Greenkeeper's update - Autumn and Winter 2017-18
Most people would agree it has been a cold winter but the signs of spring are visible all over the Green at present. Despite late snowfalls and frosts as well as heavy rains the spring bulbs have put on a good show. Several thousand daffodils and crocus were planted by volunteers in autumn, mainly alongside The Crescent hedgerow, which are now coming into bloom. One can also see wild spring flowers in the vicinity of the pond such as cowslips, primrose, celandine, marsh marigold, and the elegant snake’s head fritillaries.
Many of the wildflowers are within the enclosed meadow areas which have all been weeded, partially dug over and re-sown. The aim over the next 16 months is to create 3 more distinct meadows which will predominantly feature one set of plants in each( natural seed dispersal will cause some overlap of species). These will be the acidic soil meadow, the cornfield annuals meadow, and the perennials meadow. New interpretation will accompany each meadow.
The new BCA boat has been well used over the winter as I have carried out various winter tasks on the island as well as the outer banks. These include pollarding 25% of the willows, cutting down seasonal growth, and digging some plants out of the duck beach area to the north of the island. Some of the brush duck shelters were repaired and given extensions. Birds that can currently be seen nest-building on the island include the swans, coot, moorhen, and assorted geese. Frogs are breeding too with 26 clumps of spawn counted this year which is a similar number to 2017 but still a low-point for the last dozen years.
Bird sightings of note over the winter include a Kingfisher on the pond and small flocks of winter visitors such as Redwings, Fieldfare, and Goldcrest. The last cygnet was released mid –winter on the Thames into a flock of yearlings in Kingston where it could take off more easily and avoid the bullying of its parents as they tried to drive it away. Unfortunately, a swan must generally complete 3 or 4 laps of the pond to gain sufficient height to clear the near-by buildings and trees. This is difficult for cygnets to achieve until they have gained more strength and subsequently they are often relocated at this time to a more open site by The Swan Sanctuary.
Sadly the weeping willow near the OSO Café collapsed this autumn, making the second one in a year to fall- they both appeared to have had rotten cores. I will be meeting with a tree officer from LBRuT soon to discuss possible new trees for the forthcoming year. Continental Landscapes have recently cut the hedge near the pond and earlier in the winter carried out some replanting within the older Crescent hedge. The new triangular planter is due to be replanted this spring with long-season perennials and may be of a similar theme to the planted beds near Olympic Cinema. There may also be an attempt later in the year to re-seed the pond by planting submerged plants such as pond weed and pond lily in gabion cages that will protect against grazing by birds.
The annual Barnes Duck Race took place on Easter Saturday and was well attended as ever. It was a great success and raises significant funds for different community groups. The ground was quite muddy afterwards but already the grass is peaking back through and within a month or two that area alongside the Brook should have returned to normal, once the currently waterlogged main events field dries out.