Wimbledon and Putney Commons and COVID-19

This page will be updated everytime we publish an update.

Update 30th March - A Plea to Cyclists

We want to say a massive thank you to all our visitors who are doing their very best to keep to the 2 metre (6’6”) distance from other visitors.   We are seeing visitors spread out more and finding areas perhaps they have not used before, which is great!

This change to all our routines is hard and we are all having to adjust how we live, work and exercise.  Here on the Commons we have to strike a balance between protecting our visitors, and indeed our staff, and ensuring the Commons can continue to function as long as possible.    

This past weekend saw fewer visitor numbers than the previous one, but we are still experiencing issues with cycling.  These generally fall into two areas: 

Families cycling on non-cycling paths and across the golf course – cycling is a great way to get out and exercise but as we mentioned last week, our Byelaws are still in place and this does require you to keep to the permitted cycle paths.  We understand many of you will not be aware of where you can and can’t cycle on the Commons so today we have put out more notices with cycling maps to help. Please keep your younger charges close to your family group.

Speed cyclists - you are not keeping the required 2 metre distance from others, cycling far too fast on busy paths and not giving other visitors an opportunity to get out of your way. PLEASE SLOW DOWN!

We do not want to have to take the same action as has been taken in neighbouring Richmond Park and ban cycling but unless we can keep cycling on the Commons safe and under control, we will need to give the matter serious consideration. 

We ask all of you to work with us and be kind and considerate to everyone. 

Finally, don’t forget our Activities in Nature page on our website.  We are building up a list of activities for anyone (of any age) needing inspiration for things to do and have expanded this to include some links to non-nature related activities because they look like fun!  If you have any recommendations we can add to the list, do let us know.

Update 27th March - Advice on the Commons' Byelaws

With the temporary suspension of cycling in Richmond Park from Saturday 28th March, there is potentially going to be some additional pressure on the Commons and our visitors.

We posted yesterday with some advice on visiting the Commons with suggestions on how you can help with some simple changes and we would reiterate that advice again today – keep that 2m (6`6”) distance and keep everyone safe.  We ask runners and cyclists in particular to adhere to that 2m (6`6”) rule.

Despite the position we find ourselves in, our Byelaws here on the Commons are still very much in place and will be enforced by our Keepers.  They are here to protect the Commons, our flora and fauna, as well as our visitors. 

A helpful reminder of the most pertinent for now are:

Cyclists, please only cycle on the designated shared use pedestrian and cycle tracks – if you are not sure where they are, there is a map available here.  The rule of thumb here is if there isn’t a sign saying you can cycle, then you can’t.

  • Always give way to pedestrians
  • Slow down around pedestrians
  • Don’t exceed 10 mph
  • Always use you bell to alert other users if you are approaching them from behind

All these requirements apply to lone riders and those in family groups.

Dog-walkers, please do keep your dog in sight and under proper control at all times, and for everyone’s safety, on a lead if necessary

  • No more than four dogs in any one group
  • Don't let your dog disturb other visitors or wildlife
  • Keep off the greens and tees on the golf course and do not let your dog cause any
  • Pick up after your dog and dispose of the bag responsibly in one of the dog waste bins, or take it home for disposal

The “Dogs on Lead” area, or the “Skylark Zone”, restrictions on The Plain have been in place since 1st March so we can encourage and protect our ground-nesting birds, such as Skylarks and Meadow Pipits.  Please look out for the notices and keep your dogs on lead in this area and keep to the grass pathways.  Many birds also nest in areas of bramble and gorse so do be careful in these areas too.

The “Dogs out of Ponds” restriction comes into place on 1st April, and most of our ponds will be dog-free zones in order to protect our wildfowl as we approach breeding season.  Around Queensmere, you will also need to keep your dog on a lead. This is as much for their protection as it is to protect our resident swans – during breeding season they will attack a dog without a second thought.

Thank you for your continued support during such a difficult time. Please take care and stay safe.

Update 26th March 2020 - Advice for Visiting the Commons

We hope you are all keeping well and coping whatever your individual circumstances may be.

Given the location and natural setting of the Commons it is perhaps inevitable that despite the closure of the car parks the site will remain busy.

We want everyone to enjoy their limited visits to the Commons and there is room for the number of visitors to spread out, but there are some crunch points - particularly at entrance points, where main paths cross or on shared use paths. As we adjust to these very extraordinary times, could we ask you all to perhaps consider the following:

• Walkers - Now is a great time to find some different routes, perhaps away from the main and shared use paths. You have the most freedom of all our visitors - give yourself a chance to find some safe space.

• Dog-walkers - We understand that your dogs are as frustrated at being cooped up as you are, but now more than ever it is critical you keep your more boisterous charges under proper control. If someone is knocked over and injured by an excited dog we are potentially adding to the pressure on the NHS and putting those providing first aid at risk.

• Runners - As with walkers, now is a good time for you to also find some alternative routes away from the main paths.

• Cycling - Despite the current crisis, our Byelaws are still in force. Please ensure that you and your family keep to the permitted cycle paths, and keep your speed down. Use your bell to let people know you are behind them so they can move to the side to let you pass.

• A joint message for runners and cyclists - you are exerting yourselves and, not to put too fine a point on it, sweating and breathing hard. It is vital that you of all our visitors ensure you keep the required 2 metres from others. If people are ahead of you and you cannot pass them and keep the required distance then please stop and let them know you are there so they can move aside.

