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.

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

Task Programme – Out now!

The new task programme is now out: July – October 2016!

We’re continuing our summer season of botanical surveys, study days to help you brush up on your identification skills (continuing this Saturday with Butterflies) and more works at Queen Mary’s Woodland, including the first chance to get involved with the improvements to this new site through seeding the newly cleared areas and laying wildflower turf.

What better chance to get outside, laugh and learn do you need this summer?!

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Chalk grassland at Roundshaw Downs Local Nature Reserve

Go Wild(lings)!

Den building

Den building

Guest Blog from Bonnie Johnson:

Wildlings Forest School is pleased to announce that following the huge success of its first 6-week block of Parent and Toddler Forest School sessions at Sutton Ecology Centre, it will be running another block starting on the 9th June!

Every Thursday morning or afternoon, toddlers and their parents can come along to Wildlings Forest School to join in a range of out door activities, from learning how birds make their nests to building dens from sticks and bug hunting to campfire cooking.  These sessions help children discover nature first hand and gain skills and confidence as they play and learn.

Wildings Forest School provides sessions which engage children’s natural curiosity in the world around them. It follows a child-led ethos, whereby Forest School leaders facilitate children’s learning by providing a variety of opportunities, within a woodland setting,  for children to explore and discover, scaffolding new understanding as they develop.

Peeling a carrot

Peeling a carrot

Forest School is an approach to children’s learning that originated in Scandinavia.  Studies [1][2][3] have shown the benefits to children’s health, wellbeing, physical and mental development and fostering a connection, and love, of nature and the outdoors.

During the summer holidays, there will be a Family Fun Forest School taking place for 5-8 year olds and their parents.  Children can try their hand at tying knots to make a picture frame, erect a shelter, create forest art or make their own unique piece of forest jewelry to take home.

Masks!

If you fancy something different for a birthday celebration this summer, Wildlings Forest School will also be running birthday parties.  Bring all your friends along to play, explore and have lots of fun at our Forest School parties.

Wildings Forest School sessions are run by Bonnie Johnson, a level 3 Forest School Leader and former Primary School Teacher. Bonnie trained with Surrey Wildlife Trust and following her training, she set up Wildlings Forest School.
For more information email wildlingsforestschool@gmail.com or find us on Facebook.

[1] https://www.forestschools.com/forest-schools-research/
[2] http://www.nfer.ac.uk/nfer/pre_pdf_files/05_33_06.pdf
[3] http://forestofavontrust.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/forest_school_for_early_years.pdf

Rope bride fun!

Rope bride fun!

Dawn Chorus Delight

Twelve attendees made the special effort to join the Biodiversity Team at 5am on Sunday 1st May for a dawn chorus walkabout as part of International Dawn Chorus Day. The morning was crisp with a light frosting on the ground as the birds joined in chorus. We heard wren, chiff-chaff, great tit, blackbird, robin and a drumming woodpecker were all heard, as we wandered through the sun glazed woodland.

More human chatter concerned the state of the house sparrow as well as current work and future plans for the woodland. The sun had fully announced itself by 7am when the walk came to an end and a second breakfast called.

A big thank you to all who shared the occasion with us and made the event a very enjoyable one.

Alex Draper – Biodiversity Project Officer

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David Warburton, Biodiversity Officer,  illuminating the birdsong code

Our National Pollinators

Good lord, we’re well into March already. And after a balmy winter, Friday (4th) brought about the years first grass cut in my garden. After blowing out the cobwebs, cleaning the air filter and checking the oil and petrol, off we went on our quest to neaten the garden. However, unlike previous years, I noticed that I was far less gung-ho and far more slow-mow. Being more ecologically minded, I would peer over the mower, observe the forthcoming grass patch and grind to a halt, if I feared I would slice through the dreaded, detested and despised dandelion Taraxacum officinale. But why so cautious, in particular for a plant that when searching into Google ‘removing dandelion’, brings about 197,000 results and solutions?

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Marbled White butterfly feeding off Common Knapweed. Joined by a hoverfly.

Now that I’m an esteemed ‘Biodiversity Assistant’ with Sutton Nature Conservation Volunteers and Sutton Council, I can ask whether I can tag along to events such as DEFRA’s ‘National Pollinator Strategy: Urban Knowledge Exchange Workshop’. This event attracted the nations leading Doctors and Professors,  key policy makers, top ecologists, respected biodiversity officers and of course, an esteemed biodiversity assistant.

