Meet the Conservators

The Commons were created by an Act of Parliament in 1871 which provided for a Board of Conservators, more commonly known today as Trustees, to ensure that the area is kept “forever open and unenclosed and unbuilt on… [and preserved] for public and local use for purposes of exercise and recreation…”. The Conservators are responsible for the protection and preservation of Wimbledon Common, Putney Heath and Putney Lower Common. 

February 2018 saw the triennial election for the five elected Conservator positions on the Board of Trustees that manage Wimbledon and Putney Commons. Ten very able candidates stood for election and Levy-payers voted in four new Conservators, Peter Hirsch, Sarah-Jane Holden, Diane Neil Mills and David Hince; and re-elected Shirley Gillbe.

From left to right:
Standing: Mike Rappolt, Peter Hirsch, Nigel Ware, David Hince, Sarah-Jane Holden.
Sitting: Diane Neil Mills, Shirley Gillbe, Dr Ros Taylor


At their inaugural meeting on 12th April, the Board voted Diane Neil Mills as Chairman for the ensuing year.  

The Home Office has also recently confirmed Nigel Ware as their Appointee for the next three years. 

They join Dr Ros Taylor who has been our DEFRA appointed Conservator for the last five years, and Mike Rappolt, the Ministry of Defence Appointed Conservator, who took office in June last year.

Read more about your Conservators here....    


Diane Neil Mills, Chairman (Elected)

Diane has lived with her family in Wimbledon since 1996 and recognises the great importance of this unique resource.  She enjoys cycling, running and outdoor pursuits and Wimbledon and Putney Commons feature prominently in her life.

With formal training in engineering and economics and a career in energy and telecommunications, she hopes to bring skills and experience that will prove useful in dealing with the challenges that face the organisation.

As a Mitcham Common Conservator and Wandle Valley Regional Park Trustee, she gained experience in the stewardship of similar though very distinct open spaces.  In addition, she served as a councillor for the London Borough of Merton, where she gained an understanding of the operations, finances and limitations of local government.  In all of these roles, she consistently argued the need for ongoing investment in order to achieve the highest possible standard of open space. She therefore views the development and delivery of a long term investment plan for Wimbledon and Putney Commons as a priority.

Shirley Gillbe (Elected)

Shirley has a first degree in zoology and experience as a bedside ward and critical care nurse, hospital manager and healthcare planner, consolidated by a Diploma in Management Studies and an MBA. She is a trustee of a charity supporting one of her previous hospitals. 

A committed environmentalist, Shirley has continued to follow her interests in biology, ecology and conservation.

A Putney resident for four decades, Shirley feels a strong sense of stewardship towards the beauty and wildness of the Commons that she walks on with her fox terrier nearly every day.

Having been elected for a second term as a trustee, Shirley will continue to work only to serve the Charity’s interests, acting impartially and collegiately, whilst using her sense of fairness and common sense to inform her decisions. She believes that the Commons must be kept open, unenclosed and protected from commercialisation so that they are not only open to all but also that their status as Sites of Special Scientific Interest and Special Areas of Conservation are maintained. Sound financial management and strong governance systems are vital to achieving these goals.

The Commons belong to us all. Shirley is proud to be a part of the team that ensures they continue into the future so that succeeding generations will be able to marvel at the power of nature a brief bus ride away from the centre of one of the greatest cities in the world. 

Shirley can be contacted at

David Hince (Elected)

David has lived next to Putney Heath for 13 years and through walking his dog, cycling and running well knows and adores our Commons.  David has had a career in finance, and brings knowledge of how to operate and manage teams in a highly regulated environment.  Prior to finance David served in the Army and understands the importance of everyone pulling in the same direction in order to achieve ones goals.

David sees our Commons as a precious natural environment to be maintained, managed and enhanced for present and future generations.  We currently face a series of challenges not least the increasing footfall and competing demands on the Commons, finding the right balance is critical.    The need to improve finance, governance and communication are all challenges facing this new board.  David looks forward to working with the other Conservators to address these issues and preserve the all that our amazing Commons represent.  

Peter Hirsch (Elected)

Peter loves our magnificent Commons.  As a Conservator his goal is to support, preserve and enhance this beautiful but fragile natural environment for all of us now and for future generations.  His family moved to Wimbledon 35 years ago to be near this wonderful green space.  They all enjoy the Commons and walk and run there, watch and photograph the fauna and flora, enjoy nature, and just find peace to relax.

