August round-up

August is when the ‘Big Butterfly Count’ is held and for the second year in a row the Friends took part by sending groups of people to the parts of the Common favoured by butterflies – the scope, the frying pan and the prison banks (find them on our map). The groups were led by Ian Cunningham, the Common’s butterfly recorder; Simon Saville, Chair of SW London Butterfly Conservation; and May Webber of Big City Butterflies who is hoping to launch a project on the Common next year. Our sightings are pooled centrally and are an invaluable resource for tracking this key indicator species for biodiversity. We also produced a butterfly leaflet, with help from Ian   and Sarah Halonen, which you can download here.

‘Moths matter’ too so we held two ‘moth breakfasts’ where we identified the moths that had been attracted overnight to a moth trap provided by May. Simon and May were there to identify them and there was a lot of early morning excitement as all manner of moths – at least twenty different species - were released back into the Naturescope garden.

The Friends committee met in August (alternate months) for a strategy discussion - what to do more of and what to do less of. Our successful ‘walks and talks’ will continue (see what’s on) as well as our monthly swan and duck food bagging and litter picks. A future priority is engaging with schools where we are working closely with Naturescope. Minutes of our latest meeting are posted here.  

July round-up: London becomes a National Park City

On July 22nd, London became the world’s 1st National Park City. Your Friends co-chairs, Julia and Richard, were honoured to be at the launch and to sign the charter on behalf of FoWC. You can read more about what this means and sign the charter yourself here.

To mark the occasion we organised a number of events: a summer butterfly talk, following on from our spring talk and once again hosted by Simon Saville of Butterfly Conservation. We also launched our summer butterfly leaflet, all set for the Big Butterfly Count on the Common on August 3rd.  We were also pleased to have Roy Vickery, a local wildflower expert, who helped us identify some of the 30 or so wildflowers to be found on the Common in the areas being managed specifically for that purpose. We’re designing a new leaflet based on some of the flowers we saw.

The climax of the celebrations was an inspirational talk by Daniel Raven-Ellison, the man whose idea National Park City was, attended by over 90 people from all over the borough, including councillors, council officials, Enable, borough wide Friends groups and other local organisations. Coming the week after Wandsworth announced its ambition of becoming the greenest of inner London boroughs, we’re very pleased to have introduced our local decision makers to Dan to learn from his experience and knowledge base.

June round-up: Telescopes to trees

At the beginning of the month we were privileged to host Greg Smye-Rumsby during Wandsworth Heritage Fortnight who gave a fascinating talk about the Craig telescope - built on ‘the Scope’ area of Wandsworth Common in the 1850s but sadly never working as intended.

The month ended with another of Jess Stocks’ (Enable LC) popular tree walks, this time looking at some non natives such as the tulip and strawberry tree. Meanwhile, Trevor took some keen walkers further afield to Battersea Park. 

The Friends committee met for the first time since the AGM and our sister organisation, the MAC, held its APM in the middle of the month. Minutes of both meetings are on the website.  

Friends and MAC reps also met with the Council/Enable to start discussions on how to monitor implementation of the forthcoming MMP. 

Last but not least we held another litter pick and also resumed swan and duck food bagging as the Skylark cafe reopened in time for the Summer.

May round-up: Birds and bees

As well as our very successful AGM and 1st birthday party, May saw two fascinating first time talks.

Nick Rutter, a Friend and local birder, explained what birds we could expect to see on the Common at different times of year and in their different habitats. Among many other things we learned that skylarks used to nest on the Common and there was also once a tawny owl. No more, alas, but we’ve gained stock doves, Egyptian geese, the sparrow hawk and, of course, parakeets. Over 100 different species have been observed at various times over the past several years.

Later in the month we heard about bumble bees, solitary bees and honey bees from Michelle of The Little Honey Bee company. Amazing to learn there are approximately 270 different types of bee in the UK, but only one is the honey bee. We’ve been watching them closely ever since.

Thanks to both our speakers.

AGM & 1st Birthday Party - a roaring success

We’re very pleased with how the evening went. We estimate 114 attended, including 70 members, 14 non-member guests - several local councillors, the senior Enable team and many others - and 30 people we’d never met before, half of whom joined the Friends.

Our guests seemed to enjoy themselves – food, drink, music by Lyons & Linton jazz duo. The business included the Chair’s presentation and film on our first year and confirmation of our Committee of nine. Supportive words from guest speaker Cllr. Steffi Sutters, Wandsworth Council Lead for Community Services and Open Spaces, were followed by her  cutting the birthday cake (thanks to Skylark) and opening the party.

Cllr Sutters made public commitments on a Friends forum, a biodiversity action plan and funding, so we’re very pleased with that. 

