Epsom Common Association
The Epsom Common Association (ECA) has a membership of around five hundred households, and works closely with Epsom & Ewell Borough Council’s Countryside Team and the Lower Mole Partnership to protect and improve the Common.
On Tuesday evenings, from June until the end of August, we will be hand-pulling bracken for a couple of hours to prevent selected areas of heath or grassland from becoming smothered. During the autumn we will hold the three remaining conservation tasks of the year’s programme of eight. Each task runs for two days, usually the third Sunday of the month and the following Monday. The programme is agreed with the Countryside Team, guided by the Council’s Hundred Year Management Plan. The work typically involves removing scrub and small trees to maintain and improve areas of grass and heath or rejuvenate scrub.
By the time this is published, around fifteen cattle should be grazing across three separate pastures, following in the footsteps of their wild and subsequently domesticated ancestors. Every day the cattle must be checked for health, as must the fences and water troughs. Each week the ECA provides four of the daily checks; without this contribution it is unlikely that grazing could continue.
As well as conservation work, each year we: publish three newsletters, hold two public meetings with guest speakers, and arrange several expert led guided walks. Of this summer’s programme, walks for: wildflowers (10th June), butterflies (2nd July) and bush crickets (6th August) are still to take place; you are very welcome to come along.
Finally, we make excellent hardwood charcoal from logs harvested during conservation work. Two years ago, thanks to funding from the Council’s Community Infrastructure Levy, we were able to take delivery of a modern charcoal retort, which has greatly reduced the smoke whilst increasing the yield. Our charcoal is available at local retailers (see website for details), the sales help finance our activities.
Berry Pond, Epsom Common
Last September, funded from a generous legacy in memory of Dave Berry, a volunteer on the Common, we worked with the Lower Mole Partnership to create a new pond. Despite a dry start, by early spring it was full and should provide a new habitat for invertebrates and amphibians. We have funds remaining and are considering overgrown and silted ponds for future restoration.
In February we funded the installation of two Kestrel nest boxes high up in Oak trees. At least one now appears to have been occupied. Might this suggest a shortage of natural nest sites, despite the substantial number of large trees?
Many organisations, including the Countryside Team and members of the ECA, contribute significant effort to monitoring a wide range of animals and plants on the Common. Previously unrecorded species including various dragonflies and the Black Hairstreak butterfly (probably introduced but now breeding); the third year of Grey Herons nesting at Great Pond; and continuing good numbers of many species all suggest that in many respects the habitat management is successful. However losses such as breeding Willow Warblers, declining across the south and east of the UK, demonstrate the limits of individual nature reserves, which have only a tiny impact on climate change and none on damage to other areas of the planet that may be essential for a particular creature’s life cycle.
Female Silver-washed Fritillary
Next year will mark the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the Association. We are considering what celebration might be appropriate, suggestions welcome. If you would like to help the ECA on its next fifty years please do get in touch. It is not all outdoor work, there is also plenty to be done in organisation, publicity and the like.