Bridleway funding has been withdrawn

20 10 2010

Some time ago I posted about a proposal by Suffolk County Council to improve the path across the common. Unfortunately I have just be told that ‘SCC have withdrawn funding to ensure savings are made on capital projects’.

Do remember that the Commoners Committee were not supportive of the project, explaining that ‘The Trustees are opposed to this proposal as the route would cross very close to the Second and Ninth Tees creating a health and safety problem, as well as encouraging illegal motor cycling‘.

This means that without without support from somewhere else the paths will continue to look like this during the winter.

Puddles across the main East/West Rushmere Common path

More blocked paths

16 07 2010

For some time now I have been noticing that it isn’t as easy as it should be to get across the common for a number of reasons. Generally these come down to poor surfaces, encroachment by foliage and a lack of clear signage and maps at crucial points.

However, the motivation for this post is another issue, which is that a number of paths appear to be being deliberately blocked with branches for reasons I fail to understand.

For example:

Blocked path just inside Common boundary

Another blocked path just inside the common boundary

You can tell that the last one is just inside the boundary because the boundary marker for the common is clearly visible. I have removed branches from these paths on a number of occasions and they keep coming back! I can only assume that this is official policy.

I have already spoken about my issue with the blocking of the ‘police station path‘ so won’t go over that one again. I will however note that the reason given for blocking that one was ‘heath and safety’ but that I can see even less justification for blocking these paths for that reason.

Here is a map showing the location of the above blockages.

Map showing location of blockages

Clearly the blockages are of no great consequence as they stand, but they give a message that says ‘stay away’ rather than ‘come on in and enjoy the common’.

Funny old world.

A major fire

16 07 2010

I crossed Rushmere Common for the first time in a couple of weeks today and saw the results of what had clearly been a major gorse fire which had been much larger than the previous ones that I have reported on.

This latest fire has also unfortunately damaged a number of mature oaks and other trees; I could see about five mature oaks and many other smaller trees, both younger oaks and also a number of birches, with major fire damage.

And here are some photos of the damage taken today:

A young oak burnt almost to the to the top

A small part of the burnt area

The only positive thing to come from this fire is that it will be a number of years before there is another one! My message remains the same though – which is that if there is no ‘controlled’ burning then it seems certain that there will be ‘uncontrolled’ burning which will probably occur when the weather it at its hottest and when there may also be a strong wind.

I would welcome any feedback from the commoners’ committee on what they are doing about this issue, it is possible that they are already planning something with the fire-brigade beyond creating the fire breaks that they have already mentioned but there is nothing to that effect on their website.

Dog walking group?

13 07 2010

Would any other dog walkers be interested in trialling a dog walking group. The intention is to help build a sense of community within this group, for  dog walkers on the common to feel safer and dogs and people to get more exercise. Benefits include:

  • The dogs get more exercise by playing together.
  • Dogs and people get more social contact than walking around alone.
  • People, especially lone women, will feel safer walking around the common in a group particularly as nights draw in.

Groups would meet at designated places, for example the One Stop Shop, at certain times with the times and places arranged to suit the people walking to begin with. Please leave comments below or email:

The gorse fire cycle

27 06 2010

Even before the big fire on the heath today I was researching the gorse fire cycle and had collected some photos from the common showing the various stages of the cycle.

Gorse is always closely associated with fire,  gorse was traditionally collected from Rushmere Common as fuel and it was often used in bread ovens and. When gorse is not proactively managed it will eventually catch fire in an uncontrolled way and the longer the period until that fire the worse it will be. Arson is an obvious source, however even without deliberate burning there are other ways that a fire can start accidentally or naturally.

The Gorse article on wikipedia says:

“Gorse may grow as a fire-climax plant, well adapted to encourage and withstand fires, being highly flammable, and having seed pods that are to a large extent opened by fire, thus allowing rapid regeneration after fire … Typical fire recurrence periods in gorse stands are 5–20 years.”

The RSPB says:

The accumulated dead material also presents an increased fire risk… Cut gorse to ground level and remove or burn the arisings. Also remove the accumulated litter of dead plant material as it is highly flammable

I checked out the heath today and took photos of the different stages of fire cycle which confirmed the quoted articles:

1) Here is what the gorse looks like immediately after a fire (the one today):

Ground still wet after fire is put out

2) After a few months a plant layer is starting growing back:

A few months after a fire

3) And then the gorse starts to re-grow from the base. Notice that heather is also growing well:

New gorse starting to grow

4) and gains height….

Growing fast and gaining height

5) It grows to full size…

Mature gorse

6) And then becomes leggy and starts shedding branches, which die, fall and start to build up the material for the next fire. Gorse is very brittle so breaks easily.

Older gorse shedding branches

7) Large amounts of material builds up at ground level over time.