The day brought to my attention the value and necessity of our urban landscape to our national pollinators. Bees, hoverflies, butterflies, moths and beetles, provide critical ecosystem services, i.e. benefits to humans from the environment. These include food production, as through transporting pollen from one plant to another, the production of British crops is ensured. The National Audit Office, estimate that the value of honey bees alone (in the UK) is worth around £200 million, based on pollinating strawberries, apples, pears and oil seed rape,  while the retail value of what they pollinate is considered to be around £1 billion. Yet, this doesn’t earn a mention in George’s illustrious budget review. A shame.

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Buzzzzzzzzz. A bee enjoying the riches of a red clover Trifolium pratense late in the season (17/09/2015)

Conservationally speaking, as well as their economic importance, pollinators ensure the functionality of a healthy ecosystem. Simply put, by pollinating flowers, flora diversity is maintained and this enables all the essential interactions between flowers and animals (i.e. food, nesting and breeding resources) to take place. When considering the health and well-being properties of the natural landscape and how pollinators positively impact this, the conservation of our national pollinators is most certainly in our interest.

Despite their relevance, it is understood that pollinator diversity and abundance is declining, due to a number of environmental pressures. Use of herbicides/pesticides, intensive land use and habitat loss are all believed to be contributing factors to their decline. However, urban environments, such as Sutton, have the potential to be incredibly important habitats for our pollinator species.

Research suggests that across farmlands, nature reserves and urban areas there was no significant differences between pollinator species diversity and flower visitor abundance. Additionally, bee species diversity was higher in urban areas than farmland! Importantly, this suggests that urban landscapes are becoming an increasingly important habitat, so how can we improve them?

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Cuddington Meadows. An SNCV site that is fantastic for pollinators

Typical features of an urban landscape include: road verges, recreation grounds, parks, school ground, offices, gardens and churchyards. These can all be managed sympathetically towards the needs of pollinators. Ultimately, providing structural heterogeneity and improving floral diversity is essential. By improving these components, the habitat will provide suitable conditions for pollinators at different stages of their life cycle and provide pollen and nectar resources throughout the Spring and Summer months. Where appropriate, methods that are encouraged include the sowing of seed mixes and plug plants, followed by a reduced mowing regime, which will allow the plants to set seed and provide resources throughout the desired months. See here to learn more about methods of improving the urban landscape.

At the SNCV, we aim to provide suitable conditions that will enable pollinators to thrive. During my time here, I’ve learnt a variety of methods that aim to improve plant abundance and diversity; green-haying and cattle grazing at Roundshaw Downs, plug planting across our sites, Sheep grazing at Cuddington Meadows, while scrapes have been created at Therapia Lane Rough in order to remove undesirable species and promote the growth of chalk grassland species. In essence, our grasslands are managed in a way that seeks to promote plant diversity and abundance, that will in turn, provide valuable resources for bees, moths, butterflies, hoverflies, beetles etc.

Clearly pollinators are fundamental to our existence and therefore, we should be doing everything in our power to help them. With this in mind, the SNCV have a couple of exciting projects coming up this month! Through community conservation days, we aim to improve pollinator conditions by  plug planting at Roundshaw Woods and Carew Manor Wetland. At these sites, we will be planting suitable native plants, that have the most likely chance of surviving and thriving in these chosen habitats. For the SNCV, our main aim is to improve the conservation value of sites throughout Sutton, and by providing richer  pollen and nectar resources throughout the seasons, we hope we can achieve this.  In the years to come, through this work, we hope to develop areas that can be enjoyed by all things natural, including humans. So, if you have the time, do please come along to one of these community planting days.

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Carew Manor Wetlands. On the 30th March, the SNCV will be aiming to improve the surrounding wet meadow through plug planting. Please do come and join us!

Oh, and in regards to those dandelions, a study in Canada found that this plant species had one of the highest diversities of bee visitors, when compared with other present plant species. In the early Spring months (such as now) the dandelion provides a valuable nectar source for the early and opportunistic pollinators! So leave them be, for now anyway.

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