Saving Wimbledon and Putney Commons' Wetlands

Saving Wimbledon and Putney Commons' Wetlands

A local community inspired to fight climate change and save endangered species and habitats

What is the problem?

An assessment of the four rare valley mires on the Common by WPCC’s Wildlife and Conservation Forum has shown that they have faced significant declines.

They have been part destroyed through historic drainage ditches and colonisation by non-native invasive species. Farm bog, once one of the largest peat bogs found in London, has shrunk by over 60% in size since the 1950s.

The deep peat deposits the mires contain are drying and being lost. Peats are crucial in the fight against climate change – a 30cm peat layer stores as much carbon as tropical rainforest over a similar area.[1] The peats on the Commons are as much as 2 metres deep in places and up to 6000 years old – 1000 years older than Stonehenge – making them an important carbon store that might be lost without urgent action.

A number of locally rare plant species formerly found on these sites have also become extinct. These include cotton grass, marsh marigold, water mint, cuckooflower, water horsetail and bog asphodel.

The rare species that remain, such as the carnivorous plants sundew and butterwort, are now very restricted in distribution and could easily be lost. Bog bean, a pretty and rare wetland flower, has been reduced to a few remaining plants.

These declines are a local reflection of a national and international problem. Peatland habitats such as these are now very vulnerable in England – 94% have been lost in the last century due to factors such as drainage, development and inappropriate management.[2] The plants and animals that live on these sites are also now very rare.

What needs to be done?

WPCC wants to restore the four valley mire sites on the Common. Restoration may involve:

  • Infilling of the ditches and the restoration of natural water flows through the valleys;
  • Removal of invasive species that have colonised the sites;
  • Reintroduction of locally extinct plants, hopefully with the involvement of local schools and community groups; and
  • Training of volunteers to support the long term management of the restored sites.

What will happen next?

WPCC is aiming to enter into a partnership with other environmental organisations to plan, fundraise and deliver the restoration work.

We will provide regular updates about this project at our Board meetings, and further information is available on request.

Where are the mires?

There are four valley mires on the Common:

  • Glen Albyn is the most degraded mire system. It is found just to the north of the Windmill.
  • Ravine Mire flows into Queensmere. Most of the mire habitat has been lost, but deep peat deposits remain.
  • Stag Mire is found in the woodland to the west of the Common. A small area of mire habitat remains (Stag bog), but most of it has been lost.
  • Farm Mire is found in the south west of the Common. Two areas of mire habitat remain at this site. The first, Farm bog, is a regionally-important Site of Special Scientific Interest. Fern bog is a smaller area of pristine mire habitat that escaped the ditching that took place in the 1940s.