Chalk Grassland Projects

by | Jan 4, 2024 |

Chalk grasslands are characterised by species-rich grass and herb communities which grow on thin, lime-rich soils. They are rare and hugely important areas of our landscape. 

Up until the Second World War traditional farming practices ensured that grasslands were grazed in a low intensity, wildlife-friendly manner. This resulted in habitats which were botanically very diverse – as many as 40 plant species per square metre could build up in the sward. Since then changes in farming techniques and increased chemical use have had a hugely detrimental effect on grasslands. Many were essentially poisoned, ploughed up for crops, over-seeded or left un-grazed and were gradually taken over by scrub and woodland. Silage technologies also replaced haymaking. Areas were lost to housing, quarrying, roads and tree planting. Traditionally managed wildflower-rich grasslands have declined by 97% since the 1940s. This has, in turn, led to a dramatic decline of many species of butterflies, bees, farmland birds and native wildflowers.

Chalk grassland supports a number of rare plants and animals most of which have unique associations with this habitat and cannot thrive or survive elsewhere. The fragmentation of many areas of grassland has resulted in species becoming isolated and more likely to face extinction.

The species listed below provide a rough guide to plants which are indicative of unimproved, species-rich grassland (although botanical diversity will depend on many factors). The lists are by no means exhaustive.

  • Grass species: Quaking Grass, Sheep’s Fescue, Meadow Barley, Crested Dog’s-tail, Smaller Cat’s-tail, Yellow Oat-grass.
  • Wildflower species: Betony, Bird’s-foot Trefoil, Carline Thistle, Common Rock-rose, Cowslip, Deptford pink, Devil’s-bit Scabious, Dropwort, Eyebright, Field Scabious, Gentians, Greater Knapweed, Horseshoe Vetch, Kidney Vetch, Lady’s Bedstraw, Marjoram, Milkwort, Orchids (many types), Ox-eye Daisy, Perforate St John’s-wort, Restharrow, Rough Hawkbit, Salad Burnet, Selfheal, Wild Basil, Wild Thyme, Yellow-wort.

Chalk Grassland Projects coming soon!