There are nine meres (lakes) on the Commons:
Situated close to Wimbledon Village in the centre of Rushmere Green, this is by far the most ancient pond on the Commons, with its origin probably going back to Medieval times.
Known as Rushmore in Tudor times, this pond, which even in severe drought conditions does not dry up, was a convenient and valuable source of rushes for thatching and a place where villagers could keep their domestic ducks. It was a popular amenity pond in the Victorian and Edwardian times, and remains popular today with local residents and visitors alike.
Because of the numerous activities that take place around the pond, plus its acidity, wildlife is fairly limited. Surprisingly however, Rushmere has for several years supported a shoal of Japanese Koi carp, which had been released into the water by a member of the public. The rushes around the pond have been reduced to a few clumps but fortunately, in recent years growth has increased.
A lot of summer visiting birds, such as house-martins and swifts enjoy skimming low over the water snapping up insects and taking full advantage of the wide open spaces surrounding the Rushmere to indulge in their aerial manoeuvres. In winter, flocks of mainly black-headed gulls rest on the water or fly aerobatically around the margins.
Bluegate Gravel Pit
Situated along Wimbledon Parkside on the eastern edge of the Commons, Bluegate is an old gravel pit which is divided into two by a narrow channel.
Being so shallow, Bluegate tends to dry up in hot summers, so it does not play h
ost to many fish. Around the marshy and muddy margins grow a profusion of Marsh Pennywort, soft rush, willow, silver birch and oak. The water is acidic and although a few frogs spawn from time to time, very few tadpoles hatch.
Dragonflies, however, thrive in the conditions here, the main species present include the Common, Ruddy and Black Darters. It is only at Bluegate that migrant species from the Continent such as Yellow-winged and Red-veined Darter have been recorded in later summer.
Perhaps the least known of all the ponds, it is nevertheless quite unique because of an extraordinary even that took place here in 1911. In May of that year, a trench was dug and the pond temporarily drained in order to obtain a clear area of heathland on which to lay a great bonfire to celebrate the coronation of King George V.
Hidden in a birch spinney, Hookhamslade lies on the eastern side of the Common, a little way in from Parkside. Although it tends to dry up in hot summers, Hookhamslade still hosts a good range of wildlife. It is the regular haunt of the largest dragonfly, the Emperor. the Black Darter and Migrant Hawker dragonflies and Emerald damselfly can all be found here too. Fish life is absent, but frogs and newts do breed there occasionally.
During summer months, Hookhamslade is often found to be covered in Parrot's Feather, a pond growing weed which we do endeavour to keep under control.
7 Post Pond
Lying further along Parkside towards Tibbett's Corner, 7 Post Pond was created in the 19th century by gravel extraction and was later used for a time as a "water splash" by waggoners needing to expand the wooden wheels of their carts, which would contract during the summer months, and so enabling the wheels to fit the iron rims properly. It is thought that its name comes from the seven posts that were placed through the pond, showing waggoners the best route through.
Although one of the smaller ponds on the Common, 7 Posts is home to a rich and diverse aquatic flora and fauna. You can find stands of bur weed, yellow flag iris and white water lily, along with common spike rush. Other plants to be found are Canadian pondweed, water mint, gipsywort, water forget-me-not, greater spearwort, triffid bur-marigold and a number of rush species.
Lying approximately midway between Tibbet's Corner and the junction of the A3 and Roehampton Lane, Kingsmere is another roadside Mere. This is the largest of the Commons' ponds and is extremely rich in wildlife. Situated just yards from the busy A3, Kingsmere is screened from the highway by a belt of oak, willow and birch trees and the wildlife appears to be tolerant of the noise and pollution.
Following a series of droughts during the 90s when Kingsmere partially dried out, the eastern half of was dredged and deepened with the spoil being used to create a small island in the centre. This has not only enhanced the mere but also provides safer nesting sites for birds. Rushes and reedmace were initially lifted from 7 Post Pond and planted around the perimeter of the island, and nature rapidly took over, colonising the area with grasses, alder, willow scrub and reeds. The island now attracts a variety of birds, including coot, moorhen, mallard and Canada geese, all of which regularly nest.
