We are very lucky to have so much common land around our towns - not just Reigate Heath, Earlswood and Redhill commons but common land extends to the roadside grassland and verges, for example around Pendleton Road and the Horley Road (A23). Common land is usually owned by the council and there are strict rules about developing it, managed by a steering group of stakeholders.
Our recent Wild Earlswood survey showed how much interest there is among local residents in the commons being managed to be more diverse for the benefit of wildlife - see our summary.
Reigate and Banstead Borough Council Greenspaces team are at last re-writing the management plan for Earlswood Common (it expired in 2013) and will this time be including Redhill Common. We spoke with David Watts, the Countryside and Woodland Officer who is leading on this; he thought this plan could take until the end of 2021 to be agreed by the council due to their slow processes, but meanwhile there is discussion with the mowing contractors about changes to the mowing regime for this year to reduce mowing in some areas. We are looking forward to hearing back from him on the specifics of this.
Leaving grassland longer between mows offers habitat for wildlife and enables wildflowers for our essential pollinators.
Since the Second World War, Britain has lost 97% of its wildflower meadows – that’s three million hectares, an area equivalent to the size of Devon, Norfolk, North Yorkshire, Cumbria and Kent combined. Intensive agriculture and poor management have been responsible for this loss. Countryfile article on verges April 2020
By reclaiming the grassland on Earlswood Common back from being fairways since the golf club closed, we have opportunities for nurturing a more wild and nature-friendly common.
Speaking with a local councilor, Natalie Bramhall, she had experience of there being complaints from local residents when grass is left long, for being unsightly. We do appreciate there is some education to do about the benefits of longer grass, and decisions about where to have shorter grass for recreational purposes. Perhaps the councils need to receive a larger counter-pressure from people who wish the grass to be left. It needs time to flower and seed, but still mown to stop larger plants establishing.
The combination of trees and grassland of our commons could lend itself to being ‘Woodmeadow’ - a woodland and meadow ecosystem. See here for an inspiring project in Yorkshire where land has been nurtured towards a rich biodiverse habitat and is being valued for these characteristics.
Cost and ease of management needs to not be the deciding factor...
"It is less costly to conserve nature than restore it”, Professor Dasgupta.
The Dasgupta Review – which was commissioned by HM Treasury – sets out the ways in which we should account for nature in economics and decision-making.
Written by Professor Sir Partha Dasgupta, the review of evidence calls for urgent and transformative change in how we think, act and measure economic success to protect and enhance our prosperity and the natural world.
He explains that natural processes are mobile, silent and invisible – taken together it is hard to trace the harms inflicted to who is responsible. No institution can be devised to be responsible and each of us needs to be responsible. Individuals need to develop an affection for nature, from childhood, to feel a strong responsibility.
You may not know that COP15 (the fifteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties ) to the Convention on Biological Diversity will meet on the 17th may to review the goals set in the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020. This review is timed to feed into this event. See the United Nations website here.
Keep an eye on our Wild Earlswood web page for information about upcoming events to improve our natural environment