Peter is an experienced manager and director of a plc with a background in earth science, management consultancy and academic lecturing.  He is expert at understanding organisations and helping them improve. Having helped numerous senior teams to strengthen their communication, teamwork and overall performance, he is confident he can bring these skills to add value to the WPCC Board. 

Peter has chaired his local Resident’s Association, covering eleven roads in Wimbledon village, for the last seven years and is widely involved with local groups.  His reputation in and knowledge of the community makes him well placed to listen to and act on what residents and users expect of the Commons.

Sarah-Jane Holden (Elected)

Sarah-Jane has lived and worked near the Commons for 28 years and as well as walking her dog on the Commons every day, has been involved in the Village Fair, where she instigated and ran the Fun Dog Show, as well as other community events held on the Commons and has seen first-hand the importance of the Commons to the community as a whole.  Sarah-Jane loves to see the variety of visitors using the Commons and believes that their varied activities must be encouraged and enhanced without endangering the Commons fragile environment, habitat and landscape.

Sarah-Jane brings a wealth of knowledge to the role having worked as an Administrator of the Financial Consulting Division of a major accounting firm, sat on the committees of two local Residents’ Associations and a lifetime of work in support of various local and international charities.  Sarah-Jane runs her own  art dealership and remains involved with the family business.

Sarah-Jane understands the many demands of managing the Commons today and, as a Conservator, she believes it is vital that the Act of Parliament of 1871 establishing the Commons remains strong and effective.  She wants to encourage an atmosphere of tolerance between all those using the Commons - golfers and walkers, families, horse riders and dog walkers - and its open spaces and wildlife habitats.  She would like to encourage a greater awareness of the issues the general public can help with when using the Commons, for example the reasons for placing “poo bags” in the bins provided and the protection of more vulnerable vegetation.

Sarah-Jane takes up her role with enthusiasm and looks forward to delivering a common sense approach for the future of the Commons.

Mike Rappolt - Appointed by the Secretary of State for Defence 

Mike has lived close to Wimbledon Common for nearly half a century during which time he has introduced his children and his grandchildren to the joys of the Commons and walked his dogs there nearly every day. He has a great love for the Commons and for its flora and fauna.

Mike graduated in Physics and has over 30 years of international experience as a management consultant and manager in the IT, Energy and management consulting industries and over 16 years as a Non-Executive Director in the charity, IT, performing arts, public and healthcare sectors. Since retiring from full time employment he has sought opportunities to contribute, largely on a voluntary basis, to the local community. He has set up, served on and/or chaired five Audit and Risk Committees for organisations ranging in turnover from £150k to £750m, has served as a Trustee or Governor of 5 charitable or public service boards, and has advised on a number of aspects of corporate governance. He believes his experience will enable him to contribute and add value in areas where the WPCC have needs.

He looks forward to working with the other Conservators and the dedicated staff of the Commons helping to preserve this complex but wonderful natural environment for current and future stakeholders.

Dr Ros Taylor - Appointed by the Secretary of State for the Environment 

Ros taught at Kingston University for almost four decades, as a lecturer in ecology and conservation and was course leader for environmental and sustainability degree programmes. Her role involved many visits to Wimbledon and Putney Commons, bringing volunteer groups for heathland management, running field classes and supervising undergraduate and postgraduate dissertation studies on a range of ecological issues.

As a long-term Surrey resident she has extensive knowledge of Surrey and London's open space areas; their geology, land-use history and present day uses. Latterly, she championed the development of Kingston University's engagement with sustainability, leading to the establishment of the University's Sustainability Hub. Ros has had several of her works published and was a regular contributor to BBC Radio 4's environmental discussion programme, Home Planet. She has now retired from full-time work, but retains links with the university and continues to undertake some writing and teaching activities.

Nigel Ware - Appointed by the Home Secretary 

Nigel has lived in Wimbledon for over 35 years and prior to that in Putney. He enjoys walking and cycling on the commons (but only on the permitted cycle paths!).

After qualifying as a Chartered Accountant, Nigel spent his career in professional accounting partnerships including 32 years as a partner in Baker Tilly (now renamed RSM) and its predecessors in trade. Since retiring from full time work, he has taken up a number of voluntary positions including acting as treasurer of a Citizens Advice charity and of a health related charity, acting as governor of a further education college and serving on two audit & risk committees.

Nigel believes that his extensive financial experience will help the WPCC in controlling, managing and reporting on its financial position. He looks forward to working with the other conservators to preserve the wonderful community asset that the commons represent.