At the centre of Chorleywood lies its beautiful Common, 80 hectares (approx. 200 acres) of grassland, and woodland, declared a County Heritage Site and has Local Nature Reserve status on account of its conservation value and high ecological importance.This is one of the most important wildlife sites in Hertfordshire, combining acid heathland, neutral grassland and chalk meadow all on one site, together with a series of ponds supporting rare plants and amphibians and secondary woodland which has grown up since commoners’ cattle ceased grazing after World War I. Some 70 plant species, 50 birds and almost 300 fungi have been recorded on the Common in addition to squirrels, rabbits, foxes, hedgehogs, voles, woodmice and Muntjac deer.
Chorleywood Common - Annual Projects Works Programme 2016/17
The Parish Council agree an annual work programme based on the information from the Management Plan. The majority of the work is carried out during the winter months. The current plan was agreed in November 2016, for the forth coming year.
Recreation and Leisure
The Common also provides a centre for recreation and leisure activity, both formal and informal. As a Registered Common owned by a Local Council, the public has right of access on foot for “air and exercise”. Subject only to reasonable bye-laws, residents and visitors alike enjoy recreations such as walking, jogging, kite flying and ball games.
Chorleywood Common has a permissive horse track, this is clearly marked with signs on the circular route around the common. The 1954 Scheme of regulation and the 1995 bylaws prohibit horse riding on the common unless on the permissive horse track.
The Council have become concerned about the increase in horses not using this permissive horse track, in breach of the byelaws, causing damage to the wild flowers and being a potential danger to dogs and small children. We have also been advised that it is unlikely that riders will be insured if they ride on Chorleywood Common outside of the horse track.
We respectfully ask that horse riders stick to the horse track designated for their use.
More formal recreation is provided by Chorleywood Golf Club which maintains a nine-hole course on the Common.
Chorleywood Cricket Club has its pavilion and playing square on the Common adjoining the A404. Established in the mid-19th century by the first salaried secretary of the MCC, it supports three senior elevens and three very promising junior teams. Two of the colts sides reached the County finals day in 2007.
There is also a circular walk on the Common.
The Council has adopted a detailed Management Plan for the Common and the implementation of this plan has resulted over the last few years in the recovery of all seven ponds, the steady return of heather and gorse to the heathland areas and a magnificent annual display of wild flowers and associated butterflies in the chalk meadow. Work to improve the condition of the woodland is at present underway.
The administration of the Common is undertaken by the Parish Rangers who carry out the many day to day maintenance tasks required. The Rangers may be contacted at the Parish Council office on 01923 285594.
Update on the Top Common ponds work from the Common Parish Ranger (June 2016)
The top Common Pond certainly appears to be muddy still. This however is to be expected after the amount of disturbance caused by the Winter maintenance work. It will take a long time to settle and this is normal as the water was not removed from the pond prior to works commencing. By retaining the water whilst carrying out these works, we will have allowed species to remain present within the pond which would otherwise have disappeared had the water been removed.
The aim of the clearance work was to remove the blanket of vegetation within the pond, which, if allowed to remain would have slowly seen the pond evolving into bog before being lost altogether. It is a known Great Crested Newt (GCN) breeding pond and this species needs water to breed and it also needs areas free of vegetation to display and breed successfully.
The pond is now providing both of these requirements and GCNs and smaller species of newt have used it for breeding this season, with eggs having been laid on bog bean and water-forget-me-not. So in terms of improving conditions for newts it has proved successful.
As marginal plants begin to establish themselves properly water clarity will improve more quickly although the process can be very slow, especially if dogs continually disturb the water by running in and out. Fish have now been noted in this pond and again water clarity can be affected by their presence. Look at Darvells pond and this lack of clarity can also be noted there. It is unfortunate that members of the public can’t resist from placing fish in newly cleared ponds even if they are surrounded by signs asking them not to do so.
To try to judge the success of this project so recently after maintenance work is a little premature, considering the pond hasn’t seen such intensive maintenance work since the 80’s and is unlikely to need any more for 2-3 decades at least. For this reason the success of this project cannot be judged in the first few months after such disturbance, and will be measured over the coming years.
However I can reiterate the main aim of removing vegetation to allow the pond to be more suitable for GCN’s has been achieved and the pond will develop naturally over time, providing suitable conditions for a whole host of wildlife.
