After New Year we began again and first our ambitions were to rejuvenate the corner of the Common where Windmill Hill meets Chalk Hill. Here the drainage has been upgraded and there had been quite a bit of disruption to that low swampy corner. The willows there had grown up and fallen over in a tangle of big trunks and branches. Also, the trees bordering the Chalk Hill side of the Common had been growing out over the road and had been flailed to a ragged unsightliness by a contractor. So, we have felled and cleared an area on the corner, leaving some screening and also cut back the flailed branches along Chalk Hill beyond the reach of the machine. We will now wait and see what happens but think of some suitable planting to make that corner more attractive and interesting.

Now, this time of year, with the foliage fallen it is possible to go around and see much more clearly the true state of the wooded parts of the Common. The increasing dominance of the bigger species; the oaks, sycamores and ashes begin to shade out the patches of shrubs such as hawthorns and elderberries which die and decay. These patches if large enough to receive sufficient light can suit some saplings of species such as cherries and maybe some ash, I think we will try both. There are a couple of patches of naturally regenerating ash in the woodland. So, though it may not be exactly ‘natural’, as we can choose preferential species we may be able to keep the woodland regenerating.

Similarly, in the damp, seep soaked areas below Wheatsheaf Cottage the willows have overgrown themselves and toppled leaving an open area. Here we have also done some clearing and will plant a small variety of damp tolerant species such as Silver Birch and Common Alder of which we already have some specimens by the path coming down to the grassland. They have lovely big purple catkins now. Then next Autumn we will create more space and plant more of the same.
Graham Thorne