People’s Postcode Lottery – Grant funding award!

Sutton Nature Conservation Volunteers have been granted a generous award by the People’s Postcode Lottery, as part of their Postcode Local Trust.

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SNCV applied to the Postcode Local Trust to undertake work with heavy horses at Sutton Common Paddock, a newly designated Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC). Although the meadow area (about 1.7ha) has an amount of wildflowers and grasses, the SNCV and Sutton’s Biodiversity Team are very keen on enhancing the variety of flora and fauna on this site.

Lowland meadows like this are very scarce in the local area and we want as many people as possible to engage with the joys natural grasslands can bring. The UK’s lowland meadows are also thought to have declined by 97% from pre-World War II numbers, mainly through agricultural changes. As such, this work contributes to wider meadow restoration objectives.

The Postcode Local Trust is a grant-giving charity funded entirely by players of People’s Postcode Lottery. Our project has received a massive £9,650 from the Trust to use heavy horses from Operation Centaur to mow and till the paddock area, so that lots of bare ground is created. Once we have bare ground, we can seed with a mix of wildflowers and grasses specially adapted to the challenging conditions of heavy clay.

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Heavy horses from Operation Centaur

Because the site is on clay, it is very wet during the winter months and dry and cracked during the summer months.

Over the last few years, the SNCV and Biodiversity Team have tried a variety of management techniques, to increase the number and variety of wildflowers. Unfortunately, these haven’t worked as well as we would have wished, mainly, we think, because one species of grass, creeping bent Agrostis stolonifera creates a ‘blanket effect’ of grass, which prevents seed from making contact with the soil and growing. By creating bare ground, we can ensure the desired seed species get a good start, without being smothered by creeping bent.

Using heavy horses is a new venture for nature conservation in Sutton. Because the site is often so wet, tractors get stuck, whereas the horses can work in wetter conditions, without damaging the site and compacting the soil.

Once we have seeded the site, we will be asking for volunteers to come and help us plant lots of new wildflower plugs. These are pre-grown and provide greater structure than  from seed alone, as well as flowering more quickly.

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Hay rattle

One species we are keen to encourage is hay rattle Rhinanthus minor, a hemiparisite wildflower, which, as well as undertaking photosynthesis, steals nutrient from grasses. In high numbers, it can help to reduce grass vigour, enabling other wildflowers greater opportunity to thrive.

 

If you want to see the horses in action, head down to Sutton Common Paddock tomorrow (Tuesday 4th September) or Wednesday (5th September) between 10am and 2pm. Tom and the guys are happy to chat (at least whilst giving the horses a rest!). The entrance to the Paddock area is just off Morden Way: https://goo.gl/maps/fQouZoXy9322

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Booking System update

You may have noticed we have recently updated the booking system, making it more user friendly. As part of this work, we have also updated the URL (web page address) to https://suttonecology.getconnect2.com/. This works from our Events page, which works through both the Google calendar and for each event description, which requires booking.

If you have book-marked the old URL (http://37.188.117.158/suttonecology/),vthis no longer works, so please update to the new address!

In addition, you will also see that we have slightly updated the Terms and Conditions on the frontpage, to make them compliant with the new GDPR policies.

Tesco’s Bags of Help

Sutton Nature Conservation Volunteers are bidding to bag a massive cash boost from the Tesco Bags of Help initiative.

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With your help we hope to be able to secure £4,000 for our Glorious Glades project which we hope to deliver at Queen Mary’s Woodland in Carshalton Beeches. Having been short listed we need your vote to help us secure the grant, which will enable us to plant hundreds of wild flowers for butterflies, beetles and bees.

Voting for local short listed projects opens in July and runs until the end of August. All you have to do is make a purchase at a local Tesco store, ask for a token and pop it in our slot at the voting station. It’s as simple as that.

You can vote on as many occasions as you like, so please don’t forget to ask for your token !

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Biodiversity Education Volunteer – vacancy

We now have an opportunity for someone to assist our Education Officer in the delivery of our spring and summer school and holiday activities.

Children at Queen Mary’s Woodland

This role is suitable for candidates who are looking to improve their career opportunities in  environmental education or gain experience of working with children, as well as candidates who are looking for a rewarding long term volunteering opportunity.

The successful candidate will be supporting the Biodiversity Education Officer in all aspects of running the London Borough of Sutton’s Biodiversity Education Service. This includes bookings, promotion and resource preparation and delivery of education sessions. Full training will be provided.

For more infromation and how to apply, check out the job description!
Biodiversity Education Volunteer Description 2018

Marching on, the month of Mary’s

The release of a new task programme can be a time of excitement, as we look forward to the forthcoming season. At this time of year, particularly when we’ve had a cold winter, it is always nice to think of warmer and longer days. This programme is no different, with the usual mix of practical habitat management and site monitoring.