Large amounts of dead material building up

The conditions are now set for the next fire, and indeed the longer it is left to build up the more serious the fire will eventually be, hence the advice to manage gorse to remove this material mechanically or by controlled burning before this happens.

I understand from a conversation with the commoners’ committee last year that they used to do controlled burning on the heath but that they don’t any more.

What does seem clear is that we will continue to have serious uncontrolled fires on the heath at regular intervals until some more effective management is done. The RSPB recommend that:

“Where discrete patches can be completely isolated from other habitats, they could be burnt in situ, although extreme caution is required as gorse is very flammable.

On the heath this does seem to be the case, especially as the gorse is separated by the fairways and could be managed into such areas – possibly this is being done, I will again ask the committee what their strategy is.

I note that the Rushmere Commoners’s 2009 AGM report mentions that the committee meet with the fire officer and manage fire breaks and access for fire appliances (but it mentions nothing about removal of material or controlled burning):

Firebreaks continue to be cleared and the Warden has recently met with the fire officer to discuss further work to assist access by fire vehicles and widening of breaks.

Before I sign off, this is clearly not just a local problem. Here are some gorse fires in the news in other parts of the country over the past few days.


27 06 2010

There were 6 fire appliances and 40 firemen on the heath this afternoon for a couple of hours fighting another fire in the gorse. There are also official signs on the heath reading ‘Help Stop Arson – Now! Fire kills’ with requests for people to phone 01473 613500 if they have any information about those responsible.

Fire appliances on the heath

A fireman on Rushmere Common

Firemen packing up after this particular fire is out

Ground still wet after being put out

I have written a separate post about the gorse fire cycle.

Update the following day….

As if to drive home the message two fire appliances were back on the heath for another fire in the same area the following day. Is it really best to have to respond to a fire on the hottest day of the whole year?

Another fire in the same area the following day

The ‘police station path’

25 06 2010

The main approach to the common from the Ipswich side is via the footpath to the south of the hospital and then across Heath road using the  toucan crossing. From there one goes down Heath Road and onto the common at the tank traps.

The suggested route onto the common from the tank traps is pretty clumsy with a number of sharp bends; it isn’t convenient for cyclists or for pedestrians being beside a busy 40 mph road part of which is dual-carriageway.

A preferable route which has been available for about 6 months until it was blocked under instruction from the commoners’ committee is more direct. Here it is:

The 'police station' path

The entrance to the path is from the neighborhood police station and avoids the busy Heath Road section.

The normal approach to the common along Heath Road

Here are the routes (original route in blue, the ‘police station path’ in red).

proposed route onto Rushmere Common

As well as being shorter the proposed route avoids passing in front of the 2nd tee (which was one of the reasons for the committee objecting to council’s Bridleway proposal).

I had a meeting with a representative from the committee and with the general manager of the club a few days ago to discuss this path which had been partially blocked by a log. They said they objected to the route on the following groungs:

  1. The route round the back of the green was dangerous (Health and safety).
  2. A cyclist had been spotted using the route at high speed causing a danger (Health and safety)
  3. Part of the route was along a path created by the golf club for their members and this was not available for use by the general public
  4. A section of the route had been created without permission
  5. The route exited by the police station which would create a danger of collision with police leaving their car park in a hurry (Health and Safety).

Personally I am not convinced by the above arguments. The antisocial cyclist can be dealt with by some natural ‘traffic calming’ and by sending a photograph to the police if necessary – no need to inconvenience everyone else. I don’t believe any of the ‘health and safety’ concerns would stand up to scrutiny, especially considering the potentially deadly risks from walking beside busy roads (two boys killed on Bishop’s Hill and then two young adults walking beside Foxhall Road).

The following day these impressive logs arrived across the path.

Logs blocking 'the police station path' on Rushmere Common

Cunningly the golf club also resurfaced the golfers’ path around the green on the same day. It will need a bit of rain and rolling before it is firm, but it will then be a fine example of what some of the public paths across the common could be like with a little effort.

Do note that one can still faintly see the new squares of turf to the right of the path in the above picture. Six months ago there was a gorse hedge and a number of mature trees separating the path from the green. The gorse and trees were removed by the golf club with permission from the commoners’ committee and replaced with turf visible in the picture.

The aerial imagery in the picture below clearly shows the line of gorse and trees to the right of the path (shown in red) prior to this work.

With reference to routes across the common generally my local St John’s Ward councilor commented:

I am a bit fed up with the notion that cyclists are perfectly ok doing 90 degree bends and cycling 50 m out of our way here and 50 m out of our way there.

A local cyclist also commented:

The situation as described by Peter has prevailed for at least 10 years to my knowledge.

Personally I would suggest that there is a little more consideration given to the needs of other groups beyond the golfers (who I have no argument with – all the folk I have spoken to have not had a problem with walkers and cyclists as long as they don’t have picnics on the fairways, ride on the greens and drop litter etc!).