Commons Update - November 2018

From the Maintenance Team’s involvement with the Commons’ grassland management, pond restoration and tree safety work to information relating to small mammal trapping, the recent Putney Lower Common hedgehog survey and volunteering activities, there has been a lot going on over the past few months.


The Maintenance Team have undertaken work around a number of the Commons’ ponds as well as increasing the size of an important wetland area on Putney Heath.

Curling Pond - located at the top of Stag Ride not far from the junction of the A3 and Roehampton Lane, you could be forgiven for not knowing that this pond existed.  It is the only remaining purpose-built pond created on the Commons specifically for the playing of curling. A second was situated close to the Wimbledon Common Golf Club on Camp Road.

The first part of the work was the removal of invasive non-native aquatic weed that had begun to dominate the Pond.  With the very dry summer weather and the extent to which the invasive weed had taken over in the pond, the area was almost unrecognisable as a pond.

The next task was to coppice 2 large areas of Willow and also fell a number of Turkey Oaks which have dominated the banks of the pond, flooding the area with leaf fall and creating the base for non-aquatic plants to really take a hold.  Following this was the dramatic but essential task of scraping out the carpet of weed and mud from the surface to deepen the pond with the digger and clear it back to its clay/gravel base.  The works have transformed the pond and it has already started to retain water again.


7 Post PondThe final pond project for this year was the removal of the invasive weed at 7 Post Pond.  This was a major task that does have to be carried out each year due to the speed at which this particular weed - New Zealand Pigmy Weed - grows.   

With the help of low water levels, staff were able to dredge the deeper area of the pond of its thick mud to allow for more water retention across the year and, with the digger positioned in the pond, a large pile of weed and mud was dragged over to the bankside where it remained for a about a week to allow pond water and any pond life to find its way back into the pond before removal from the site. 

Heathland - Some areas of Putney Heath include important wetland areas and these provide a vital habitat for a number of species including several amphibians and also Snipe.  The Maintenance Team have recently carried out some work to expand one such area in order to create a year- long wet oasis to support heathland species throughout the year.



Tree Management - The endless task of tree management continued through the late summer and into autumn.  Along with day to day tasks of cutting back low tree limbs or snapped branches, the team continued with our tree safety list of works, focusing on mainly deadwood removal along sections of pathways and rides including Warren Farm ride, both the Upper and Lower Gravelly rides, Willow ride as well as finishing all of the safety works within the Memorial Ring arboretum.  Other tasks involved clearing tree damage caused by the storms in September and tree work around some of the ponds to allow better public access as well as allowing more light into the water.


Hedgehog Survey

The proposal for the Zoological Society London (ZSL) to carry out a hedgehog study on Putney Lower Common and Barnes Common was first suggested to us back in March by Will Dartnell, the Manager at Barnes Common.

ZSL have been involved in hedgehog studies for the Royal Parks in Regent’s Park and is expanding with a similar survey in Hampstead Heath.  For the study at Putney Lower Common and Barnes, some 30 camera traps would be set
and monitored for a period of up to a months, beginning 1st October.  

With the assistance of volunteers from Barnes Commons, our Head Ranger, Bill Rowland and three volunteers, the 30 camera traps were positioned around the two Commons and subsequently collected by ZSL staff at the very end of October.

ZSL are currently wading through the numerous images provided by the cameras on Putney Lower Common and Barnes Common as well as another 70 cameras that have been involved with the study in Regent’s Park so there is little information available at present, however, we have been sent a photograph of a hedgehog snapped in the meadow behind Van Buren’s Cottage. 

Although it's a grainy infra-red image, you can just make out the hedgehog at the bottom of the  photograph above

As soon as the final report has been completed, we'll let you know the results

Small Mammal Survey on Wimbledon Common

We carried out a Small Mammal survey as part of our BioBlitz weekend in June this year, but unfortunately, nothing was recorded, so undeterred on the 18 & 19 September, a small group of volunteers led by Conservator, Dr Ros Taylor, carried out a small mammal survey around Hookhamslade pond and the surrounding areas of heathland.  

We use the humane Longworth traps which have been widely used in the UK for many years as they are designed to minimise the discomfort of the animal and to provide a safe, warm place for them until they are released .  Using 40 of these traps, they were baited with a mix of straw and hay, apple chunks, blowfly pupae and grain.  Again, results were slim but three traps in the area surrounding Hookhamslade we recorded two bank voles and one field vole, and another trap located among mature heather recorded a wood mouse.

Our thanks go to the Surrey Wildlife Trust for lending us the traps. 

The information on small mammals is important in understanding the food chain on the Commons, particularly with the increase in the number raptors such as Tawny Owls, Buzzards and Kestrels and being recorded across the Commons - if they are here, then there must be a good source of food for them.

Again, results were slim but three traps in the area surrounding Hookhamslade recorded two bank voles and one field vole, and another trap located among mature heather recorded a wood mouse.  

We are delighted that the Board of Conservators have recently agreed to provide funding for us to purchase our own Longworth traps so that we can increase the number of surveys carried out and continue to improve our knowledge of our wildlife.  If you'd like to help us by sponsoring a one of the traps, please do contact Angela at the Ranger's Office.