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Welcome to the West Wickham Commons Newsletter covering West Wickham Common and Spring Park. FacebookTwitterYouTubeWebsiteEmail
Early flowering, blackthorn is one of the first trees to blossom in the year, attracting pollinators such as bumblebees, bee flies and honeybees foraging for sources of nectar.
Spiny and densely branched, mature trees can grow to a height of around 6–7m and live for up to 100 years. The dark brown bark is smooth, and twigs form straight side shoots which develop into thorns. Blackthorn is a hermaphrodite, meaning both male and female reproductive parts are found in one flower. White flowers appear on short stalks before the leaves in March and April, either singularly or in pairs.
At Spring Park there is a long line of blackthorn along the west edge of the meadow by the office. The profusion of white flowers is made all the more spectacular by the variation in blackthorn ages and heights. This age difference is created by cutting on a rotation and is done so to provide the right conditions for the brown hairstreak butterfly – this butterfly species lays its eggs on young blackthorn and newly emerged caterpillars will feed exclusively on blackthorn leaves.
Recovering from a busy year
The West Wickham and Spring Park volunteers, also known as the WASP’s, will soon be back out in action helping with conservation and maintenance tasks across the two sites albeit in smaller groups – it’s been a while but I am sure everyone is raring to go again!
In the meantime, the Rangers have been busy adding new chestnut pale fencing around some of the veteran oak pollards on West Wickham Common. Their function is to protect the ground underneath these magnificent giants of the woodland – compact soils from trampling is one of the the biggest threats to tree health when they reach such an old age. Other fencing jobs have been carried out to direct visitors onto the established paths and prevent new ones appearing. These so called desire lines start quickly when new visitors go off the marked paths and can alter the ground flora and push nature away into other areas. 2020 was a bumper year for visitors to the Common and the higher footfall has shown strain on the site. It certainly won’t be the last fencing job of the season as work will turn towards replacing some of the chestnut rail fencing in the woodland at Spring Park.
Taking the lead from the MET Police
Since the start of the COVID pandemic over one year ago, there has been a huge rise in the number of visitors to the Commons and an accompanied by their four-legged companions. Sadly, we regularly hear about lost dogs and see firsthand the issues of dog fouling. More recently and worryingly, there have been cases locally of attempted dog thefts.
We’ve spoken to Heath Keogh who heads up the Met Police L.E.A.D (Local Environmental Awareness on Dogs) on the simple steps dog owners can take to stay safe and respect people and wildlife when using open spaces.
How should new dog owners train their dogs around people, children and livestock?
Bringing a new dog into the family home, whether it be a new puppy from a reputable breeder or a rescue from a charity such as Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, Blue Cross, RSPCA etc. Is something that is exciting; but also comes with great responsibility.
There is no doubt that all puppies are cute regardless of the breed of dog. However some breeds can grow to be quite big and powerful and others very small and in need of special care and consideration. So, it is important that people carry out their own homework and research on the traits of the breed of dog that they are considering. Information on all dog breeds can be found on such websites such as The Kennel club, Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, The Blue Cross and the RSPCA.
Some questions that a new owner and their family should consider are:Can I be a responsible owner?Can I devote time and effort to training and caring for a new dog?Can I afford it?Just how house proud are you? Do I have enough room for a dog?Children and possible other pets: Will everyone get along?If the answer to any of these questions is no. Then serious consideration should be given to whether a dog is the correct pet for you and your family. Basic training of your dog starts from the very first day you bring your new pet home. It is very important and your responsibility, that you start training your pet from an early age, up to and throughout their adulthood; so that you have a well balance and well-behaved dog.
Early socialisation is also important, in a control environment. This can be achieved by enrolling in puppy classes or seeking help and advice through your vet or dog organisations and professionals in your area. Teaching your pet how to behave around other people and especially children is imperative, while teaching your dog how to behave around other dogs, animals and livestock is just as important also.
Why is it important for dogs to be on leads?
In certain areas and circumstances, it is also important to keep your dog on a lead. This may be because your dog is boisterous and jumps up at people or poor recall. Or there is a local authority PSPO (Public Spaces Protection Order) or Governing Body Byelaw in place; which makes it an offence to have your dog off a lead in certain areas or at certain times of the day or year. Failure to comply with such laws could lead to you being heavily fined or taken to court over the matter. It is also important to keep your dog on a lead especially around Livestock, i.e. Sheep, Cattle, Horses etc. Livestock worrying is a criminal offence and comes under the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953.
‘Worrying’ is where a dog attacks or chases livestock causing injury or suffering. This isn’t just a threat to a farmer or landowner’s livelihood, it’s also a dangerous situation for livestock and the dog involved and could result in them both being killed.
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The City of London Corporation has seven green spaces in South London and Surrey covered by three charities: Ashtead Common, Coulsdon Commons and West Wickham Commons. Each charity has its own Newsletter and you can now:
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