The Commons Advisory Panel (CAP) held its quarterly meeting on Monday 1 July. CAP is the body that advises City of Lincoln Council on management of the Lincoln Commons including West Common.
The main topics on the agenda were:
- Work Priorities for the Commons
- Updating the Commons Management Plan 2020-2025
- Discussion on whether CAP would support a request by Lincs Cyclo-Cross to run cyclo-cross events on South Common
1: Work Priorities
Income from matchday parking for Lincoln City football games is being used to improve aspects of the Commons. For West Common this has included:
- New signage at each entrance to West Common
- A fence extension at the West Parade gates to discourage horses from congregating at the gates.
- House Martin nest boxes at the West Common stableblock
- New horse feeding stations (due in 2019)
- Installation of benches on West Common (due in 2019)
This spend supplements other maintenance spending, which has included upgrades to fencing and gates.
CAP discussed the position of benches on West Common, which are likely to be wood with arm rests either end. The locations marked in green below were broadly accepted, with a query on whether the bench by the Victorian pond would be additional. The bench by the Long Leys main gate was queried due to potential conflict with horses and also a wish to discourage problem drinking close to houses. The bench close to the parking area would need to be some distance from the new horse feeding station on Long Leys Road and a decision on this location would be taken once the feeding station was in place.
2: Updating the Commons Management Plan 2020-2025
Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust has carried out surveys (primarily botanical) of each of the Commons, to provide supporting evidence for a management plan. The survey report for West Common is included at the bottom of this page. CAP has organised a sub-team to help develop the management plan. LLRA is represented on this along with WERA, Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust and the Lincoln Commons Horse Association. A draft plan would be discussed at the September CAP meeting with sign off at the December 2019 meeting.
3: Discussion on whether CAP would support a request by Lincs Cyclo-Cross to run cyclo-cross events on South Common
Lincs Cyclo-Cross came to make their case for cyclo-cross events on South Common. They recently had a request to run a 2019 cycling event on South Common turned down by City Council officers, on the basis that this would be inconsistent with the introduction of no cycling symbols on signage on South Common. Lincs Cyclo-Cross argued that the South Common had been used for cyclo-cross since 1977 and had been helpful in supporting the development of young riders, including Stuart Marshall, a Lincoln cyclist who won the junior world championship in 1986.
Whilst premier events had not been run since 2007, in October 2018 a smaller scale event was successfully run on South Common. The location is one of the best venues for cyclo-cross in Lincolnshire and would bring visitors into Lincoln from a wide area.
Concerns were raised at CAP that cyclists could spook the horses and that damage to key vegetation could occur in extreme wet conditions. Parking at a larger event was also suggested as a potential problem and that riders may try to practice on the course on days before the event, when cycling was not generally permitted on South Common. The counter view was that the Commons were a public asset which should welcome and encourage all activities, recognising that there had to be consideration and compromise between different user groups who sometimes had potentially conflicting interests.
CAP decided, by a 6-4 vote, to recommend that Lincs Cyclo-Cross be permitted to run a round of the Lincolnshire Championship on South Common, subject to the organisers working with the City Council and Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust to ensure that any impact on South Common was minimised. Subject to a successful event, then further events may be supported.
Meeting details from Lincoln Common Advisory Panel (CAP) can be seen at: https://democratic.lincoln.gov.uk/mgCommitteeDetails.aspx?ID=141
Background to CAP
Representative groups on CAP include LLRA, WERA (West End Residents Association), South Park Residents Association, Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust, Lincoln Commons Horse Association, The Ramblers Association, Carholme Golf Club and councillors local to each of the Commons.
West Common Survey Report from Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust
West Common, North East of the A57
I initially surveyed the whole common in 2004 at various dates between 28 June and 07 August 2004, whereas the 2019 surveys were on 14 & 15 May. As a result, this year’s data are much more comprehensive with regard to early maturing species, whereas in 2004 the emphasis would have been on later maturing species. However, knowledge obtained in 2004 and during subsequent visits undoubtedly allowed me to find some scarce species in 2019 that I would probably have missed if this had been a first visit.
In 2004, all parts except the straight mile were grazed by a substantial number of horses year-round, except for a 6 week closure in May/April that is sometimes enforced by the council following discussion with the Commons Advisory Panel. At that time, some botanically-rich land in the west formed part of the Carholme Golf Course, with mown fairways, greens and tees. Subsequently, use for golf and associated management ceased, but it is not clear if this has had a negative effect on the flora. A re-visit in summer 2019 is needed to provide clarification, but I am happy that the current level of horse grazing is achieving satisfactory results, here and across the site.
There are a number of small wet hollows and one much larger area that is shallowly flooded when the water table is high. The latter is dominated by mud during wet times and dusty conditions when dry, with sparse vegetation. All these wetlands are of prime importance for plants and so must not be drained or otherwise altered. The flora observed here in 2019 included virtually all the key species first noted in 2004, but some were present in smaller numbers. It is hoped that this is a reflection of the current drought and numbers will rise again when wetter conditions return.
Another interesting habitat occupies hummocky ground opposite the grandstand. Here plants of thin and infertile soils flourish and include some species absent from all other parts. Continued grazing is required.to maintain the short sward.
The straight mile flora seemed better in 2019 compared to 2004, but I think that is largely because the coarse sward tends to swamp desirable species later in the year. What is clear is that a hay crop should be taken every year as soon as possible after the beginning of July. This should then be followed by grazing until then end of the growing season in November to create a short sward at that time.
The pond looks to be in good condition, but recently planted poplars should be removed, as it is important to keep shading and leaf accumulation to a minimum and to minimise numbers of non-native trees and other non-native species.
The fenced-off copses are a recent, negative feature of the common, created by planting. No resources should be devoted to their management, which would at least allow more dead wood habitat to develop.
Maintaining relatively heavy grazing is essential for the well-being of the whole area, and therefore the amount of grazing should be kept under review. Botanical interest is concentrated in the west, but the structural diversity of a well-grazed sward benefits plants, invertebrates, birds and other fauna throughout.
West Common, South West of the A57
The golf course dominates this area, as it did in 2004. Botanically-poor grassland is still widespread, either where there is intensive mowing or no mowing at all. Examples of the latter occur under the large numbers of planted trees between fairways. Species-richness is largely confined to site margins, to internal ponds and small drains, and to some areas of ‘rough’ that are not dominated by coarse vegetation.
Two of the 3 ponds are currently dominated by open water, which is good for native plants, dragonflies, damselflies, amphibians and other aquatic fauna (I didn’t look at the third). I was particularly pleased to see that large amounts of invasive and/or non-native vegetation have been removed from the western pond. Consideration should be given to renovation of the old swimming pool, to create a shallow water feature.
Any deepening of internal and marginal drains should be resisted, as this may lead to decreased water levels in the ponds and damp areas. However, the current regime of occasional vegetation cutting in and beside the various small, internal drains is beneficial.
A drain on the south-western boundary, close to the Fossdyke Navigation, supports a rich wetland flora, but only where there is plentiful open water. Therefore, I would recommend substantial cutting back and removal of overhanging bushes and trees to reduce shading, combined with occasional clearance of coarse vegetation on the golf course side. Similarly, a botanically-valuable drain close to the Catchwater Drain in the north-west corner of the site would benefit from shade reduction. There is also a bigger drain immediately north of the northern boundary and it would help if management of the damp grassland habitat on its southern side could be introduced. This would entail cutting and removal of the vegetation at least once a year in late summer or autumn.
Jeremy Fraser Wildlife Sites Officer