Thanks to the County Arms for providing a great venue, our two financial sponsors – John D Wood and FLM Wealth Management – and last but not least all our volunteers for helping make the evening such a great success. We’ll all now get our heads down to make our second year equally successful.

April round-up: Walks & talks a-plenty

We were pleased to welcome Simon Saville, a Friend and Chairman of the SW London branch of Butterfly Conservation, to give our first butterfly talk. We were also grateful for the knowledge of the Common’s butterfly recorder - Ian Cunningham - and the skills of Sarah Halonen - our biodiversity lead – who jointly created a beautiful spring butterfly leaflet. At the talk we were very excited to hear May Webber, of #BigCityButterflies, announce that Wandsworth Common has been selected as a flagship site for this project. We’ll have more to say by the time of our Moth Breakfast and Big Butterfly Count in July.

We did two litterpicks for the #GB Springclean, one partnering with year 4 at Honeywell school. Pupils, teachers & parents all felt it was a great afternoon out. We’re keen to outreach to schools and are trying to help Naturescope attract school science classes to explore the Common and its biodiversity.

Charles Walton repeated his very popular history walk around the Common. Indeed, we had to turn away almost as many people again, so we’re keen to persuade Charles to repeat it. The warmer weather meanwhile brought out the bats for Iain Boulton’s bat walk. Then a few of us were privileged to walk the Common with Wandsworth’s biodiversity officer - Valerie Selby - with the aim of training us to do our own biodiversity walks. Watch this space

The month ended with the start of the season’s bowls sessions. Rachel, one of our committee, has been helping the Bolingbroke Bowling Club upgrade its communications in its centenary year. In a bid to increase its membership, we hosted a Friends bowls match with the BBC providing tuition to 12 novices. A great afternoon was had by all. We hope to make these a regular event.

March round-up: Trees 'n things

Those of you that braved the weather will know our spring tree walk was blown off course somewhat by high winds, as we had to give the trees a wide berth. Fortunately, Enable’s tree officer for the Common, Jessica Stocks, very kindly gave up more of her time and rescheduled the walk for a nice, tranquil, sunny evening. We learned how she assesses trees for pests, diseases and damage, and were shown a number of examples on St James’s Triangle. We’re very appreciative of Jess’s efforts, supported by Enable, to keep us informed of arboriculture issues.

We met with Enable to help them draw up guidelines for working with the increasing number of Friends groups in the borough. Meanwhile, both the MAC and Friends committees held their regular meetings (minutes of both are on the website). Both organisations have given final comments on the long-awaited Management and Maintenance Plan, now being finalised. The MAC discussed the February meeting with Paul Martin, Council chief executive, about Neal’s Lodge. The Friends committee focussed on planning its AGM and 1st birthday party on May 10th.

Last but not least, the photo shows your co-chairs, Julia and Richard, receiving their BATCA (Balham & Tooting Community Association) award nomination for their work setting up the Friends. We didn’t win, but it was enough to be nominated, alongside so many other deserving causes. Thanks for all your help to create a community focussed on protecting and enhancing the Common.

February round-up: A month of outreach

Your co-chairs, Julia and Richard, gave a talk to the Wandsworth Society on Valentine’s Day about the background to the Friends’ launch, what we’d achieved in our first year and what our vision was for the Friends going forward. There might have been better ways of spending Valentine’s Day (!) but it was a useful exercise to go through and reminded us what a busy year it’s been and what a long way we’ve come with the help of our members, volunteers and committee. You can read the talk here.

We’ve also had more meetings with the Council. We were invited, along with selected other community groups, to meet Council leader Ravi Govindia to talk about general issues affecting our groups, how the Council might help and communicate better with us. We also had a joint meeting, organised by the MAC, with Paul Martin, Chief Executive of the Council, to start exploring a way forward for Neal’s Lodge - the building in the middle of the Common which has been empty for more than a decade. That will be a big issue for this year. We ended the month on Wandsworth Radio’s ‘People and Places’ programme. You can hear the interview here

Budding artists herald spring

It was a bit too early for the hoped-for cherry blossom, but undeterred, a group of eager novices gathered to learn the rudiments of watercolour use from the talented Amanda Rogerson. The atmosphere was very relaxed and welcoming and all had a fabulous afternoon. All went home clutching their own masterpieces.

If you couldn’t make it, but fancy trying, Amanda runs the Wandsworth Common Drawing Group out of Naturescope every Thursday morning. Great fun!