Let’s just hope the fish don’t become a problem as they are the biggest threat to ponds like this!
Ponds on the Common
Ponds are small bodies of water. Due to this their resources are limited and their ecosystems fragile. True wildlife ponds contain no fish, so apex predators within these communities tend to be amphibians e.g. newts and larvae and insects e.g. dragonfly nymphs. These species will eat invertebrates and each other. However, due to their size and the rate at which they eat, most invertebrate species can keep up their numbers to match the predation rate. Newt larvae will eat newt larvae, tadpoles and invertebrates, adult newts will eat newt larvae, tadpoles and invertebrates, adult newts will eat newt larvae, tadpoles and invertebrates and dragonfly nymphs will eat the same. The invertebrates consist of nymphs of insects, e.g. gammarus shrimp, daphnia and water slaters amongst others. Many of these eat single cell algae and plant materials. With all these species combined you get a healthy ecosystem where all species face a good chance of survival. Organisms like Daphnia eat single cell algae, which would otherwise turn the water green. This provides clear water conditions in which plants thrive due to good levels of light.
When fish enter this ecosystem they begin to alter it. They will happily eat tadpoles, larvae of newts (especially Great Crested Newts as due to their nature they sit in open water hunting and are extremely vulnerable, other newt species larvae tend to hide and are less vulnerable to predation), invertebrates such as Daphnia, dragon and damsel fly nymphs and plant material.
Over time fish decimate populations of invertebrates, by predation, they have a massive impact on Amphibian numbers due to eating their young and also competing with them for the same food sources. Ponds with fish also tend to support fewer plants as species such as Daphnia are preyed upon and water turns green because nothing is left to eat the algae, levels of light drop making conditions difficult for plants (see Darvells pond and note the colour of the water) and levels of fertility increase, causing changes in plant and invertebrate communities.
So with the introduction of fish, a pond that has high levels of biodiversity can very easily and quickly be ruined for most of the species contained within. Over time, species like the European protected Great Crested Newts will become extinct from that particular pond, population numbers of other amphibian species will steadily decline, as will abundance of invertebrate and plant species, until the ecosystem in the pond is altered beyond recognition and it becomes a poor area for wildlife.
As Great Crested Newts are a European protected species, this protection extends to their habitats. Due to this alone it is important to remove fish. It also states in our Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) agreement "Do not intentionally introduce any plants or animals (including fish) to the pond".
For any further information or detail please speak to Parish Ranger Andrew.
Grazing on Chorleywood Common
The cattle have now come off the Common for the Summer and will return late August early September for the next period of grazing.
From time to time Friends of Chorleywood Common, who oversee aspects of its use, organise a traditional "Beating of the Bounds" day when local families help by walking the entire length of its boundary. Children in particular are welcomed so that they can learn about the Common and how its boundaries can be protected from encroachment. Willing young volunteers are sometimes suspended head downwards en route with the aim of ensuring that they remember this Rogation Sunday event and continue the tradition on to future generations.
Christ Church, the Parish Church and a local landmark stands facing the Common on the A 404. The original church was built in 1845 as a chapel of ease to Rickmansworth. When this building became dilapidated it was demolished, with the exception of the tower, and rebuilt to a design by Street. The new church was consecrated in December 1870. It has a cedarwood spire of unusual form on the flint built west tower and inside there is a fine traceried opening between the chapel and the south chapel.
Chorleywood Common Management Plan
Copies of the Management Plan, which gives a full picture of the Commons’ history, topography with lists of species and the Councils management aims are available here. A free leaflet giving details of the Circular Walk may also be obtained from the office.
Damage Caused to Rare Orchids on Chorleywood Common - Press Release - 8th March 2016
Twelve rare Bee Orchids were killed over the weekend of 27th February. They were trampled by horse riders who failed to use the permissive horse track.
Click here to read the press release.
New Spider Species Recorded on Chorleywood Common | August 2014
A spider species has been recorded for the first time on Chorleywood Common this year. The un-mistakable spider Argiope Bruennichi or Wasp Spider was first noted in the middle of August in an area of grass between Shepherds Bridge and Cherry Tree Cottages whilst butterfly recording.