events, starting with heavy rain, turning to heavy snow and then back to heavy rain again. We ended up with a Common too wet to cut and covered in fallen trees. We have now cleared all the major paths allthough some minor paths still involve a bit of scrambling through fallen branches and we started a limited cut of the grass today on those areas dry enough.
Not a very good week all in all, but it got a lot worse last night when the cricket pavillion near the Wellington Rocks was gutted by fire. In what appears to have been a deliberate act of vandalism, the club have lost not only their pavillion but also all their mowers and rollers as well as their main source of income; namely hiring out the clubhouse for functions. The future looks very uncertain at the moment, which is a tragedy not only for the members but for all Commons users. It is difficult to imagine the Common without cricket in the summer. The first game of the 2006 season was due to take place tomorrow.
10th April 2006
The heavy snowfall of Sunday night has caused a great deal of mostly minor damage to our trees and we are working as quickly as possible to clear the paths. As you will understand, most tree surgeons are fully tied up with roadside trees across the area but as soon as the worst of that is dealt with, we will be in full swing. Our priorities will be footways next to roads, then major paths and the racecourse and then minor paths. I hope to have all major paths clear by the weekend so until then please exercise some caution and remember to look up occasionally!
Wellington rocks on 6 April