The National Trust at Bookham Commons

Thinking ahead – our long-term strategy for the people and wildlife of Bookham Commons

voleI could be wrong but I would imagine that most people enjoying the commons are thinking of today, tomorrow, next week or possibly next year (with the exception of mortgages and pension plans!) – I look at trees, ponds, grassland plains or paths and wonder what they will be like in ten, twenty, fifty or a hundred years’ time… This vision for the future is an important part of managing the commons properly. If every roadside tree is allowed to grow unchecked the bill for tree surgery in a hundred years’ time will be eye-watering. All the paths will be dark and overgrown. Grassland areas will become dense woodland with plants shaded-out and the associated insects and birds all gone.

Do these changes matter?  The short answer is: Yes! What we have is all that we have…There isn’t another Bookham Commons next-door. Our grassland hasn’t had fertiliser or weed killers applied it is full of wild flowers and herbs and has been grazed by livestock since the middle ages… Nationally we’ve lost 98% of this type of grassland since 1945 – it is very precious. We cannot allow too much more to disappear under thorny scrub and young trees. Problem is most of the birds need the cover of dense young scrub to nest in…

ruddydarterWith the wonderful support of the Friends of Bookham Commons we are planning to provide suitable habitat along the woodland edges where future generations of birds can feed and nest. Careful rotational clearing of the older scrub will encourage new growth, a greater diversity of plants and more insect life – attracting more birds most notably the nightingale whose numbers have declined very suddenly.

This project is also aimed at maintaining the varied landscapes for people to savour. Open grassland, sunny glades, shady woods, ponds and wetlands, hazel coppice and wood pasture will all give visitors some magnificent scenery to enjoy both now and for many many years to come – all made possible by the “Friends” and your far-sighted support…

Ian Swinney – National Trust Area Ranger, Bookham Commons

Photos by Colin Kemp (Vole and Ruddy Darter)

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