Frequently Asked Questions

The Commons are 1140 acres of amazing open space - an oasis in the midst of the urban sprawl of south west London and, because of our location, the Commons are often very busy, particularly on sunny weekends and holidays.

We want all our visitors to enjoy the Commons for whatever reason they are here, but to do so with a thought to fellow visitors, and to our wildlife.  

There is a lot of information about the Commons on the website but this is a one-stop guide to those frequently asked questions about what you can, and what you can't, do when you visit us.  We try not to put too many rules in place as we don't want to spoil your enjoyment, but for the safety of all our visitors, and the Commons, there are some do's and don'ts we would ask you to adhere to.

Can I have a barbeque? 

No!  The Commons are a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a Special Area of Conservation (SAC). The former is because of the importance of our acid grassland and heathland.  A stray spark can set dry grassland alight in seconds and vital habitat can be lost so quickly.  In other areas, for example on Rushmere, barbeques can leave ugly burn scars on the grass.  Any barbeques found by our staff will be doused with water and removed.

Does my dog have to be on a lead?

Generally no, but at certain times of the year we will ask you to keep your dog on a lead in some areas. Currently these areas are:

The Plain - from 1st March to 31st August - to encourage and protect our ground-nesting birds

Queensmere Pond (the large pond nearest the car park!) - from 1st April to 31st August dogs must be kept on a lead around the pond to protect our breeding wildfowl.

More information on this can be found here

How many dogs can I walk?

Anyone can walk up to 4 dogs on the Commons.  A limited number of dog-walkers have specific permission to walk up to 6 dogs - only 4 of whom can be off lead at any one time.  

If there are three of us walking together, can we all walk 4 dogs each? No!  The Byelaw is specific that there cannot be more than 4 dogs "in any one group".  

Can my dog swim in the ponds?

From 1st April to 31st August - no.  This is nesting season and we ask you to keep your dogs out of the water during this time.  Out of the season then, within reason, yes dogs are allowed in the ponds.  However please do not allow them to disturb the resident wildlife.  If you think your dog will chase the ducks - put them on a lead.  

Do I have to pick up after my dog? 

Yes please.  Our Byelaws require that anyone walking a dog must pick after their dog and dispose of the bag appropriately in one of the dog waste bins provided, or removed from the site.  Let's be clear that "dispose of the bag appropriately" does not mean chucking it in a bush or hanging it from a tree.  Why do we ask you to do this?  Well, two reasons.  Firstly, dog waste is unsightly and a potential health hazard.  Secondly, the nature of the Commons is such that the soil quality has to be poor....this is what gives us the acid grassland for which we are designated a SSSI site.  Dog faeces acts as a manure and enriches the soil, so completely changing it's nature - and could risk us losing the grassland, and our SSSI designation.  It's that serious.  

Where can I cycle?

A copy of our cycling map can be found here.  The general rule of thumb for cycling on the Commons is that if there isn't a sign to say you can cycle, you can't.  On permitted cycling paths, pedestrians always have priority, and speed should be kept to a sensible limit where you know you can stop safely if a child or dog runs out in front of you.

Is there a children's playground?

No, the whole Commons are a playground!

Can I put up a gazebo for a party in case it rains?

Yes of course.  We just ask that you let us know so we can make sure your choice of area is suitable.

Who should I contact in an emergency?

Contact the Ranger's Office on 020 8788 7655.  We have someone at the end of the phone 24 hours a day.

Who should I contact if I have a medical emergency?

All our staff are First Aid trained and can be with you very quickly.  Call the Ranger's Office on 020 8788 7655. If your emergency is life-threatening, always call 999 and ask someone to contact us.

What time does the car park close?

The Windmill Car Park closes at dusk - the closing time is signposted at the car park entrance.  Further car park details can be found here