January round-up: A busy start to the New Year

Almost 30 people turned up for our New Year's Day walk to kick start the NY resolutions and explore all 12 areas of the Common. Our pool of swan and duck food baggers met again, filling an astonishing 850 bags to keep us going into February - the ducks need fuel especially in the winter months so come and join in. We held our first Heritage group meeting, to establish what historical material already exists about the Common and to plan a programme for the year; we have heritage walks/talks planned for April & June - watch this space. A joint Friends/MAC delegation met the Council officers drawing up the new contract for re-tendering the Common’s maintenance contract, teaming up with our colleagues from Tooting Common and Battersea and Wandsworth Parks. A growing band of litter pickers, ranging from 5-year olds to octagenarians, picked up another 20 or so bags of litter - half of it recyclable - including the proverbial kitchen sink (see picture). Local birder and Friend Nick Rutter helped us host the Big Garden Birdwatch on the Common, spotting 23 species from blue tits to an amazing 50 black-headed gulls. The month ended with your committee meeting to plan the year ahead, including our first AGM in May. There’s a lot going on and if you’d like to help in any way we’d be very pleased to hear from you.

Joint MAC/Friends objection to Jaggard Way development

The Management Advisory Committee and the Friends of Wandsworth Common have submitted a joint objection to the proposed Jaggard Way development described in an earlier news story. You can read the letter here. The associated planning committee meeting will be on February 27th at 7.30pm and objections can be submitted up to that time. However, to ensure they are taken account of you are advised to get your views in by mid-February.

Christmas Festivities

Thanks to all our helpers who made the Friends’ two Christmas events on Dec 8th such a great occasion. 

 A lot goes on behind the scenes to make these events a success. The singers leading the carols at Skylark had taken the trouble to rehearse and the main organisers, ‘Conductor’ Nikki Marsh and carols lead, Penny Clark, also put in additional time to select and schedule the carols, as well as to agree which version to use. Lisa Villaseca worked her IT magic making the songbooks so attractive. 

Thanks also to Skylark for finding space for everyone when the weather turned inclement and for donating proceeds from the mulled wine and mince pies to the Friends. Very Christmas spirited.

Meanwhile, our stunningly effective Christmas tree decorating team – Sarah, Lisa and Rachel – produced some really beautiful, natural decorations, mostly crafted from leaves, twigs and seeds found on the Common. Our Christmas tree was a real stunner. You can see it at St. Mary Magdalene Church on Trinity Road until Twelfth Night, as part of the Wandsworth Christmas Tree Festival. It’s worth a visit, with our tree voted (unofficially) joint ‘first’ in the whole Festival. Not bad for first timers!

Neal's Lodge - letter to the Council

A previous news item explained the complex legal case about the use of this prominent building in the centre of Wandsworth Common, which has now been empty for over 12 years. With the Council’s appeal having been rejected over six months ago, Wandsworth Common MAC, supported by the Friends of Wandsworth Common, and in conjunction with the Wandsworth Society, has written to Paul Martin, Chief Executive of Wandsworth Borough Council, offering to play a role in assisting the Council in devising and implementing a plan for the building ‘within the spirit of the judgement and in compliance with the Long Act’.

George Meakin, Chair of the MAC, says that ‘We firmly believe that a good proposal presented by these parties in conjunction with the Council, would enjoy strong support’.

‘Now would be a good time to draw a line under the past legal conflicts and make a positive and visible effort to achieve a satisfactory outcome on the use of Neal's Lodge in the best interests of the whole of the Wandsworth Common community and its stakeholders.’ You can read the full letter here

We would welcome feedback on what type of inclusive community use people feel the buildings should be used for, comprising the first floor above the Skylark Café and the adjacent cottage.

Jaggard Way planning deadline – Dec 27th

The strip of land between Wandsworth Common station and Ravenslea Road, at the SE corner of the Common, is owned by Cheshire West and Chester Council. It has been the subject of planning applications before, the last one being rejected in January 2018. A similar application has now been submitted (2018/5413), with comments sought by Dec 27th. Last time, the Wandsworth Common MAC submitted an objection which we reproduce here. We will submit a new objection once we’ve digested the sheaf of documents, as we feel the plans are essentially unchanged. They constitute overdevelopment, including four 4-storey blocks, in what would become an even more congested area than now, within and adjacent to a conservation area. Moreover, the buildings would overlook and be seen from a part of Wandsworth Common - St. James’ Triangle - noted for its natural, tranquil character, contributing to, according to Historic England "the village-like environment of the area". The view from the Common would be even less rural than it is now.

If you wish to submit your own objections we suggest you look at last time’s reasons for refusal, which we include here.

London Power Tunnels 2

Some of you have asked what these signs mean. They appeared on the Common in July and herald a tunnel to be bored under the Common for electricity cables by National Grid Electricity Transmission (NGET). The MAC chair was told at the time that there would be no visible or invisible disruption and we’ve been following up the situation since.  