But as Sutton’s Biodiversity Team are soon to bid farewell the their Project Officer, who has been spearheading the transformation at Queen Mary’s Woodland, it is only fitting that the programme kicks off with Task Days that continue this good work. And by way of a conclusion the last day of the programme in June, sees a botanical survey at the woods to help record what has been achieved.

So if you want to join Alex, Dave, Mark and the rest of the SNCV regulars, we would love to welcome you to the team.

March 2018 to June 2018

Task days take place every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, as well as on weekend dates throughout the month.

One person’s Task Day is another person’s chance to get out in the fresh air, meet like minded people and contribute to something worthwhile. Programme out NOW !

The new task programme is now out

November 17 – February 18

For many the recent clock change will no doubt mark the point in the year where thoughts turn to the rich colours of leaves, frosty mornings and sitting by a warm fireside. Or an efficiently heated radiator, for the more clean air minded amongst you.

So as the celebration of  Sutton Nature Conservation Volunteers’ 30th year draws to a close, why not join fellow volunteers for some fresh air and the reward of natural beauty, as we try and cram in a host of conservation activities into the darkening days.

Task days take place every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, as well as on weekend dates throughout the month.

Sutton Common Scrape all planted up!

As mentioned in my previous post on Sutton Common, October 25th was set to be a planting day – and plant we did!
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With a great group of volunteers we sunk over 100 new plants into the thick, sticky clay substrate at Sutton Common scrape. We even did some seeding and thistle pulling to round out the day – well done everyone!

All the plants selected for planting at Sutton Common scrape had been chosen for their ability to tolerate dampness, wetness and even periods of drought. As the seasonal pond is filled entirely by rainwater and dries out naturally in the summer, using hardy wetland and pond margin plants is important to ensure they survive year on year.

These plants will provide not only nectar and pollen sources for invertebrates but shelter and food for animals throughout the year. The plants chosen will send up flowers at different times, growing at different heights and densities to help diversify the habitat of the pond, allowing it to be useful to wildlife in as many ways as possible each year.

Here are the species we planted, so you can keep an eye out for them in the future! It’s worth noting though, it may take some time for them to become properly established.

Common Fleabane (Pulicaria dysenterica) Pic ©
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This native member of the daisy family is a pretty feature of damp settings throughout England, supplying Bees, Hoverflies and Butterflies an important source of pollen and nectar in the late summer. This densely hairy plant can grow up to a metre tall in good conditions and the 15-30mm flowers grow in clusters from July to September.

Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia) Pic ©
Creeping JennyCreeping Jenny is an attractive plant of pond margins, wet grassland and river banks, common particularly in the South of England. As the name suggests it creeps, low to the ground through other vegetation, preferring the shade to full sunlight. It has heart shaped or rounded green leaves and sends up cup shaped yellow flowers in the summer from May to August.

Cuckoo Flower/ Lady’s Smock (Cardamine pratensis) Pic©

Lady's smock2Cuckoo Flower, also known as Lady’s Smock is a beautiful, delicate flower of damp grassy areas – it has my vote (possibly tied with Flowering Rush – see below) for the prettiest plant in the list. Its pale pink to mauve flowers are a herald of springtime, said to coincide with the arrival of the first Cuckoo (although I think you’d be incredibly lucky to see a cuckoo on Sutton Common!)

Cuckoo flower is a main larval food plant of the Orange Tip and Green Veined White butterflies – so with any luck we’ll see an increase in these related species too!

 

Flowering Rush (Butomus umbellatus) Pic©

Flowering_RusDespite the name, flowering rush is not a ‘true’ rush in the Juncus genus, but one of the two known members of the Butomaceae family. It is a tall and highly attractive plant with umbels of pinky purple flowers on show in June and July. We planted these in the middle of the seasonal pond as they tend to prefer wetter conditions, often growing in shallow water and the margins of ponds, rivers and canals.

 

Glaucous Sedge (Carex flacca)  Pic©
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Sedges are grass-like plants with angled stems (most are somewhat triangular).
Glaucous Sedge is so called because it’s leaves are glaucous – a very specific term meaning a greyish blue-green.

Sedges are very hardy and can be found in both dry and wet conditions, growing in low clusters on grassland and moorland throughout the UK.

The inconspicuous browny-red flowers tend to grow in groups of 3 female flowers, near the top of the stem, and 2 male ones further down.

Great Burnet (Sanguisorba officinalis) Pic©
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At up to a metre in height, Great Burnet has serrated green leaves and egg or lollipop shaped red flowers which attract pollinators in the wet meadows and grasslands where it grows.

It flowers from July to September but the dead flowers can persist long into the winter.

Greater Birdsfoot Trefoil (Lotus pedunculatus) Pic©
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Greater Birdsfoot Trefoil looks a lot like it’s little brother, Lotus corniculatus , only larger with a stout, hollow stem and tiny hairs on the leaves. It also enjoys damper habitats.

Greater Birdsfoot Trefoil has dark green foliage and bright yellow flowers from June to August before developing into the ‘birds foot’ shaped seed pods which give the plant it’s name.

