Devonshire Avenue Nature Area (DANA) is a small site of around 0.42ha (1 acre) in a residential area in South Sutton. It was declared a Local Nature Reserve in January 2004.
The site was previously known as Devonshire Avenue Children’s Playground. The site occupies land that was home to three houses that were bombed during World War II. The rubble was cleared and the site was then used as an informal playground. In the early 1990’s, the land was brought under control by the Environment & Leisure part of the council to be used for nature conservation.
Wildlife & Habitats
The most notable wildlife at DANA is the small blue butterfly (Cupido minimus). This is one of three sites in the borough that has this species. Small blues are also found at Cuddington Meadows LNR and The Avenue Primary School wildlife garden. The chalk substrate on patches of the site is home to kidney vetch (Anthyllis vulneraria) (the foodplant of the small blue butterfly), as well as bird’s-foot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus), hoary plantain (Plantago media) and oxeye daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare), amongst many others.
The majority of the grassland is generally neutral and has less species diversity that the chalk, but due to the fact that it isn’t heavily disturbed; there are numerous ants nests on site. The scrub and mature trees provide homes for birds and butterflies (the amount of ivy Hedera helix on site is great for holly blues Celustrina argiolus); whilst the ivy-clad mature beech trees at the back of the site are home to a small population of the parasitic plant ivy broomrape (Orobanche hederae).
This species has no green chlorophyll of its own, instead it relies totally on the roots of the host plant (in this case ivy) to provide all of its energy. There are no leaves as such; these have been reduced to mere scales, as the plant doesn’t need them to produce energy with!
The main tasks at DANA are the mowing of the grassland areas in late summer, scrub clearance and creating bare earth through ‘scrapes’. The grassland areas are cut in late summer; this allows all of the plants to finish flowering and ‘set seed’, so that they will produce new plants the next year. Some of the grassland is cut once every few years. This allows invertebrates to overwinter in the long grass or flower heads, something they couldn’t do if all the grass was completely cut. Cutting the grass is often coupled with scrub management. Clearance of encroaching scrub, like brambles (Rubus fruticosus) agg., dogwood (Cornus sanguinea) and hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) keeps the grassland at a fairly constant size, whilst creating differences in structure around the edge that are vital for small animals.