Commons Update November 2020

Welcome to Autumn on the Commons, certainly a favourite time of year for many of us - who could not love the stunning autumn show that the Commons puts on for us!

Car Parks 

The second lockdown is now in place and whilst we expected the first weekend to be busy given the good weather, even we were taken aback by the number of visitors arriving to enjoy the good weather.  Visitor numbers have remained high throughout the summer with many people having discovered the Commons during the first lockdown and, having seen what the site can offer, continue to visit. The Windmill Car Park in particular remains full to capacity most days, with vehicles queuing down to Parkside throughout the weekends.  

Springwell Car Park is also full to capacity most days and we are struggling with cars being parked outside of the designated parking areas, including in the passing places along Sunset Road.   This is causing issues for our staff and the large tractors unable to get onto the Commons, and also potentially blocking access for emergency vehicles. 

One of the questions we are regularly asked is why we don’t charge for use of the car parks.  There are several reasons for this.  First and foremost, the Commons are governed by the Wimbledon and Putney Commons Act dating from 1871. No-one at that time could foresee the increase in vehicle usage and the Act does not therefore give us the power to charge.  To be able to do so requires a change to the Act of Parliament which is a long, complicated and potentially expensive process. However, this is one item being considered by the Conservators as they look to update the Act as part of a broader constitutional review.  However, like many other large projects, this work has been on hold during the current pandemic.  

Christmas Tree Trail

We are hoping to launch a Christmas Tree Trail this year to ‘light’ up the Commons during December and if you would be interesting in taking part, do contact the Ranger's Office for more information.  

Mounted Keepers

We are delighted that all four of our horses are now back on the Commons and carrying out their full patrol duties, including attending several of the smaller Remembrance Services this year.

Maintenance Work

Heathland Management

Over the past two months, our maintenance team have continued their work on the heathland management work, focusing on the creation of two large scallops along the woodland edge near Ladies Mile and along Somerset Ride. This work forms part of the third year of the Commons’ current five- year Countryside Stewardship agreement with Natural England.

In both areas, medium-sized Silver birch trees and Turkey oaks have been cut back as part of the work to help increase the area of heathland on the Commons and to improve the structural diversity of the surrounding woodland. As part of this work, habitat piles have been created by stacking cut lengths of timber behind the tree line – these make perfect winter hideaways for many of our invertebrate species that hibernate over winter. 

In addition to the creation of the two scallops, the Maintenance Team have also spent a number of days cutting back medium sized trees in areas of Heather along Green Ride and Ladies Mile in an attempt to rejoin the areas of heather that are becoming increasingly disconnected from the main areas of heathland.

Woodland Management

WPCC is currently now in the second year of a Countryside Stewardship agreement with the Forestry Commission.  During November, the Maintenance Team started this year’s programme of work by carrying out open space management at Stag Bog.

Historically, there have been three bogs on the Commons, Farm Bog, Stag Bog and Ravine Bog. Stag Bog is located to the west of the Wimbledon Common Golf Course and just below the Paradise Fairway. 

When our book, Wimbledon Common & Putney Heath, A Natural History was published in 2000, there were records of Flag iris, Marsh pennywort, Purple moor grass and rushes, with only a small area of Bramble and Bracken on show. Over time, unfortunately, the Bramble and Bracken had become the dominant vegetation at Stag Bog and given this dense cover it was very difficult to see whether the bog had managed to retain any dampness from the underground natural spring which is located in this area.  The first step of the work to open up the bog involved the use of a tractor mounted mower to reduce the coverage of Bramble to allow the team to strim out the remaining areas and start to reduce some of the tree cover.

Given the easily accessible location of Stag Bog, trampling across this area has long been a problem so in order to try and reduce the impact, a dense screen of vegetation including Holly will be left standing on two sides of the bog. On the other two sides, which are far more open, dead hedging will be created with large sections of timber that will be sourced from other woodland work scheduled to be carried out over the next few months.

To help ensure that Stag Bog is kept as wet as possible, the drainage ditch which runs into the bog from the bottom of the valley below Paradise Fairway will be re-instated and eventually dammed. In the late 1990s, there were three dams across the stream/ditch which raised the water level and proved to be very beneficial to the area.

While a full restoration of the bog may not be possible, the creation of an area of wet woodland on the Commons will certainly be of benefit and provide an additional habitat to the Commons as a whole.  According to the Woodland Trust, wet woodlands are now some of our least common wooded habitats. Following the initial phase of work, we hope that a regular group of volunteers will be able to monitor this site and provide occasional visits in order to keep down the invasive Bramble or Bracken that will undoubtedly regrow on this site in the future.  

