Behind the Scenes

The Trustees of Wimbledon and Putney Commons, the Conservators, are keen to make public more information about what goes on behind the scenes of the running of the Commons.

At their meeting in June 2018, the Conservators therefore undertook to publish the following information:

  • the quarterly number of incidents dealt with by the Mounted Keepers including breaches of the Byelaws;
  • volunteer hours worked across the Commons;
  • dates and locations when Conservators and/or senior staff make formal presentations to Residents’ Associations or other Groups/Societies 
  • visitor feedback (respecting restrictions regarding disclosure of personal information);
  • donations (respecting the right of donors to remain anonymous);
  • numbers of formal complaints received;
  • other information that is deemed appropriate from time to time.  

 

Keepers

The Keepers are highly visible on the Commons as they patrol on horseback.  As well as being able to provide information to the public, a major part of their role is to enforce the Commons' Byelaws and ensure that the Commons remain a safe place for all our visitors.

April to June 2020

The first quarter of this year has been challenging for all staff, particularly for our Keepers dealing with the many thousands of additional visitors to the Commons.  There are no recorded figures for April and May, but the Head Keeper's Report outlines some of the work they have been doing.  Recording began again in June 2020

Keepers Activities – Head Keeper’s Report

April has seen the effect of the COVID-19 lockdown measures and the Government guidelines around them get into full swing.

The pressure that this has brought onto the Keepers’ team is unprecedented. We have had to adapt to a completely new way of working to try and ensure that the Commons remain safe for all. We have seen a huge increase in the numbers of visitors, even with our car parks closed people have flocked to the Commons to get much needed exercise and fresh air to maintain their mental health and well-being. The value of the Commons to the local community has been understood by more and more people, many of whom have never used the Commons before.

This has also presented us with new challenges as the Keepers engaged with many new visitors who have no knowledge of the rules and byelaw regulations on the Commons. We have also had to try and implement the government guidelines around social distancing, dogs on leads, exercising only once a day, not sitting on benches, just to name a few. All these factors meant that the Keepers were, at times, each engaging with over a 100 people a day and it has simply not been possible for us to record incidents in our normal way. But I believe it is fair to say we have never been busier.

I must report that the vast amount of people that we have dealt with have been fantastic and co-operative, all grateful for the fact that they are able to use the Commons. But there have been a small number of individuals who have been unwilling to cooperate and so caused a disproportionate amount of stress to the Keepers, who have just been trying to do the best job they can in difficult times.  The Keepers have focused on the bigger picture and have tried to deal with everyone in a firm but fair way. The general feedback that I have received from the public is one of gratitude for the work we have done.

We have had several incidents over this period that have added to the challenge:  major fires on Putney Heath, big groups forming on the Rushmere, enormous amounts of rubbish left all over the Commons. The Keepers have worked together with the Maintenance and the Playing Fields Teams to make sure that the rubbish is cleared each day. This has proved a huge task particularly at the weekends.

At the end of May we decided that we needed to bring back two of our horses, as the lockdown rules relaxed. Hopefully, we will be able to bring the other two back very soon and get back to a more normal way of working. I know from patrolling around on the horses that most people are really pleased to see them back. 

I would like to thank all the Keepers for all their hard work both individually and as a team. I think that this period of time has shown our strength and resilience and the ability of the whole team to deal with challenging situations in a professional, compassionate and empathetic way, whist remaining firm and determined to stick to our values.

Richard Thompson
Head Keeper

June 2020

Cycling               135
Dogs                    24
Golf                      17
Rough Sleepers     1
BBQs                    15
Litter                       4
Parking                   4
Miscellaneous      51                                   

 

Volunteering 

Although the Conservators have a duty to maintain the Commons as "open and unenclosed" and in a "natural state", as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) a certain amount of management is required to ensure the heath and acid grassland remains as it should.  Without intervention, the Commons would soon become a large area of woodland.  Equally as importantly, with the Commons being such a popular area for visitors, we must ensure it is kept as safe as possible.

With such a small team of staff, managing the conservation work on top of the day to day maintenance is challenging.  Over the last three years our Conservation and Engagement Officer has been slowly building up a team of volunteers that help out with various tasks.  Starting with the Saturday morning Scrub Bashers, who help clear scrub from the Heath, Peter now also has an "Estates Team" that help with jobs around the site, perhaps ditch maintenance, painting the stable yard, all things that again help ease the pressure on our Maintenance team.

But there are many other types of volunteering too.  From organised groups from local schools, organisations and companies that come along for a day of team building, to individuals out with a litter stick and a carrier bag; or our wildlife volunteers that help us record the Commons' wildlife and helping out at events.  We are grateful for every single hour that every single volunteer gives so selflessly.

April to June 2020

During these unprecedented times all formal volunteering work on the Commons stopped.  Many local residents have been helping with litter-picking, particularly around Rushmere and Putney Lower Common, and more widespread across the Commons as lockdown eased, and we are very grateful for all their support.  These informal hours will be collated at the end of the year.

Formal Presentations

Conservators and staff are often asked to make presentations to organisations such as local Residents' Associations or local history societies.

April to June 2020

14 May - Presentation by Chairman, Diane Neil Mills to members of the Hillside Ward Conservative Association

Walks/talks

As well as formal presentations, Conservators and staff are involved in a series of walks and talks organised on the Commons, some of which are private in that they have been requested by specific organisations or schools, or public walks led by the Commons' Senior Staff either as one-off events or as part of larger events.

April to June 2020

All Walks and Talks on the Comons have been cancelled due to the current COVID 19 restrictions.

Visitor Feedback

Our Visitor Survey is ongoing here

Donations

April to June 2020

Sundry Donations - £1,896
Voluntary Parking - £160
Bench Appeal - £8,005
Friends - £2,252

Formal Complaints

The Wimbledon and Putney Commons Conservators recently set up a formal Complaints process to deal with complaints about conduct, standard of service, action or lack of action by WPCC.

April to June 2020

There have been 2 formal complaints