The northern margins of Kingsmere are very marshy. Rushes and yellow flag iris predominate. Water-lilies are well-established not far from the bank and the invasive introduced water milfoil, also known as Parrot's Feather, is abundant over large areas of the mere.
The shallow, open waters attract a wide range of Odonata species, with the majority of those listed for the Commons breeding here. Particularly common is the Emerald damselfly, with Ruddy and Common Darter, Black-tailed Skimmer, Broad-bodied and Four-spotted Chaser and Emperor dragonflies also abundant. The alderfly is frequently seen laying its raft-like batch of eggs on iris leaves, whilst caddis and slim-bodied water measurer lurk in the rushes. Here too can be found the colourful larvae of the Knot Grass moth feeding on the iris, the blooms of which also attract the long-tongued Large Skipper butterfly in June.
Of the two purpose-built “curling ponds” originally sited on the Commons, only this one now remains. Sometimes referred to as “Jerry's Pond”, it lies west of the hills and very close to the A3. The game of curling, a kind of Scottish bowls on ice, was played here and on the other pond that was situated close to the Wimbledon Common Golf Club on Camp Road.
Curling Pond is the smallest of the Commons' ponds. It is very shallow and is apt to dry out during all but the wettest of summers. Surrounded by mature trees, mainly birch, falling leaves add to the problem each autumn but, nevertheless, the pond supports the highest population of smooth newts on the Commons. Frogs also spawn there in large numbers, although tadpoles are liable to perish if water levels drop. The pond is also known to have an abundance of water snails.
With the exception of the Black Darter dragonfly and Emerald damselfly, most species of Odanata make an appearance during the summer months. A notable invertebrate, the whirligig beetle, can be seen circling the shallows on the water surface. Its eyes are in two parts, enabling it to see both above and below the water at the same time.
A few hundred yards west of Kingsmere, and close to Roehampton Lane, lies Scio Pond.
Despite what must be widespread predation by resident fish on dragonfly and damselfly nymphs, both insects are common, with an abundance of Azure and Common Blue damselflies. Broad-bodied and Four-spotted Chasers, Ruddy and Common Darters, all breed there, helped by adequate stands of yellow-flag iris and soft rush growing around the northern perimeter. Scio Pond has been used for dumping unwanted terrapins, which on summer days can be seen enjoying the sunshine.
Queensmere is by far the deepest lake on the Commons and is shrouded on all sides by a variety of mature trees. Created to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria, it was excavated on an area of flat marshy grassland, crossed by a stream. In the 1830s, the area acted as the focal point on the Commons for a number of duels until, in 1838, a man was shot dead and duelling was prohibited.
Very little in the way of marginal vegetation exists in Queensmere but a superb stand of yellow water-lilies graces the water in the summer and close by is a sizeable patch of white water-lily. Rich in fish life, the water supports perch and on a warm summer's day huge shoals of yearling fish can sometimes be seen swimming just below the surface. Large tench cruise near the bottom and pike of up to 22lb have been recorded.
Queensmere has, in recent years, been home to a pair of nesting swans who have been successfully breeding. A firm favourite with visitors, the pressures of the area have taken their toll and age and ill-health forced the removal of the swans to a safer location by the Swan Sanctuary.
In 1998 the Conservators decided to celebrate the coming millennium by constructing a new pond. This seemed a particularly good idea given the severely drought-ridden years of the early to mid 1990s had adversely affected the wildlife of several ponds. It was decided that the pond should be situated in an already marshy area in the valley now known as the Ravine. The stream forming this valley rises from a spring close to the junction of Gravelly Ride and Windmill Road and flows northwards towards the Queensmere.
This pond, like all others on the Common, has been seriously affected by the recent dry summers and drought conditions. Apart from necessary maintenance the pond has been left to develop naturally and this will take some time, possibly up to 10 years.