Commons Update April 2019

Whilst much of the Commons lies dormant over the winter period, the same can’t be said for our Maintenance Team.  Throughout the winter they have focused their activities on our continuing commitment to carry out tree safety work across the Commons.

Concentrating mainly on the removal of deadwood and faulted branches, they have been working on many of the trees that line the Commons’ network of rides and tracks, including Robin Hood Ride, both Gravely Rides, Stag Ride, Warren Farm Ride and Willow Ride.

Other tree safety work has also been carried out along some of the many busy roads which surround the Commons, including the A3, West Hill, Parkside, Windmill Road, Putney Heath Road and the Causeway.


The Maintenance Team have also been involved with a number of other conservation based projects around the Commons.  Towards the end of 2018 they moved operations onto the area of heathland to the south of Hookhamslade Pond where two large scallops were created along the edge of the birch woodland. The aim behind this work was to create and a more varied structure of tree growth which will, in time, produce a more natural looking woodland edge and improve the diversity of wildlife that can be found in this area.

Wherever trees are felled on the heathland, logs are used to create timber stacks such as the pictured here. These timber stacks help us to recycle cut materials which in turn help to boost the habitat value of the site.

Other conservation based activities which the Maintenance Team have also recently carried out have included helping the Commons’ regular volunteer Scrub Bashers with follow up chipping and stump removal works, bramble control around various areas of woodland, re-instatement and repair of the swan nesting platform on Queensmere, various tree and hedge planting.

And, of course, the Team have played a large part in the restoration work along the Beverley Brook and more details on that work can be found here.

In addition to these large-scale jobs, the Team also have to carry out their usual year-round routine work; given the popularity of the Commons, bins always need emptying and litter always needs to be picked up.

On that note, out thanks as always go out to our volunteer litter pickers who assist with the mammoth task of helping to keep the Commons tidy.


Richardson Evans Memorial Playing Fields (REMPF)

Following on from a fairly mild winter, towards late January the weather became more changeable with longer periods of heavy rain, resulting in many pitches and the surrounding area becoming waterlogged right through until early March.  With the Playing Fields hosting the annual Rosslyn

Park Schools 7s Rugby Tournament at the end of March, there were some concerns amongst the groundsmen about the playability of the pitches, but fortune went our way and with the glorious weather arriving from mid-March the build up to the event, and the event itself, could not have been better. 

This tournament has quite a history and has been played at the REMPF for the last 15 years.  From its humble beginning in 1939, the tournament has evolved into a huge festival of rugby with some 7,000 boys and girls aged 13 - 18 competing annually. Originally it was a knock-out competition for public schools, but as interest grew it has been extended to include grammar, comprehensive and preparatory schools, as well as teams from overseas.  This year the tournament utilised some 20 pitches and played an incredible 1,800 matches.

Famous names who've taken part include Matt Dawson and Lawrence Dallaglio, Rob Andrew and Rory Underwood, Gareth Edwards, Will Carling and the Queen's grandson Peter Phillips, Phil de Glanville Tim Rodber, Chris Sheasby, Ade Adebayo and Neil Back.

The Conservators and staff are incredibly proud to contribute to this international event and all credit must go to our Head Groundsman, Gary Jepson, and his team for making sure the pitches were in their usual tip top condition.


Volunteering on the Commons

Over the past three months, volunteers have continued to play a huge part in the day to day management of the Commons.  

During January, February and March 2019, there have been six Saturday morning scrub bashing sessions, four meetings of our mid-week Volunteer Estate Team, a volunteer-led bird walk, a small mammal trapping training event and numerous hours spent litter picking around the Commons.

So, as ever, a huge thank you to everybody who has helped look after the Commons over the past few months and we look forward to seeing you all again very soon.  If you are interested in joining our Volunteer Teams, please do contact our Conservation & Engagement Officer, Peter Haldane, who will be delighted to chat to you.  


Some of the work our Saturday morning "Scrub Bashers" have carried out has been coppicing around Bluegate Pond.  We have received a few queries about why we do this so we asked Conservation and Engagement Officer, Peter Haldane, to let us have a bit of background. 

Peter commented “Firstly, coppicing is one of the oldest forms of woodland management in existence and its origins can be traced as far back as neolithic times. Traditionally, coppicing played a vital role in the rural economy where small diameter material was harvested for produce such as sheep hurdles, garden fencing, pea sticks, bean poles, thatching spars and hedge stakes.

Although hazel, for example, can grow as a small, single stemmed tree, it is naturally shrubby and tends to form many shoots and is usually found as a large multi stemmed shrub up to 5-6m tall. After felling, new coppice shoots regrow from dormant buds on remaining stumps.   Stools of managed hazel coppice are generally long-lived and some can probably survive for several hundred years attaining large diameters. Neglected stools which develop massive stems can become unstable and are likely to have shorter lifespans, perhaps a maximum of 70 – 100 years.

So while the periodic cutting of hazel actually prolongs the life of the tree, this form of woodland management also helps to create a much improved woodland environment, by creating a structural diversity, which is of benefit to wildlife, encouraging floral growth which in turn attracts many insects, including butterflies, moths and beetles, which in turn are food for birds and bats.   It is also provides perfect habitat for some of our nesting birds such as warblers, dunnocks and wrens.”  

If you have any queries on anything we've mentioned in our update, do please contact the Ranger's Office