Commons Catch-up

This summer's heatwave will no doubt have affected the UK's wildlife, and certainly that is being seen here on the Commons, particularly with the unseasonal warm weather carrying on into October.   The wildfires seen across the country, such as in the Yorkshire and Peak District moorlands, will have had a significant effect on their ecosystems and, although they will recover in time, in the short term wildlife will have suffered.

We have been incredibly fortunate here on the Commons to escape any major fires this summer. Disappointingly, a few of the small fires we did have appeared to be set deliberately, with evidence of matches, or by discarded cigarettes.   Our thanks go to all our visitors for taking care when out and about, and for letting us know quickly if they could see or smell any signs of fire.  

The rain, when it came, was torrential and at the end of July the run off resulting from a weekend of storms caused a problem for the fish in the Beverley Brook in Richmond Park.  The heavy rains resulted in low dissolved oxygen levels and some pollution from run off from the roads resulting in some fish being killed.  Fortunately we did not see any effects of this in Wimbledon Common, nor further downstream at Putney Lower Common. 


The Brook also caused a bit of a stir at the beginning of October when it turned a very lurid green!  Obviously many of you were concerned about what was causing it, and any possible adverse effects on the Brook, and dogs going in for a drink.  The Environment Agency advised that they believed it to be a dye used by the likes of Thames Water, or indeed any plumber, to trace water flow.  It should be used sparingly and the EA suspect on this occasion it wasn't.  They assured us that it would have been of food grade quality and would not be harmful to dogs, but owners should be aware that their dogs poo might have turned an interesting shade of green!


But despite the weather, our staff and volunteers have had a busy few months....

Path Restoration

Although responsible for the day to day maintenance of the site with work from tree safety to emptying bins, our Maintenance Team also take on more major projects.  The most recent of these have been a new path at Putney Lower Common, and the installation of the new gates on the Inner Windmill Road - the final part of the project to restore the road.


The Maintenance Team hard at work on Putney Lower Common and Wimbledon Common.



Our Mounted Keepers are hugely popular with visitors to the Commons and a large part of their role is engaging with the public, as well as ensuring the byelaws are adhered to.  To give you some idea of what the Keepers deal with, here are some statistics for incidents over the last three months:

Cyclists - 109
Dogs - 24
Golf - 24
Rough Sleepers - 25
BBQs - 12
Litter - 20
Parking - 6
Miscellaneous - 105



Keepers talking to the public out on a guided walk





Butterflies - With the warm summer, this has been an odd year for butterflies.  Some had accelerated flight periods and so were not around for as long as they might have been, and some of the larger species along with the migratory species such as Red Admiral and Painted Lady were actually relatively uncommon during the year.  Anecdotal evidence suggested that butterflies such as the Silver-washed Fritillary and some of the Skippers have been seen further afield than usual. 

A superb sighting this year was a Brown Hairstreak on Scio Pond.  Usuall seen around hedges, scrub and woodland edge where Blackthorn is prominent, they are only locally distributed in southern Britain.

Probably the most obvious species that were commoner were the two whites - large and small - that at times seemed to be everywhere!

Brown Hairstreak Butterfly


Dragonflies - Again the warm weather seems to have paid dividends for our Dragonflies.  Highlights this year were a Southern Migrant Hawker recorded at Bluegate Pond, a first for not only the Commons but for the Surrey vice county! A Keeled Skimmer was also recorded at Farm Bog - the first since 1996.


A Southern Migrant Hawker at Bluegate and a Keeled Skimmer at Farm Bog



Our bird life is monitored by a number of volunteers, led by Adrian Podmore, and we are very grateful to all of them for the time they put in to collating information for us. 

Raptors seem to be doing especially well here this year with regular sightings of Buzzards, Sparrowhawks, Kestrels and Hobbies.  We are fairly sure they are all breeding on the Commons, or very close by.

Recent highlights have included Spotted Flycatcher and Lesser Whitethroat, with the latter being an usual record for this time of year.  We don't believe any Skylarks nested on The Plain this year but they have been seen flying over the area so we aren't giving up hope just yet and we continue to manage The Plain to attract ground-nesting birds. Firecrest have also continued to be seen and heard regularly, particularly in dense Holly near Putney Vale Cemetery.

The Queensmere Swans were successful in raising three cygnets this year.  The adults and two of the cygnets made their own way off the Queensmere and the remaining male was collected by Swan Rescue at the end of October following concerns that he may be vulnerable to dogs, or event the adult pair if they returned.  He has been released into the flock at Kingston Lock.

Bird Walks - Our series of Bird Walks this year have been very successful, despite the downpour we experienced for the September walk! Led by local volunteer, Adrian Podmore, assisted by Commons' resident Les Evans-Hill, 

The last Bird Walk of the year takes place on Sunday 11th November, meeting at the Ranger's Office at 8am.  The walk will last around 2 hours or so, finishing in time to allow attendance at Remembrance Services.  To reserve your place on the walk, you can complete the booking form here.


Kestrel and Sparrowhawk on the Commons (photographs by Les Evans-Hill)


We keep mentioning how important our volunteers are and how, without them, our small busy team would struggle to keep on top of everything that needs to be done to keep the Commons at their best. 

Since April, volunteers have put in a staggering 950 hours - this has covered a range of activities such as litter-picking (see more on our new initiative here), scrub bashers, the mid-week Estates Team or teenagers completing their Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme as well as experts who help with monitoring our flora and fauna.

Across the summer, volunteers have also been helping with our ongoing Visitor Survey, speaking to visitors across the Commons, helping us get a sense of what is important to them.

The Mid-week Estates Team helping to spruce up the stable yard prior to the Open Day

If you have any interest in volunteering here on the Commons, then do please get in touch with our Conservation and Engagement Officer, Peter Haldane.  

Traveller Incursion - 10th September 2018

On the evening of 10th September, our Duty Officer received the one telephone call we all dread "There's travellers moving on to the Commons".  Some 13 caravans and 22 plus vehicles had found a way onto the Richardson Evans Memorial Playing Fields by forcibly removing posts at the bottom of Stag Lane.  Fast action in the High Court meant that they were moved on within 48 hours but the resulting "Writ of Possession" notices around the Commons did result in a number of concerned phone calls to the Ranger's Office.  Click here to read the full story.  


If you have any questions of queries about anything out on the Commons, please don't hesitate to contact us at the Ranger's Office.