We urge everyone to be aware of who is around you and follow Government guidelines to keep at least 2m or 6’6” (in old money) apart to minimise risk of spreading this virus. Let’s all do our bit to keep our friends and family safe.

A final message for everyone - we understand your frustrations at the closure of the car parks but please respect that our staff are following instructions from the Board of Conservators.

Thank you!

Update 24th March  - Closure of Wimbledon and Putney Commons Car Parks

Wimbledon and Putney Commons Conservators are very much aware that during this extraordinary period, the ability to get out and spend even a short time in the spring sunshine is vital for health and well-being.  This past weekend unfortunately saw the Commons, as with many other open spaces across the country, awash with visitors not all of whom adhered to the social distancing guidelines to keep two metres apart.

Following the Government’s statement on 23rd March asking people to restrict their movements, and in keeping with other open spaces such as Richmond Park and the National Trust, the Conservators have taken the difficult decision to close all the car parks on Wimbledon and Putney Commons from 7:00pm on Tuesday 24th March 2020.

This applies to the Windmill, Springwell and Telegraph car parks. The REMPF Car Park is already closed.

The aim of this closure, again in line with government guidelines, is to restrict the spread of the coronavirus by encouraging only the local use of open spaces and to enable visitors to better achieve social distancing. 

WPCC are currently in discussion with Merton Council and Parkside Hospital (which is now being used by the NHS) regarding parking for key workers.

The public toilets at the Windmill Car Park and REMPF pavilion will also be closed although the disabled toilet will still be accessible to those with a Radar key. 

All golf play has now been suspended, but the course is being maintained.  Visitors are asked to still be mindful of this and respect the work of the Greenkeepers.

We are living in the most extraordinary circumstances and we wish to advise you of the measures that we are putting in place in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wimbledon Common, Putney Heath and Putney Lower Common all remain open to visitors.  We recognise the importance of these precious open spaces to the community during these critical times and the latest government guidance explicitly recognises the importance of outdoor exercise for even those who remain in self-isolation for the protection of others.

In many ways, the Commons offer the only form of reprieve available to many and one of the few remaining vestiges of a normal world.  To some, the Commons are a lifeline.  This is clearly reflected in the high number of visitors to the Commons during these deeply troubling times.

At the same time, our highest priority must be the health and safety of our staff and the public.  As such, the chief executive, working with the staff, has put together an evolving plan of modifications to our normal operational practices to ensure the Commons keep functioning as long as possible.  However, should our staff numbers be reduced, either due to illness or to comply with government guidance, there may be some more fundamental changes to the way in which we operate.  We may therefore need to call upon your assistance to ensure the Commons continue to function.

Operational Matters:

Car Parks – All Car Parks are closed from 7.00pm on Tuesday 24th March until further notice.

Public Toilets – The Public Toilets at the Windmill Car Park and the REMPF are now closed as we do not have the resources to undertake the frequency of cleaning which would be required to maintain levels of hygiene necessary at this time.  In addition, the toileet buildings are small – and therefore it would be difficult to maintain social distancing 

Ranger’s Office - The Ranger’s Office is currently staffed but will not receive visitors in person until further notice.  Please call us on 020 8788 7655 or knock on the door to get the attention of a member of staff. Should the Office close completely, there will always be someone at the end of a phone if required.

Golf Course – The golf course is now closed for all play.  However the course is being maintained and we would therefore ask all visitors to please ensure dogs are kept under proper control and kept off the greens and the tees to prevent any additional and unnecessary damage repair costs during what is an already difficult time.

The Windmill - The Windmill will remain closed. 

Windmill Tea Rooms –The Tea Rooms are now closed.

Bins – The most pressing issue for our staff will be the emptying of litter and dog-waste bins.  With the increase in visitors and the potential reduction in our staff numbers, we may in the future need to ask visitors to please take their litter and any dog-waste home with them for disposal.  If this does become necessary, please do not leave your litter at the side of the bins;  it not only presents a risk to wildlife that lives on the Common but it also presents a health risk.

Events – All events organised by Wimbledon and Putney Commons for the next six weeks or so have been cancelled, including the Spring Walk with Staff and the Children’s Easter Egg Hunt.  We will monitor the situation and will, if necessary, also cancel future events. Events held on the Commons but arranged by other organisations, such as ParkRun, have also been cancelled for the immediate future. 

The situation is constantly changing and we will provide updates via our website (wpcc.org.uk) and via our social media feeds.

What can you do:

Social Distancing – Social distancing measures will reduce the risk of transmitting the virus between people.  For your own safety and well-being, please follow government guidelines in respect of social distancing and keep at least two metres between you and other visitors, and our staff.  In addition, please adhere to the advice of 23rd March to exercise alone unless with someone from the same household, and to not gather in a group larger than two. 

For the safety and well being of others, please do not visit the Commons if you have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or are displaying symptoms of the virus (new dry cough and/or temperature).

Personal Safety – Please take additional care when you are on the Commons during this period.  The horses have been put out to pasture and our Keepers are therefore patrolling on foot.  If our staffing numbers are reduced, we may not be able to attend as quickly as we would under normal circumstances.  In case of an emergency, we will attend to you as soon as possible.  If the situation is life-threatening, please call 999 before calling the Ranger’s Office.

During these unprecedented times, we are reminded of how fortunate we all are to have this uniquely wonderful resource.  We are also grateful for the support of our talented and deeply loyal staff, whose dedication allows us to continue to access these open spaces.  Our thoughts are with those who are currently in self-isolation, supporting others or simply struggling to cope.