Lowland Meadows

Habitat Description

Lowland Meadows occur on neutral soils in river corridors and floodplains. They include most forms of unimproved neutral grassland over the enclosed lowland landscape. This plan includes grasslands cut for hay and unimproved neutral pastures grazed by livestock. The plan focuses on meadows with low-input nutrient regimes, which have a specialist group of scarce and declining plant species. In Northamptonshire it includes the following NVC communities:

   

MG4 Alopecurus pratensis - Sanguisorba officinalis (meadow foxtail great burnet) floodplain meadow.

MG5 Cynosurus crustatus - Centaurea nigra (crested dogstail common knapweed) grassland.

MG8 Cynosurus cristatus - Caltha palustris (crested dogstail marsh marigold) flood pasture.

Flood Meadows MG4 Grassland

Areas that experience periodic inundation in winter, but have good sub-surface drainage and water retentive soils, allowing the water table to fall in spring, can support species-rich MG4 plant communities. Example: River Ise and Meadows SSSI.

Grazed Hay Meadows MG5 Grassland

This is the typical grassland community of grazed hay-meadows managed in the traditional fashion in lowland Britain. Example: Grafton Regis Meadow Nature Reserve.

Water Meadows - MG8 Grassland

Water meadows can occur naturally but often result from careful water level management; ditch water levels are kept high in summer to prevent either drying out or water-logging of the soil. Such habitats develop species-rich vegetation communities. Example: Bugbrooke Meadows SSSI.

Within Northamptonshire there are 88ha of grassland within 8 SSSI's that are classed as containing MG5 grassland. There is 66ha of MG4 grassland within 5 SSSI's, while only one SSSI of 9.8ha contains any MG8 grassland. A further 22ha of MG4 type grassland, 15 ha of MG5 type grassland, 20 ha of MG4/8 type grassland and 8ha of MG4/5 type grassland can be found on LNRs and WT Reserves. All sites are identified on Figure LM1.

Further remnants are spread across the county with some being contained in Local Wildlife Sites, others in potential Wildlife Sites and several in private sites.

Current UK Status and Trends

Substantial decline; 97% in the last 70 years.

Estimated Current Northants Resource

In the region of 250ha in SSSI, LNR and The Wildlife Trust Reserves. Remnants in Local Wildlife Sites and potential Wildlife Sites.

Progress Towards BAP Targets 2002-2007

Maintenance of current resource on The Wildlife Trust Nature Reserves by grazing management. Creation of several sites across the county such as Crowfield Common and Barnes Meadows.

Lead Partner

The Wildlife Trust

Main Issues and Threats

  • Very little remaining in Northamptonshire. Much is located in small fragments dangerously reducing species' population sizes and making it impossible for individuals to move between them.
  • Additional loss of habitat to development.
  • Inappropriate management (e.g. improving soils with nutrients, overgrazing/over mowing, mowing without removing the cuttings).
  • Lack of management (e.g. under grazing).

General Strategy

  • Linkage by sympathetic management of degraded sites and establishment of new sites. Use the GI strategy and Local Wildlife Sites database to identify suitable areas.
  • Specific target areas include the Nene Valley and other river corridors.
  • Sympathetic management and restoration of existing sites.

Targets Actions Associated National Priority Species

  • Brown hare
  • Common grasshopper warbler
  • Common starling
  • Curlew
  • Deep-brown dart (moth)
  • Dusky brocade (moth)
  • Ear moth
  • Feathered gothic (moth)
  • Grass rivulet
  • Harvest mouse
  • Hedge rustic (moth)
  • Marsh stitchwort
  • Northern lapwing
  • Shoulder-striped wainscot (moth)
  • Sky lark
  • The forester (moth)
  • Tubular water-dropwort
  • Yellow wagtail

Specific Management Required for Associated Species

Species

Northamptonshire Status

Management Prescriptions

Key Sites

Northern lapwing

Breeding

Graze pastures and wetlands.

 Nene Valley

Targets

Target Code

Target Type

Target Description

Target Units

Northants Baseline Resource

Target

By

Unit Cost £

Total Cost £

NOR_LME_T1

Maintain Extent

Maintain the current extent of at least LWS-standard Neutral Grassland.

Hectares

300

No Loss

2015

200/ha/yr

60,000/yr

NOR_LME_T2

Restoration

Restore 60 ha of Neutral Grassland to LWS-standard from semi-improved or neglected grassland by 2015.

Hectares

0

60

2015

453/ha + 200/ha/yr

27,180 initial + 12,000

NOR_LME_T3

Expansion

Establish 30 ha of LWS-standard Neutral Grassland from arable or improved grassland by 2015.

Hectares

0

30

2015

561/ha + 280/ha/yr

16,830 initial + 8400/yr

Actions

Action Code

Action Description

Lead Partner

Support Partner(s)

Related Target

NOR_LME_HS_A1

Maintain lowland meadow on Sywell Country Park and Fermyn Woods Country Park under stewardship arrangements.

Northants County Council

 

NOR_LME_T1

NOR_LME_HS_A2

Maintain 18 ha of meadows at Barford, Barnes, Boddington, Bugbrooke, Ditchford, Farthinghoe, Great Oakley, Kingsthorpe, Mill Crook and Grafton Regis, Tailby and Pitsford reserves by grazing and cutting for hay.

The Wildlife Trust

 

NOR_LME_T1

NOR_LME_HC_A3

Restore 7.5ha of lowland meadow in the Nene Valley by 2015 through taking on the management or ownership of new sites.

The Wildlife Trust

 

NOR_LME_T2

NOR_LME_HC_A4

Restore 20ha of lowland meadow from semi-improved or neglected grassland in the Nene Valley by 2015 through agri-environment schemes.

Natural England

RNRP, FWAG

NOR_LME_T2

NOR_LME_HC_A5

Restore 2.5ha of wet meadow at Sywell Country Park by 2015.

NCC

The Wildlife Trust, Environment Agency

NOR_LME_T2

NOR_LME_HC_A6

Create 7ha of herb rich lowland meadow from arable land on the Lyvedon Estate in 2008.

National Trust

 

NOR_LME_T3

NOR_LME_HC_A7

Create 20ha of lowland meadow from improved grassland or arable in the Nene Valley by 2015.

Natural England, Developers

RNRP, FWAG

NOR_LME_T3