Norfolk Wildlife Trust

Grasslands - Magical Meadows

This project aims to deliver Biodiversity Action Plan targets for non-statutory grassland sites in Norfolk by providing advice, as well as practical and financial help to landowners to bring more sites into appropriate management; and creating new grassland sites.

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Lowland grassland, including pastures and hay meadows, are amongst the most diverse habitats in Norfolk, home to a profusion of grasses and wild flowers, as well as a host of birds, insects, small mammals, reptiles and amphibians. However, meadows are also amongst the most fragile of habitats, vulnerable to neglect and inappropriate management. It is estimated that over 95% of this habitat has declined since the Second World War (Countryside Commission, 1985). A wide range of grassland types occur in Norfolk, each dependent on different soils, water and management. The river terraces and acidic substrates of North Norfolk support acid grassland alongside lowland heath, while on the more neutral to calcareous clays of south and central Norfolk, grassland typical of boulder clays occurs. Sustainable management is the key to preventing further loss of lowland grassland habitat. On the majority of sites this means establishing an appropriate hay cutting or grazing regime, but the lack of stock-proof fencing and scarcity of suitable local graziers are often major barriers. Even on sites designated for their nature conservation value, such as SSSIs and County Wildlife Sites (CWS), their often small and isolated nature can make management difficult. Of 18 CWS grasslands visited by NWT in 2006, 11 were in largely unfavourable condition, and five had been lost to ploughing or development.