Ashtead Common, Surrey – Newsletter Feb 2024

Reviving tradition, from woodland to hedge

On a fresh, sunny Saturday morning in January, the Surrey Hedgelaying Group paid a visit to Ashtead Common. Their mission: to harvest hazel stakes and binders destined for laying a hedge at Horsley Meadows. This particular coupe, set to be cut, held historical significance – it was the first one reintegrated into rotation 11 years prior by Shaun, the Senior Ranger upon his arrival to the Ashtead Common team.

The group wasted no time and swiftly got to work. With efficiency and skill, they effortlessly harvested 400 binders and nearly the same quantity of stakes. To Shaun’s delight, the group was very happy with the quality of the hazel; sourcing high-quality hazel had become increasingly challenging in the wake of the decline in ancient crafts like hedge-laying and willow weaving.

Coppicing, once a prevalent practice among commoners and farmers, served as a means of sustenance from the land. The yield from coppiced hazel was indispensable, utilised for everything from supporting crops to fencing, from firewood to charcoal. However, as societal dynamics shifted and dependence on the land waned, many hazel coupes were neglected, left to grow unmanaged and overstood, diminishing their ecological contributions. Reviving the practice of coppicing not only prolongs the life of trees but also encourages a flush of new growth, reaching toward the canopy for sunlight. This rejuvenation creates a diverse range of habitats, fostering a rich mosaic of flora and fauna. Consequently, the varied age and structure of coppiced areas attract a plethora of species, enriching the ecosystem and enhancing biodiversity.
Local countryside volunteer groups joint scrub showdown success!

Despite the chilly weather, there was a great turnout for the popular, annual joint task sessions held at Ashtead and Epsom Common in January. As per tradition, the first task week was held at Ashtead Common before moving over to Epsom Common for the second. A celebratory BBQ was then enjoyed by all at the end of the busy fortnight of targeted scrub management work, carried out during the winter season to open up the habitats to increase biodiversity.

The Lower Mole Partnership conservation crew joined forces with the Ashtead Common volunteers, Epsom & Ewell BC Countryside volunteers, and Ecovols. Everyone achieved an amazing amount of clearance work together – another scrub showdown success!

Find out more about the Lower Mole Partnership conservation crew and how to get involved.
Farewell to Sarah Anderson
We will sadly be bidding farewell (but not goodbye) to Sarah, who has been a vital part of the team at both Ashtead Common and the Coulsdon Commons. For the past 12 years, Sarah has contributed to the smooth running of our sites and has been the friendly voice behind the phone and front desk and much more. Her warmth, kind-heartedness, and ability to make time for everyone will be sorely missed by the team and all who have had the pleasure of working with her!
Events Family Ranger Day – Ashtead Common
Sunday 25 February, 10am-1.30pm
Does your child see themself as a Ranger of the future? Come and join the Ashtead Common Rangers for a taster day in the life of one! £30 per ticket (1 child + 1 adult). Booking via Eventbrite.

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