On 25th March volunteers were on a task day at London Road Edge, a site which we visit about once a year. London Road Edge is a long strip of woodland which, as the name suggests, runs alongside the London Road up to Nonsuch Park. The site receives little intervention apart from regular thinning and removal of invasive species, but provides a valuable wildlife corridor and refuge from the busy main road it lies next to.

Butcher's Broom (Ruscus aculeatus)

Butcher’s Broom (Ruscus aculeatus) at London Road Edge

If you take a walk around the site, you will find mature oak trees, horse chesnut and ash. On the ground, however, you can find vast quantities of ivy, lords and ladies, cow parsley and brambles. One of the more interesting shrubs that can be found at London Road Edge is Butcher’s Broom (Ruscus aculeatus), an evergreen shrub with small, spine-tipped leaf-like structures, called cladodes.

Butcher’s Broom gets its unusual name from its historical use as a brush for butchers cleaning their chopping boards. It is also known as ‘Knee Holly’ because its green spiny leaves and bright red berries are often mistaken for holly. Butcher’s Broom is found throughout woodlands in Britain but is uncommon in Sutton. It is typically found near paths under the shade of the tree, as it is very tolerant of shady environments. Interestingly, this plant also has many medicinal uses. It has traditionally been used to treat circulation problems such as varicose veins, as it contains properties that tighten the blood vessels.

The attention of the volunteers, however, was focused on the removal of litter that had built up at London Road Edge over recent months. Although the site is fairly small, it has a public footpath running through it and a main road next to it, both which contribute to litter build-up. Armed with litter pickers and bags, volunteers got to work removing all kinds of litter that had accumulated on site.

Mallard trapped in plastic can holder: photo © Ian A Kirk, via FLickr

Mallard trapped in plastic can holder: photo © Ian A Kirk, via FLickr

Although litter is obviously extremely unsightly, one of the major problems with it, is that it is harmful to wildlife. For example, broken glass, cans and plastic can holders can cause small animals to become entangled or wounded. Some of the worst culprits are balloons and plastic bags, which are not only harmful but also take many years to disintegrate and so stay on site long after they have been disposed. Indeed, some plastic materials can even take hundreds of years to break down.

After a thorough litter pick throughout the site, volunteers managed to haul an impressive quarter of a ton of waste! Not only did this considerably improve the site’s appearance but at the end of the day volunteers managed to recycle a significant amount of the material collected.

Volunteers in action

Volunteers in action

Eleanor Kirby-Green

SNCV Biodiversity Assistant




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