Putney Lower Common Tree Survey
Following the recent demise of two mature sycamore trees on Putney Lower Common, the decision was made to carry out a detailed tree survey of the most significant trees around the perimeter of this area. In total, 54 trees were surveyed and as a result, it was recommended by our inspectors that four trees are removed and 17 are pruned.
The trees to be removed are as follows:
Scarlett oak (Queen's Ride) This tree is heavily decayed and has fungal fruiting brackets on the west side of its base. There is also prolific dieback at the top of the crown and the tree is within falling distance of the main road.
Sycamore (Queens Ride) Hollowness and decay was detected in this tree extending beyond the full reach of the probe (600mm). Crown dieback is also evident and this tree is situated close to main road.
Horse chestnut (corner of Hallam Road and Lower Common South) As a result of significant structural degradation, this tree presents a major risk to the carriageway and footpath.
Horse chestnut (Lower Common South) This tree displays fungal fruiting bodies on the lower section of its trunk. There is also major deadwood in the crown and further signs that major decay is present in this tree. Given the trees close proximity to the nearby road and adjacent buildings, it was considered that complete removal would be the most suitable course of action.
If you should go down to the woods today and discover a caterpillar or two in your hair or on your clothing don't worry, it's perfectly normal for this time of year.
With the rising temperatures of late spring providing a catalyst for growth, the deciduous woodlands of the British Isles increasingly act as a larder for thousands of hidden creatures.
For many of us who enjoy the commons, this situation was recently highlighted by the large numbers of caterpillars that could be seen suspended from their silky life-lines above the commons many woodland tracks.
Among others, one of the most prolific caterpillars to be seen throughout the commons predominantly Oak woodlands has been the green oak tortrix (Tortrix viridana).
Easily identified, the green oak tortrix caterpillar is entirely green in colour and rarely exceeds 12mm in length. Reaching maturity the moth also remains completely green with a wingspan of approximately 20mm.
Coinciding with the initial burst of leaf development, the caterpillars are active as soon as the leaves unfold and steadily feed until the maturing leaves fill with tannin and become unpalatable for the caterpillars consumption. While the damage to leaves is sometimes striking, the trees will survive and no permanent injury is sustained.
For those of you who prefer a little less intimate contact with our woodland inhabitants, it may come as good news that there is only one brood of these caterpillars each year and they are extremely high on the food list for many of our favourite woodland birds
Grass Cutting on The Plain
As part of the Wimbledon and Putney Commons Conservators' committment to improving the ecological condition of the Commons grassland, the Plain will receive an additional cut this year at the end of May.
Forming part of the area that makes up the Commons' SSSI status (Site of Special Scientific Interest), the Plain has been documented as an area of Acid Grassland. In order to restore the appropriate diversity to this area, Natural England has been instrumental in prescribing that a bi-annual cut of approximately 60% of the area would be the best course of action.
After consultation with local experts and interest groups, the areas to be cut were chosen with the aim of causing as little disturbance to the resident fauna as possible.
If you have any queries, please contact our Wildlife and Conservation Officer, Peter Haldane on 020 8788 7655 or by e-mailing Peter.
The rough grassland covering 2/3rds of The Plain is sensitively managed so as to create a vegetation mosaic of age and structure. This will benefit flora and fauna diversity and provife a suitable nesting side for Skylarks.
The breeding season for Skylarks is April to June and duting this period all walkers are asked to help us preserve this habitat by keeping dogs on a lead and keeping to established footpaths. Please avoid trampling the long grass and do not feed the crows.
Grass cutting and baling on four acid grassland sites was carried out for the third year by an outside contractor. This is designed to improve the quality of the acid grassland by reducing soil fertility. Funding under a Higher Level StewardshipAgreement with Natural England has been made available for this project.
Ponds / Alien Plants
The most pernicious of the alien plants found on the Commons is the Australian Stonecrop Crassula helmsii which was first reported on the Commons in 1988. Despite repeated efforts by our own staff to control this plant, it is very resilient and recovery is noticable within two years.
Parrots Feather Myriopyllum aqaticum is another plant that requires regular control. Two chemicals that have been used in the past to control this plant have now been withdrawn. The were Casoron and Reglone.
American Pennywort Hydrocotyle ranunculoides is the most recent of the invasive alien aquatic plants to reach the Commons ponds. The Rushmere is the only site affected and we hope that the professional treatment in March will eradicate the plant before it chokes the pond with its far reaching roots and large round leaves. It should be noted that this plant is a more robust form of the native Pennywort Hydrocotyle vulgaris.
Current Conservation Projects
In accordance with our Heathland Management Plan, agreed between Natural England and the Common's Conservators, we continue scrub clearance and habitat improvement on the heathland and acid grassland sites.
In the first year of our present Higher Level Stewardship Agreement we have removed a considerable amount of scrub growth from the southern half of Putney Heath. This consisted of mainly Birch, Turkey oak, Common oak, Aspen and Gorse. Over the ten year life of this agreement, 2006 to 2016, we propose to reduce scrub growth so as to retain approximately 15% tree cover on the heath..
We coppice Hazel to produce a healthy understory which allows light to filter through onto the woodland floor. Coppicing also promotes longevity and the wood removed from the growing trees, on a seven or ten year cycle, produces branches or stems that can be used for pea sticks, bean poles or hazel hurdles.