Commons Update - September 2021

Commons Update

Grassland Management

Following the heavy and sustained trampling that the Commons experienced during 2020, this year we have followed a programme of grass cutting where ‘less has certainly provided more’ in order to help the ground recover.

On almost all of the Commons grassland sites, less mowing has ensured that while paths remain available and sightlines along main roads are maintained, ground vegetation has been abundant and, as a result, far more wildlife habitats have been made available.

Our team are currently looking into ways in which some of the Commons’ larger open grassland areas could be managed to improve the benefit to wildlife.

There are at least six areas on the Commons which currently only receive an end of year cut where vegetation has traditionally been left on site to break down. While these areas are currently largely made up of coarse grasses and very few wild flowers, a programme of cut and collect similar to that carried out on The Plain and near Tibbet’s Corner could result in much improved grassland habitats.

According to the wildlife charity, Plantlife, “protecting and restoring meadows and grasslands is essential to the fight against climate change. Grasslands sequester carbon, enhance biodiversity and contribute hugely to the beauty of our natural environment.”

Encouraged by the amount of positive feedback from many visitors about the approach we've taken this year, we will hopefully be able to start improving many more of the Commons grassland sites in the very near future.

Bill Rowland cutting paths at Putney Lower Common 

Other projects to help with the restoration of damaged ground on the Commons have included temporarily fencing off areas from general use, particularly around the Windmill Complex near the Golf Club to allow the ground to recover.  Even in a short few moths there has been a considerable difference:


Outside the London Scottish Golf Club - before and after

We are also looking to expand this restoration work along two sections of the recently restored Beverley Brook path. With cyclists and pedestrians using a more direct route off the new path, the vegetation in the area is struggling to regenerate so we will put up some temporary fencing to cordon off these areas to allow them to recover. 

Pond Management

As a result of the generally wet spring and summer, water levels in all of the Commons’ nine ponds has remained high and so litter picking and the provision of additional habitats for birdlife has been the main areas of work around the ponds.

There are a small number of conservation tasks to be carried out in the not too distant future which include the removal of large pieces of wood from Queensmere and coppicing at both Hookhamslade and the Millennium (Ravine) Ponds.


Hookhamslade and Ravine Ponds

Invasive species on the Commons.

This is something we know is of concern to many of our visitors.  The main species we have to deal with here on the Commons are Oak Processionary Moth (Thaumetopoea processionea), Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica), Himalayan Balsam (Impatiens glandulifera) and New Zealand Pigmyweed (Crassula helmsii).

With the exception of the chemical spraying of Oak Processionary Moth (OPM), all the management work is carried out by our staff.  Over the past few months, Himalayan Balsam has been manually removed by staff and volunteers along the Wimbledon Common section of the Beverley Brook. Japanese knotweed has been treated in various areas of the Commons.   Our annual programme for the management of OPM was completed towards the end of July.   With hundreds of low nests appearing in the Oak trees this year, we were grateful for the many of you who kept your eyes on the ground and let us know where they all were.  Happily we did not receive any confirmed cases of anyone coming into contact with OPM caterpillars or their nests while on the Commons.

Himalayan Balsam

Volunteer Wildlife Recorders

Our volunteer wildlife recorders are one group of volunteers on the Commons who often go unseen but nevertheless play a vital part in increasing our knowledge of the Commons. Input from these volunteers can range from a regular commitment recording our varied flora and fauna to those who simply contact us when they spot something of interest whilst out walking. From mammal sightings to regular reports of insects and bird sightings, each and every piece of information that is sent to us is collected and included in the Commons’ annual monitoring report.

Over the past few months a few of the most notable reports that we have received have included a Soft Shell turtle, a Common lizard with young and, with increasing regularity, a Muntjac deer on Putney Heath.  One of our team was able to catch a fleeting image of these normally elusive creatures.

What a difference!

As we're talking about volunteers....a recent visit by a group of students from Putney High School to help with some scrub-bashing near Inner Park Ride shows the impact just a couple of hours volunteering can have on Putney Heath.  Thank you to everyone who took part!


Before and after volunteer scrub-bashing by Putney High School


Digital Film Festival

At the end of July, the Conservators were delighted to launch an exciting series of short films, each telling a different story of Wimbledon and Putney Commons - and the people who love them.

Thanks to the National Lottery Heritage Fund and National Lottery players, Wimbledon and Putney Commons secured vital funding in 2019 to develop a masterplan to help sustain and conserve this unspoilt landscape. 

The team at Wimbledon and Putney Commons have been working with consultants, Barker Langham, landscape architects MRG Studio, architects IF_DO and Barry Stow, to devise a masterplan that will ensure that future generations can enjoy the beauty, nature and heritage of this slice of countryside in the city and that will protect this precious wilderness for our visitors and the flora and fauna that live here.

The commitment of everyone involved in this project has resulted in a masterplan that will pull together all the vital strands: landscape and heritage conservation, visitor experience, accessibility and facilities, and also takes in development of the iconic Wimbledon Windmill Museum.  A public consultation on the masterplan will be undertaken later this year.

This year marks the Commons’ 150th anniversary and the Commons' unique history is clear to see. The Keepers still patrol on horseback, golfers still adhere to the old byelaw of wearing red, and the site is scattered with built heritage from bronze-age earth works to war memorials.

But a century and a half after their foundation, the true value of the Commons has never been more apparent. The Commons have been a lifeline for local people during the Covid-19 pandemic. They are a place to walk, run, meet, escape, explore and breathe – and people need that more than ever.

You can see the series of seven films on one compilation here:



Board Meetings

In an effort to further promote openness and transparency, the Conservators have agreed that wherever possible they will hold their regular Board meetings in public. 

From their next scheduled meeting on Monday 11 October members of the public will be welcome to attend the non-confidential part of Board meetings and to ask questions on matters being considered at that meeting.  Once concluded, the public will then be asked to leave so that the Conservators can consider the confidential items on the Agenda. 

The formal Notice of the meeting will be published on the Conservators' website, and on the Noticeboard outside the Ranger’s Office.  The agenda and accompanying papers will be published on the Conservators’ website, or will be available on request at the Ranger’s Office, at least three days before the meeting. 

Given the current COVID situation, in the interests of everyone's safety it may be necessary to limit the number of people who can attend.  If you do wish to attend, it would be helpful If you could let us know in advance of the meeting by contacting the Ranger’s Office by e-mail or by calling 020 8788 7655.

Again, in the interests of preventing the potential spread of the COVID virus, we would recommend that those wishing to attend take a Lateral Flow Test before the meeting and only attend If they have a negative result, and that they also wear a mask at the meeting.

Please note that these are the regular Board meetings to discuss routine items of business and should not be confused with the Annual Open Meeting or the General Open Meeting which have always been the Conservators main public meetings.

Next Meeting details:

Date: Monday 11th October
Time: 6.00pm
Location: Wimbledon Common Golf Club, Camp Road SW19 4UW