We continued the clearance of the snowberry at the Ups and Downs – while we are treating all the stumps there, we will just have to see how much snowberry regenerates, but it has opened up a very sizeable area that could have potential for a number of improvements including a hazel coppice or even a pond.
We have continued work on the bug hotel, further filling it up with various materials and putting a roof on to keep it relatively dry. The meadow at Vine Road has been strimmed while we have a smart new FoBC sign above the noticeboard.
In the final Sunday session of the year, we continued improving the rides in Paddock Wood. This allows substantial improvement in light levels and visibility without the need for wholesale clearance of trees. Younger hollies and yews were also removed further along the path to the station, providing a new glade and improving the general openness and views.
We began and finished the month with the removal of dead elm, notably at Ranelagh and Van Buren meadow respectively. In the new year we will be looking to replace some of these dead trees with cloned saplings of trees supplied by the Great British Elm experiment that are sourced from around the UK and appear to show some resistance to Dutch Elm disease.
During the month, we also continued with the clearance of the snowberry at the Ups and Downs - not only has it been a considerably larger patch than we had initially realised but had clearly housed several rough sleepers judging by the number of tents and campsites that have emerged as we cleared the undergrowth.
In a similar vein, we also visited the Leg of Mutton reservoir in response to a request from the Council asking if FoBC could help remove several campsites which amounted to one trailer load of rubbish for the tip.
We have also continued clearance work near the cemeteries, opening up small rides which should help improve visibility and safety.
At the beginning of the month, Red Rover meadow was baled and cleared and by the last week of October, we had cut, raked and baled the final meadow at Half and Half – considering we started at the end of August, the mowing season can be quite long but always a good feeling to get the last bale off to the dump.
We also started work on re-establishing the boundary line between ourselves and Wimbledon / Lower Putney – in addition, Wimbledon have also carried out some extensive clearance work on their side which will be apparent if you take a walk behind Van Buren meadow or behind the cemeteries – however, it should all help to improve light levels, visibility and safety.
Radnor House School came out for their annual day on the 5th and helped dig a new flower bed for Sharon.
September is usually taken up with mowing the meadows and this month was no exception with the tractor, drum mower, hay bob and baler in action most days followed by several trips to the dump. We are hoping that cutting and removing much of the vegetation will considerably reduce the nutrient load entering the soil, and in turn lessen the dominance of the coarser grasses. Certainly, this year we are getting a sense that this is starting to work at van Buren meadow where plants such as Ladies' Bedstraw and St John’s Wort do appear to be increasing.
Other work included making a start on removing some of the snowberry at the Ups and Downs - this is a non-native plant and its removal if successful, should allow further acid grassland to regenerate. Some of the heather plugs put in at Mill Hill over the last few years are also becoming better established and provide a great splash of colour amongst the browning grasses at this time of year.
The raised beds have been very productive this year and Sharon has been taking off a huge variety of veg, including tomatoes, chard, potatoes, aubergines and pumpkins.
August sees the start of the mowing season proper and with a new drum mower on the back of the tractor, work commenced on Maisie’s Meadow followed by the meadows near Rocks Lane cemetery and at the Goods Yard. We are finding that the drum mower is fine on flat ground but that the power scythes are still the best cutting equipment on bumpy ground as they can adjust better to the terrain and also cut where the grass gets matted. The baler can still be temperamental but we are slowly learning its ways and while a few bales did end up in the Beverley Brook, many people seem to appreciate the agricultural feel that the bales give the Common.
The other main job for the month has been bracken spraying – unlike the vast areas of bracken in Richmond Park, the smaller isolated areas on Barnes Common really lend themselves to this form of control and although it needs repeating each year, it has definitely helped in extending the areas of grassland.
Several of our ash trees are now sporting metal tags. These are part of the countrywide Living Ash project that is being run in order to monitor ash trees and the spread of ash die back or chalara – generally so far it seems to be the younger trees or saplings that are succumbing although this might just mean the older trees have more resistance. However, encouragingly the project has already identified some trees that appear to be showing resistance and where potential cuttings can be taken.
The early part of the season was taken up with preparations for Barnes Fair and London in Bloom judging. The weather was just about kind enough to allow us to cut Maisie’s Meadow and produce 30 grass bales. Some of these were then used for the entrance to the BCA tent which helped create a great country show feel. Other than that, there was much work in trimming the rampant vegetation along the various paths and roadsides with several trips to the dump to unload the many bags.
A newly fallen oak limb at Ranelagh was used to build a new stag beetle loggery. Once the logs start to rot down over the next couple of years, they should hopefully provide suitable habitat in which these beetles can breed.