The project is still two years away and is described in more detail here. The whole tunnel is 32km in length, running from Wimbledon to Crayford. It is constructed using a tunnel boring machine installed at a depth of approximately 30m. There will be no above ground excavations except at the shaft sites, with access only being required to install monitoring equipment while the tunnelling is undertaken. Wandsworth Common is located between two shaft sites, one at the NGET substation at Wimbledon and the other at Kings Avenue, Clapham. Between these two sites there are no above ground works. The tunnelling will start at Kings Avenue, Clapham in November 2020 and will finish in December 2021.

We’ll update you when we hear more

Road junction plans would encroach on the Common

The Council is proposing road widening and other work at the junction of Bellevue and Trinity Roads and Burntwood Lane. The aim is to increase capacity and thereby reduce congestion and rat-running, and improve air quality and the safety of pedestrians and cyclists. However, the road widening would require approx 400 sqm of land to be taken from the Common. There is a long standing principle that Common land surrendered in this way must be replaced by land of equivalent value. The land proposed in compensation is a long narrow strip amounting to 950 sqm on the west side of Trinity Road, north of the County Arms, obtained by reducing Trinity Road from three lanes to two. This would need TfL approval. Moreover, although some initial work has already begun – moving bus stops and parking bays - the major work will be the subject of ‘extensive consultation’ in early 2019 and, as with all encroachments on Common land, will also need approval by the Secretary of State.

You can read the document that was approved here, including relevant maps, and the Council decision here. We urge everyone to take a look and send us your thoughts. FoWC and the MAC were invited to a site visit in the summer, and the Friends and the MAC are working together on this, alongside the Wandsworth Society.

Litter picking begins

The Friends have started regular litter picking. We know some people do this already, but we’ve tried to encourage as many as possible to come under the Friends umbrella, to benefit from advice on which areas are best to do when (to avoid disturbing wildlife for example) and pre-arranged rubbish collection, so it isn’t prey to foxes and crows. 20 of us met on a sunny Saturday in November and picked 20 bags of rubbish. Half of it was recyclable - cans and bottles mainly - which our volunteers took home with them. The rest was collected by prior arrangement later that day. Thanks especially to Patrick whose new shop, the Source Bulk Foods at 99 St John’s Rd Battersea, bought most of our equipment.

Of course we’d prefer not to have to litter pick, but human nature being what it is, and with only one paid litter picker servicing the whole of the Common, we expect to do this regularly. Our new hi-vis jackets attracted lots of attention and several ‘thankyous’ which helped make it a fun social occasion, with some light exercise, fresh air, and a bit of a chat thrown in for good measure. There were some old faces and some new ones too. Get in touch and join us for our next foray into the world of litter.

Council deputation

On November 7th, Wandsworth Common Friends and MAC joined forces to make a deputation to the Council with our views on the re-tendering of the Leisure and Culture management contract, currently operated by Enable LC. The contract expires in September 2019 and although it’s been extended by 6 months, a decision on the re-tendering is scheduled by next summer. Our counterparts from Tooting Common and Battersea Park also made deputations, demonstrating strength in numbers. You can read our deputation, which was also supported by the Wandsworth Society, here. We now aim to have detailed discussions with Council officers about the all-important specification of the contract.

Seasonal Tree walks begin

November saw the start of a programme of seasonal walks led by Enable’s tree officers based on Wandsworth Common. Between them they have over 50 years experience and we’re very pleased by their willingness to share their accumulated knowledge. The walks are proving very popular and quickly reach capacity. Jessica Stocks led over 20 of us to some carefully chosen examples of the problems tree officers have to deal with. We learned why, despite every effort, some trees have to be felled, for disease or safety reasons; the criteria for tree planting; the benefits of leaving dead wood to provide habitat for other creatures; the advantages of the London Plane in pollution absorption; the many benefits of street trees. Jess also showed a fascinating internal scan of an ash tree revealing the extent of fungal penetration (not ash dieback, however, which hasn’t reached Wandsworth Common - yet!). Watch out for our next walk soon.

Monthly 'walks & talks' programme

Our Walks and Talks programme has got off to a flying start - literally - with a butterfly walk in August, a bat walk in September, and a photography walk in October. All were very successful, thanks first and foremost to our walk leaders - all experts in their field - who provided their time for free. All the events were a first for us and we’re learning as we go.

We advertise the events to Friends first, then if we still have space, we extend the invite to our wider contact list. However, most of our events so far have been fully subscribed by Friends so if you want to make sure of a place it’s best to join.

We aim to organise an event every month, usually with a nature or activity theme. In November we have another tree walk - these have proved very popular - and a pub quiz. In December we have carol singing and in the New Year a walk to help people walk off the excesses after Christmas. More will be added. Keep an eye on our calendar below for details. And if you have any ideas for a walk theme and/or know someone who might lead one, we’d be only too pleased to hear.