Greenkeeper’s Update - Autumn/Winter 2018/2019
The warm autumn of 2018 now seems a distant memory and now we have hoar frosts and snow flurries instead. The Green and pond can look very pretty when frozen over on a sunny sub-zero morning, with a few snowdrops, crocus and even early daffodil varieties opening their flowers as they thaw. Look out for the naturalized crocus patch between the ends of Laurel Road and The Crescent which will be in full bloom in February. There will be even more spring flowers this year following the annual bulb plant of about 2000 mixed daffodils by volunteers along The Crescent hedgerow. Native daffodils and Snake’s Head Fritillaries were also added to the wildflower patches whilst Highways carried out some daffodil planting on the triangular traffic island at the head of the High Street. A few small changes have been made recently on the Green such as the removal of the width restriction posts over the Beverly Brook pedestrian bridge. This is to improve access for users of mobility aids. You will also see by the bridge one of the new interpretation boards and another two can be found around the pond. They provide information on the history of the Green and wildlife that can be found there amongst other subjects. You may also see that Friends of Barnes Common have created a new path along the Brook as part of a programme of improvement works for the watercourse. It is hoped that we will be able to build on these works on the Green’s stretch of the Brook in the near future.
The Brook has enjoyed better health in recent years and is populated with a variety of wildlife such as kingfishers, at least 8 species of fish, and there is some evidence of watervoles. However, it is a fragile ecology as recently demonstrated by the Fish-Kill following heavy rain in early autumn as a build-up of pollutants and sediment were quickly washed into the river, reducing oxygen levels. This did demonstrate the numbers of fish in the river, with some chub weighing up to 1.5kg, and hopefully the fish stocks will recover quickly.
Around the pond you may see signs of my winter pruning programme. A third of the willows are cut to the top of the trunk or pollarded each year, which is slightly more often than the generally accepted time frame of every 5 years but is done to avoid the risk of any becoming top heavy, falling over, and possibly puncturing the pond liner. It also creates bushier trees, prolongs life span, and allows light through to the marginal plants. The marginal planting is cleared on a five year rotation with a few areas left untouched to preserve the banks from erosion. Work on the island has also begun which also features the removal of brambles and building additional duck shelters from green materials harvested on site.
Wildlife recently seen on the Green includes a hedgehog which has been using the hedgerows. Mistle Thrushes can be seen most days as well as winter visitors Redwing, Fieldfare and Goldcrest. At the time of writing, there are three Shoveler ducks on the pond, high numbers of tufted duck, and 10 Egyptian goslings which hatched on January 16th. Two cygnets remain but they will soon be chased off by the adults or leave of their own accord as the adults become more territorial. In the event that you find the cygnets away from the Green, do please help them on their way by escorting them across roads or if needs be contact the Swan Sanctuary on 01932240790.
Forthcoming works include further pond island work, digging and reseeding some of the wildflower areas, removal of garden escapees along the Brook, and the final stage of replanting the triangular wooden planter. The BCA has taken over maintenance of this feature from the council on a two year trial. The theme is loosely cottage garden though you will see similarities with the planted beds near Olympic cinema from where some plants were harvested. Hopefully this will provide colour and interest for people and pollinators throughout the growing seasons.
Russell Greaves, Barnes Greenkeeper