Additional Woodland work:

Over the next few months, other scheduled woodland work on the Commons will include:

  • Ride Management from Scio Pond to the ‘Frying Pan’
  • Ride Management along Warren Farm Ride
  • Ride management on Putney Heath
  • Selective Felling in the woodland between Curling Pond & Willow Ride
  • Open Space Management at the Brickfield Site
  • Open Space Management north of Kingsmere Underpass

If you are unfamiliar with some of the place that we mention in the report, do please download our map which highlights all these areas.

Pond and River Management:

During November, pond management work on the Commons has included cutting back overgrown saplings and litter picking at 7 Post Pond, as well as coppicing work at Hookhamslade Pond.

Commons staff have carried out a litter pick of the entire 2km length of the Brook that runs through Wimbledon Common. This followed a recent period of heavy rainfall where the water level along the Beverley Brook had risen dramatically – up to the level of the bridges. As a result, two mattresses were found along the Brook and a huge amount of assorted litter was removed.    


In our last update we reported that we were reviewing the situation with regard to our regular volunteering groups and had hoped that, with luck and a prevailing wind, we would be able to reinstate the regular Scrub-bashing sessions.  Well, they did indeed restart for one session and then immediately had to stop again when the second lock-down started. We will continue to monitor the situation and hope that once this lockdown ends, work can start again.

We continue to be very grateful to everyone who is helping us with litter-picking.

Wildlife Volunteering

We are very fortunate on the Commons to have a number of active wildlife recorders whose observations throughout the year help influence the various ways in which we actively manage the Commons. Although this year recording has been limited given the circumstances, we have still been receiving some records, particularly for birds. One of our regular volunteers, Adrian Podmore, provides us with regular updates about the birds of Wimbledon and Putney Commons. Here is his latest report up to end of October:

  • Little Egret: 2 at Kingsmere 17 Sep and 18 Sep with 4 on 23, 26 and 28 September
  • Shoveler: a female at Kingsmere 17 Sep
  • Common Buzzard: 2 over Putney Heath 13 Sep
  • Red Kite: 1 over A3 24 Sep
  • Peregrine: 1 over Ladies Mile Oct 24
  • Hobby: 3 (2 males and a female) at Putney Heath 7 Sep with the last sighting of the year being 2 over Putney Heath on 13 Sep
  • Kingfisher: singles along the Beverley Brook on 1 Sep, 22 Sep, 4 Oct and 7 Oct - sightings appear to be increasing suggesting the recent improvements to the Beverley Brook are to the Kingfisher’s liking.
  • Skylark: 2 were on the Plain 22 Oct
  • Meadow Pipit: 3 on the Plain 5 Oct was a very poor autumn showing indeed.
  • Swallow: 3 S over the Windmill 30 Sep were the last of the year
  • House Martin: 70 went through W in small groups on 23 Sep, 20+ flying S over Ladies Mile 30 Sep were the last of the year.
  • Blackcap: 5 at Putney Heath on 17 Sep
  • Dartford Warbler: one calling at Ladies Mile on 13 Oct and again on 15 Oct but with a mere glimpse of this particularly elusive individual

Dartford Warbler

  • Willow Warbler: 5 at Putney Heath on 1 Sep and a single there on 2 Sep was the last record for the year
  • Chiffchaff: one calling at Ladies Mile 15 Oct
  • Firecrest: 1 at Tibbets Ride Wood Sep 20
  • Stonechat: first of the autumn was a male on the Plain on 7 Sep followed by 2 on 28 Sep and 30th, 2 at Ladies Mile on 8 Oct and 3 on the Plain 15 Oct that included an adult male and what looked to be 2 juvenile males.
  • Redwing: the first of the autumn were 2 at the Mounds on 30 Sep, 40 SW on 11 Oct, 24 at Ladies Mile 13 Oct with 300+ W during a couple of hours on 15 Oct
  • Fieldfare: 20 W over Ladies Mile and 30 W over the Plain 15 Oct
  • House Sparrow: 13 at Rushmere 22 Oct
  • Bullfinch: a female flew over Kingsmere 30 Oct
  • Siskin: 4 at Ladies Mile feeding on birch seed 15 Oct with a pair at Gravel Pit Cottage on feeder 22 Oct
  • Linnet: one flew E over the Plain 15 Oct.
  • Redpoll: first of autumn was one E at Ladies Mile on 23 Sep, then 2 at Ladies Mile feeding on birch seed 15 Oct and 8 there on 30 Oct.
  • Reed Bunting: a female was at Ladies Mile 15 Oct