Kentish Stour Countryside Partnership

Kentish Stour Countryside Partnership

Kentish Stour Countryside Partnership

CONSERVING GRASSLANDS

 
 

The KSCP has been actively involved in managing, restoring and raising awareness of the importance of grasslands and their wildlife.

Harebells in a meadow
Harebells in a meadow

Unimproved chalk downland, Wye Downs
Unimproved chalk grassland at Wye Downs

 

The grasslands most valued for wildlife are generally rich in wild flowers and insect life, particularly butterflies. Unfortunately, such areas have been lost across Britain, due largely to the modernisation of agriculture. They have been agriculturally ‘improved’ - treated with chemical fertilisers, re-seeded with fast growing grasses, or ploughed up and replaced with arable crops. ‘Unimproved’ grasslands are those that have escaped this fate, and are the best for wildlife, although few and far between.


Downland ploughed for arable crops - poor for wildlife
Downland ploughed for arable crops - poor for wildlife

 

Unimproved grasslands come in various types, depending on the underlying soils and the way they are managed. On acidic soils, ‘acid grassland’ has its own characteristic plants and grasses. The same is true of ‘neutral grassland’, although this habitat has all but disappeared from the Stour Valley.

Wet meadow, Egerton
Wet meadow, Egerton

 

The most valued grasslands are on chalk soils (often called ‘chalk downlands’) because they contain so many plants, including rare species. This ‘diversity’ of plants, and the lightness and warmth of the grassland encourages an equally rich insect life. Once widespread, chalk downland is now scarce and reduced to small scattered fragments. Its conservation is key in the Stour Valley.

Marbled white and six spot burnet moth - typical chalk downland species
Marbled white and six spot burnet moth - typical chalk downland species

 

The way grasslands are managed also affects their character. Grazing is often vital to maintaining their value, particularly on chalk downland. Without it, thorny scrub would quickly take over, as has happened at many sites. Meadows are, traditionally, cut for hay once or twice a year. Some old meadows are extremely rich in wild flowers, but these are very scarce. ‘Rough grassland’ is neither cut nor grazed, and is often valuable for insects and ground nesting birds, because it is undisturbed.

Sussex cattle grazing on Down Bank
Sussex cattle on chalk downland at Down Bank

  The KSCP advises landowners on restoring and managing grasslands. Scrub clearance and the re-introduction of grazing or cutting are usually the most important steps to conserving their value.

Grants for landowners to conserve grasslands

 

Wild Sites contents page

 

 

Kentish Stour Countryside Partnership
4, Javelin Way, Henwood, Ashford, Kent TN24 8DH
0300 333 6490
kentishstour@kent.gov.uk

Kentish Stour Countryside Partnership
4, Javelin Way, Henwood, Ashford, Kent TN24 8DH
0300 333 6490
kentishstour@kent.gov.uk

Kentish Stour Countryside Partnership
4, Javelin Way, Henwood, Ashford, Kent TN24 8DH
0300 333 6490
kentishstour@kent.gov.uk