Carshalton Road Pastures is an area of chalk grassland to the south of the borough. It covers over 6ha and forms part of the Sutton Countryside Walk and the LOOP.
Carshalton Road Pastures was formally known as Chalk-Pit Meadows, the western part of the site was used as a shallow scrape landfill site (presumably utilising the area of extracted chalk from the old quarry) until it was capped over in 1965/66. The capping material was of a neutral acidity soil (pH ~ 7) which supports a different array of plant species to that of the rest of the site, which has chalk based soils (pH ~9; alkali). Both the Sutton Countryside Walk and the London Loop cross the pastures that connects Carshalton Road and Grove Lane. At 6.6 ha, this site is an important area of unimproved grassland.
Wildlife & Habitats
The main feature of Carshalton Road Pastures is the main grassland (of both basic and neutral composition), but there are mature native trees, particularly along Grove Lane and areas of over-mature hedgeline and blackthorn scrub. With continued management, Carshalton Road Pastures has a great deal of potential to provide an area of quality unimproved grassland within the borough.
Plants such as the field scabious (Knautia arvensis)(left) and cowslips (Primula veris) (right) are typical of undisturbed pastures and meadows. The field scabious is a plant that requires a sunny position and thrives on neutral to chalky soils. The cowslip has declined markedly over recent years due to the destruction of old, undisturbed meadows. The management of Carshalton Road Pastures is sympathetic to the needs of these plants, as well as the greater knapweed (Centaurea scabiosa). The greater knapweed is a large, colourful plant of chalk grasslands that is the larval foodplant for around 7 species of butterfly and is popular with several others. Bees and butterflies are particularly attracted to the pollen and nectar source in the large, raggedy flowers and goldfinches (Carduelis carduelis) flocks are attracted to the seedheads in the autumn. Numerous other species of plant are present on site, including wild basil (Clinopodium vulgare), marjoram (Origanum vulgare), fairy-flax (Linum catharticum), hoary plantain (Plantago media) and salad burnet (Poterium sanguisorba).
The scrub is primarily composed of hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) and blackthorn (Prunus spinosa), although dog rose (Rosa canina) and brambles (Rubus fruticosus agg.) are also vigorous growers amongst the scrub and sucker into the grassland areas. These scrubby areas provide great habitat for numerous species of bird, including the summer migrant warblers of whitethroat (Sylvia communis), blackcap (Sylvia atracapilla) and chifchaff (Phyloscopus collybita). Each of these birds has a distinctive song that can be heard as you wander around the site. Whitethroats have a short, scratchy warble; blackcaps have a long, energetic and slightly scratchy warble but with more mellow tones and the chiffchaff makes an unmistakable “chip-chap” call.
Work at Carshalton Road Pastures over the last few years has involved mowing the grassland in the late summer to conserve the variety of wildflowers and the systematic reduction in the amount of blackthorn around the eastern boundary. Although blackthorn can be a great habitat for birds and insects, the amount and density was preventing other species from flourishing. By thinning the blackthorn, we are creating more fringe habitat for plants and invertebrates, mammals and birds and restoring the old hedgeline boundary.
The SNCV have also installed two motorcycle barriers (one at each entrance) to prevent access by motorcycles but allow walkers and push / wheel chairs. New signs and waymarkers have been installed for the Countryside Walk, these have been generously funded by the staff of Legal and General.
Volunteer with us to protect this nature reserve in Sutton for generations to come.