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Published on January 17th, 2021 | by Steve Budden


Update from the Commons

Work is still going ahead clearing our tracks and paths but we are getting towards the end now although we still have some areas of long grass to cut and clear with the collector flail. Some of those areas will then be scarified and sown with yellow rattle seed, which will start to parasitise the grass and weaken it. This will be a precursor to introducing more species, either by sowing with wildflower seeds or planting plugs. Without the introduction of yellow rattle, the grass would be very likely to overwhelm the wildflowers before they can get established.

We have been busy with ponds over the past month. We went back to the Marlpit area on Rusthall to complete the excavation of the second Marlpit pond site, which we couldn’t finish before the start of the amphibian spawning season last Spring because of the weather.

The excavations were finished just in time to be filled by the heavy rain at the end of October and we now have three new ponds and the small pond above the little path from Common View has been enlarged. This small pond has been full of frogspawn in the last two years since it was created, so I hope they will appreciate all the extra space next Spring. I hope very much to be able to install a flight of steps on the steep slope that comes from the woodland to the little causeway behind the new ponds, it can get very slippery in the Winter. This whole project has been jointly funded by the Friends of the Commons and the Freehold Tenants.

Earlier this year, the Friends helped us get a grant from the Sussex Lund Organisation to create a series of shallow scrapes and a wet, boggy area below the rocks at Bulls Hollow. A large beech tree came down in the bottom of the Hollow a few years ago flooding the area with light and creating an ideal position for a new pond. Because it is the bottom of an old, sandstone quarry, we had to introduce a heavy duty liner to make the site hold water but we now have a range of aquatic habitats that should attract far more diversity into this already fascinating area. As with the Marlpits, I am looking forward to seeing them green up but I am advised by the experts to wait until early Spring before we sow with a pond-edge grass and wildflower seed mix.

I am delighted that I have been able to persuade our longest serving contractor, Mick Dann to return to the Common for a last time to clear Happy Valley. Mick has been working on the Commons longer than I have but has not been able to be with us for the last two years. Happy Valley did not get a proper clearance last year with the unending rain that we were enduring, so I am very pleased that the maestro will  be back to beautify it for one last time. Happy Valley is one of my favourite parts of the Commons and a lot of work has been carried out there in recent years to open it up, although without animals to graze it as they historically did, getting it back to it’s former glory is an almost impossible task.

The second lockdown has brought lots of people back to the Commons, just when we thought everything was starting to quieten down. In the sunshine of the last few days, it seemed that every bench around the cricket pitch was occupied. Everyone is behaving sensibly and it is lovely to see the Commons being enjoyed, especially with them looking so fabulous at the moment. However, it has lead to overflowing bins again at times. So enjoy your visits but we would once again ask you to take your litter home with you, we are struggling to cope at times.

Steve Budden- Commons Warden

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