A member of the pea family, Greater Birdsfoot trefoil is the only British legume to grow in wetlands!

 

 

Gypsywort (Lycopus europaeus)
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We already had Gypsywort growing at Sutton Common so we hope all that we planted will thrive there.

With its serrated green leaves and small white flowers, Gypsywort can be easily mistaken for a nettle or a mint – to which it is quite closely related.

Its small flowers are commonly visited by flying insects like hoverflies, who feed on them in the summer to early autumn.

 

Rushes – Hard, Soft and Jointed (Juncus sp. – inflexus, effusus, articulatus) Pic©
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I’ve placed the Juncus species in one section here as they are superficially quite similar.

In general, hard rush is harder and darker than soft rush – both of which have single inflorescences, and jointed rush has more flowering heads than both.
Rushes grow in dense grassy stands and offer good shelter for birds and small mammals.

They are also eaten by many species of invertebrate including a number of moths which use them as larval host plants.

 

Hemp Agrimony (Eupatorium cannabinum) Pic©
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Hemp agrimony gets the ‘hemp’ part of it’s common name and the ‘cannabinum’ in the Latin from a passing resemblance to the well known ‘weed’ Cannabis sativa.

The deeply three-lobed, toothed leaves do look somewhat reminiscent of the narcotic plant, but the clusters of pretty pink flowers make Hemp Agrimony an attractive plant in and of itself, offering a food source for butterflies such as Red Admiral and Small Tortoiseshell from July to September.

 

 

Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria)
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Purple Loosestrife is a large flowering plant with striking pink to magenta blooms of flowers, which are visited by many types of invertebrates.

In the height of summer (June to August), long tongued species such as the Elephant hawk moth and the Brimstone butterfly can access it’s sweet nectar.

The long green stems are flanked by pointed leaves growing opposite each other, and the flowers grow in large conical arrangements.

 

 

 


Ragged Robin (Lychnis flos-cuculi)
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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARagged Robin is a beautiful plant. Its bubblegum pink flowers remind me of me somewhat, not because they’re pink but because they’re raggedy and scruffy, hence the name.

Interestingly the specific epithet flos-cuculi means ‘flower of the cuckoo’, for the same reason as the Cuckoo Flower mentioned earlier!

The flowers are used as nectar sources by namy butterflies including Small and Large Whites, Brimstones and Orange-Tips.

Sneezewort (Achillea ptarmica) Pic©
Achillea_ptarmica_'The_Pearl'_02Sneezewort is related to the rather more common Yarrow (Achillea millefolium), which I can tell you makes a rather lovely tea. Sneezewort however, was apparently used as a sneezing powder in the past – why one would want to induce sneezing is anyone’s guess!

Sneezewort has feathery leaves and pretty white and off-white flowers which are particularly good for hoverflies, who apparently don’t sneeze.

Water Figwort (Scrophularia auriculata) Pic©

water figwortWater figwort is a long-flowering plant (June to September) with deep crimson flowers which are pollinated by various bees and the common wasp.

The red stems are noticeably 4-ridged and flanged, and the leaves are toothed. The specific epithet auricularia refers to the ‘ears’ or lobes at the base of most leaves (this may not be observable when the plant is immature) – this is visible on the bottom right leaf in the picture.

 

 

 

Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) Pic©
Filipendula_ulmaria.jpgMeadowsweet is a sweet smelling plant of wet meadows, once used to flavour meads with its fragrance.

While in flower, you might notice Meadowsweet by it’s smell before seeing the actual flowering heads. They are just as pleasant as the aroma, with sprays of tiny, creamy white flowers atop long stems – which are very popular with certain fly species.

Devil’s Bit Scabious (Succisa pratensis) Pic©
Devil's_Bit_Scabious_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1497894Devil’s bit Scabious flowers long into the Autumn with its rounded, blue, nodding flower heads on show from July to the end of October.

These flower heads attract a great many butterfly species including some Skippers, Hairstreaks, Peacocks, Gatekeepers and Meadow Browns, making it a great plant to have around.

Let’s hope we see more butterflies at Sutton Common as a result!

Autumn Hawkbit (Leontodon autumnalis) Pic©
Leontodon_autumnalis.jpgAutumn Hawkbit is a dandelion like ‘yellow composite’ – meaning that it looks a lot like a lot of other little yellow flowers!

Autumn Hawkbit has an orange ‘strap’ marking on the underside of the petals, and short hairs on the stems.

Autumn hawkbit is a very hardy plant that will tolerate wetness, making it ideal for our scrape. The flowering season is (as you might have guessed from the name) similar to that of Devil’s Bit Scabious (above) meaning that even into autumn we should have a good supply of nectar for visiting invertebrates.

And there we go!

All in all, 19 species, and over 100 plants! With the flower gods on our side, the work we did on Wednesday will make Sutton Common Scrape a wildflower haven in coming years, providing the basis for a fully fledged wet meadow ecosystem to thrive! Well done team! Thank you all so much!

-Adam