The Cotswolds Conservation Board has been awarded a grant of over £200,000 from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation for a project which will conserve, restore and create wildflower-rich limestone grasslands across the Cotswolds. The project, Glorious Cotswold Grasslands, aims to create the largest network of wildflower rich Jurassic limestone grassland in the country – around 100 hectares in total, over three years.
The project hopes to secure the long term management of these precious grasslands through farming and community engagement, alongside practical and educational activity.
In the 1930s, 40% of the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) was covered in wildflower-rich grassland. This habitat was abundant with beautiful wildflowers, and supported a vast diversity of wildlife, including butterflies, bees, bats, birds, and many other animals. Sadly, agricultural intensification and changing land management practices has led to the loss of almost all this grassland…less than 1.5% remains.
Glorious Cotswold Grasslands is an exciting and ambitious three year project which aims to reverse the decline in these habitats, by restoring and creating wildflower grasslands throughout the Cotswolds AONB.
Cotswold limestone grassland’s biodiversity makes it very important. A typical patch can contain over one hundred species of flowering plants, including national rarities such as Pasque flower and Cotswold Pennycress. Wildflowers support a huge variety of invertebrates, including the Chalkhill Blue and Duke of Burgundy butterflies. In turn, the invertebrates support a variety of mammals, bats, and birds higher up the food chain.
Through careful management it is possible to restore previously ‘improved’ grasslands and even create new species-rich grasslands. The primary objective of the Glorious Cotswolds Grasslands project is to restore and create 100 hectares of species-rich grassland across the Cotswolds in the next 3 years, primarily in locations which will extend and join-up existing areas. We hope to work with large and small private landowners and managers as well as conservation charities and local authorities who manage grassland such as road verges.
Over the next three years we will be holding a series of workshops on a range of topics including wildflower identification, wildflower grassland management and equine land management.
Upcoming events include:
- Saturday 15 June 2019
Wildflower meadow walk at Whittington Lodge Farm
- Saturday 6 July 2019
National Meadows Day wildflower meadow walk at Ampney Downs Farm
- Festivals and summer events – look out for us and our grassland experts at festivals and events over the summer.
- Sunday 9 June 2019: Open Farm Sunday at Guiting Manor Farm
- Sunday 7 July 2019: Stroud Festival of Nature
- Saturday 17 August 2019: Marshfield Show
- Date TBC: Wychwood Forest Fair
One of the best things about the project is that we’re inviting everyone to get involved!
Volunteer with us
Want to know your knapweeds from your hawkweeds, and your cowslips from your clovers? During the spring and summer we are always looking for help with botanical surveys of our sites. Don’t worry if you’re not an expert – we provide training on identification and survey techniques. Can you spare a few hours to help our wildflowers and other wildlife? Why not join our conservation volunteers at one of our seed harvesting days in July and August? No experience required, and all essentials (including tea and cake) will be provided.
Working with schools
Are you a primary school teacher? Would you be interested in a visit to your school where we can run an educational session during a lesson or club? Our art workshops will engage children with wildflower grassland habitats, and tie in with KS1 and KS2 science curriculum. We cover topics including wildlife identification and keys, flower structures, habitats and adaptation, food chains, the plant life cycle, and the human impact on the environment. If you have the space, we can even help plant a wildflower meadow in your grounds.
Land owners & managers
Do you own or manage some grassland? We provide advice on land management best practice, and techniques to enhance or restore grassland. Encouraging species-rich wildflower grassland offers benefits to you, your livestock, and the wider environment.
Download our Glorious Cotswolds Grasslands Advice Pack for guidance on:
- Grassland assessment
- Management of existing grassland sites
- Enhancement and restoration methods
- Preparation of sites
- Seed harvesting and distribution
- Ongoing support
Meet our team
Harvey Sherwood is the Glorious Cotswold Grasslands Project Officer and works full time at the Cotswolds AONB offices in Northleach. He has worked in a range of practical and advisory roles in farming, ecology and land management for many years and has extensive experience working with land managers in the Cotswolds.
Anna Field is the Glorious Cotswold Grasslands Assistant Project Officer and works part-time at the Cotswold AONB offices in Northleach. She is a trained ecologist with a wide variety of experience of botanical, invertebrate, and ornithological surveys and practical habitat conservation in the Cotswolds.