GRASSLAND

Beautiful meadows full of wildflowers were still a common sight in the Stour Area until the 1970’s. Now, along with most of lowland Britain, over 98% of ancient grassland has been destroyed. This important diverse habitat is irreplaceable and is a “Conservation Priority”! Even semi improved grassland has become scarce. Unfortunately, we are still loosing grassland at an alarming rate, ironically, often being ploughed to produce crops to feed grazing livestock kept indoors!  

Further reductions in grazing livestock from the landscape, will place the remaining grassland under serious threat! Grassland habitat is important in many ways to our native wildlife and ourselves. It produces our food, helps prevent flooding, removes carbon and replenishes the air we breathe. Unfortunately, there is a worrying trend, this important habitat can be destroyed, because it can be re-planted as margins around an arable field. This could not be further from the truth. (See secrets of the soil)  Many of our more scarce wildflower species, are unable to survive in soils intensively cultivated, or containing residual agro-chemicals.   

Click on the link to see a survey list of wildflower species from a local meadow. (LINK)

HABITAT

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MANAGING GRASSLAND

Preserving the remaining ancient grassland, can best be achieved by using the same time honoured methods that created it thousands of years ago. Indeed, sheep are not only responsible for the grassland landscape, but also the prosperity of the whole area. Cattle and horses also now play a large part in managing the areas grassland, along with hay and silage production using modern machinery. Sympathetic cutting or grazing and allowing a meadow to seed down every few years, will help keep its diversity of plant species.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This tightly interwoven 10cm thick layer, of living and dead organic material, can absorb large amounts of water preventing flash flooding and soil erosion. The moisture also helps keep the meadows lush, green and productive even without the use of organic and artificial fertilizers. Grazing keeps the sward short allowing smaller wildflowers room to grow and flourish. Light disturbance from hooves, agitates the soil surface, encouraging seeds to germinate and grow. This over time, produces a meadow with a rich mixture of annual, biennial and perennial plants.

Artificial fertilizer, which is usually high in nitrates, has a devastating impact on ancient grassland. Some grass species become very dominant and it has been likened to feeding them steroids. They become large and aggressive in their growth, out-competing and smothering most of the smaller wildflowers. Residual artificial fertilizers, are very persistent and notoriously difficult to reduce. This also has a huge negative impact on soil biodiversity and the effects are long term especially in the local heavy clay soils.