England’s Ancient Grassland

I was asked by a volunteer to look at a Local Wildlife Site, designated for its native grassland species, which had been destroyed by the landowner and discovered that there was virtually nothing I could do to prevent this happening again elsewhere; I was livid that a landowner could do such a thing. I reasoned that the only way to protect my patch was to change how we as a society value our historically and culturally important Ancient Grasslands through the way our elected representatives legislate and fund their protection at both a national and regional level.

These blogs are my investigations: The more I find out, the more livid I am at what is happening.

I’m turning the blogs into a book ‘Finding England’s Ancient Grassland’.

No Specific Guidance – conservation of within-species genetic diversity is the whole point of conservation. Defra say “We can confirm that we do not hold specific guidance on conserving within-species genetic diversity on GOV.UK.”

Losing Lowland Meadows – only half of the 15 sites listed in the Lower Tees Valley as Lowland Meadow National Priority Habitat on the MAGIC dataset still contain MG5 and the government clams nature is a top priority.

We are failing at plant conservation in England – there is no strategy to conserve within species genetic variation. I give examples of geographic and ecotypal variation in our common grassland native plants and suggest using local seed to create any new grassland habitat.

The practicalities of not cutting road verges – not everyone likes a more relaxed attitude towards grass length, the equipment can be expensive, and the cut grass can be difficult to dispose of, and yet it can save money and boost biodiversity.

Some notes from the road verge conference in Suffolk – Feb 2020 – short points on design, improving existing verges and maintenance.

Theresa Villiers’ acres, Rishi Sunak’s ‘taking back control’, Zac Goldsmith’s ‘ramp up’, the very real problem of Teesside International Airport, and the meaning of words. – the way politicians use words inventively, lack of funding for Natural England, and problems getting access to biodiversity information; basically me rolling my eyes with frustration and a funny joke.

Mis-reporting of the data in England biodiversity indicators Priority Habitats 2018 – the data Defra publish is out of date, inaccurate, and misleading.

Sow trees for Conservation: Plant trees for Timber – what do we mean by conservation and are we prepared to conserve our native species?

Year of Green Action – the work of Natural England is 2/5 as important to this government as it was to the 2009 government.

Collecting Data – there is no way of knowing at a national level whether National Priority Habitats are being destroyed year on year and more depressing facts of a similar nature.

Keeping Count – HS2 Phase One and 2a will destroy about 1% of England’s National Priority Habitat Lowland Meadow

Struggling – why do we have 158,993 ha of Upland Heathland SSSI, but only 845 ha of Upland Hay Meadow? and other vexed issues of a failing and under-funded SSSI designation system.

Bringing Ancient Grasslands into the heart of our towns and cities. – a really sensible solution to connecting urban people with their local culturally important ancient grasslands whilst saving money on management of road verges.

Estimates –  an official reply from Defra explaining what the extent of National Priority Habitat Lowland Meadow in England is and co-incidentally that it disagrees completely with another figure of extent that they publish

Available data – establishing that the government’s data-set on unimproved grassland is incomplete and wrong in my area and some of the national figures for extent differ

All examples of MG5 over 0.5 ha can now be designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) so why hasn’t that happened?

A proposal for dating ancient neutral grassland (MG5) communities using indicator species – a theory and mechanism by which indicator species can used to differentiate  pre- and post- Enclosure unimproved neutral grassland communities

Documenting ancient grassland loss – a short-ish review

Defining Ancient Grassland – a scientific definition of ancient grassland

The Curious Incidence of the Knapweed in the Meadow – common knapweed flowers later than a normal hay-cut is taken, so how is it still present?

Medieval Grassland on Road Verges and where to find it

Rural Road Verge Links – list of UK projects on management or surveys of rural road verges

Why is no-one sciencing urban road verges? – bemoaning the lack of scientific studies on creating and managing native species-rich grassland in urban areas

We should talk about Ancient Grassland – how we discuss native grassland plant communities will affect the importance with which people view them


3 Responses to England’s Ancient Grassland

  1. AJM says:

    I am trying to find the Section 41 list of priority habitats relevant to the NERC Act of 2006. I can’t seem to find what has replaced the BAPHabitats anywhere on a website. I am trying to save a grassland meadow. Do you know where I could find it?
    Many thanks

  2. Pingback: No specific guidance | The Intermingled Pot

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