West Wickham Commons Newsletter – May

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May 2021
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Burgeoning bluebells
If you’ve been on a walk in the last few weeks you might have noticed the intense blue carpet of bluebells stretching out beneath the woodland canopy of Spring Park and West Wickham Common. 

Bluebells are an indicator of ancient woodlands – places where soils have been left undisturbed for hundreds of years. As one of the most well-know wildflowers in the UK, bluebells are surrounded in myth and history – bluebells have been used to stiffen ruff collars in Elizabethan times, to bind books and cure maladies including snakebites and leprosy. In more recent times, scientists are currently researching how the toxic properties in bluebells could help treat cancer. Sadly, our native bluebell is losing ground to the Spanish bluebell. Introduced by the Victorians as a garden plant, the Spanish bluebell has made it ‘over the garden wall’ and out into the wild where it crossbreeds with our native plants and produces fertile hybrids with a mix of characteristics.


Making use of the coppiced wood
The Rangers have been continuing with the repairs and replacement of fences across Spring Park and West Wickham Common. This month, sections of the chestnut fence along the boundary of Spring Park and Sparrow’s Den has been the focus of the team’s tasks. Much of the material has been sourced from the coppicing work to the chestnut coups in the Spring Park woodland over the last few years.

Coppicing is the woodland management technique of repeatedly felling trees at the base (or stool), and allowing them to regrow, in order to provide a sustainable supply of timber. This practice has a number of benefits over replanting, as the felled trees already have developed root systems, making regrowth quicker and less susceptible to browsing and shading.
 
It can be dated back to the Stone Age by the discovery of Neolithic, wooden track ways that have been constructed entirely from coppiced material. These days the demand for coppice timber is lower, but it remains a popular conservation practice for the benefits it offers to wildlife and to the trees themselves. Trees naturally retrench (shedding their branches to extend their lifespan) and coppicing can be an excellent way of simulating this to increase the life of the tree.
 
It also increases woodland biodiversity, as greater amounts of light can reach the ground, allowing other species to grow there. Many of these species are food sources for butterflies and other insects, which in turn provide food for birds, bats and mammals. Making use of the woodland material is a great way of keeping the conservation process of coppicing at Spring Park as sustainable as possible.
 
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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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