Most of lowland Wales is covered by grassland.
However, this type of land has lost more of its diversity than
almost any other habitat. Where there used to be a great variety of
different species, most grasslands are now dominated by ryegrass
and white clover – the effect of ploughing, reseeding and the use
Lowland grasslands – pastures and meadows
The richer grasslands that remain are very varied – ranging from
those on limestone rocks to the uplands edge sheep walks, where the
land is more acidic, and from tiny flower rich meadows to
undulating wet pastures dominated by rushes or purple
A home to rare species
Many of the plants of lowland grasslands have also declined, but
clusters of uncommon species such as the greater butterfly orchid
or whorled caraway can sometimes be found. Some grasslands
offer a home to threatened insects, like the marsh fritillary
butterfly and hornet robber-fly. In the Autumn, groups of
grassland fungi, including colourful waxcaps, may be seen.
Where to find them
There are good examples throughout Wales.
- The largest area of limestone grassland, and one of the best
known wildlife sites in Wales, is Great Orme’s Head, near the
Victorian town of Llandudno.
- The best examples of marshy grasslands are in the west and the
valleys of Glamorgan.
- Good examples of acid grasslands can be seen close to the
English border in the districts of Radnorshire and Montgomeryshire,
including Roundton Hill near Churchstoke.
- Flower-rich meadows are scattered through Wales and several of
the better ones are owned or managed by local Wildlife Trusts.
A major survey of the whole of Wales, carried out between 1987
and 2004, mapped out the various types of grasslands that still
harbour many animal and plant species. It measured how many of each
type remained and assessed the conservation value of the better
Species-rich lowland grasslands can easily be destroyed by
relatively minor changes in farming. It is therefore
essential that the better sites be protected. To this end, most of
the best examples of lowland grassland in Wales are safeguarded as
Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) and a few have been
given further recognition by designation as Special Areas of
Grazing is essential for all species-rich grasslands and most
grassland SSSIs are carefully managed by Welsh farmers, in some
cases through Tir Gofal agri-environment scheme agreements. A
small number are managed by CCW or other organisations such as
National Nature Reserves. Any sites that remain unprotected are
potentially at risk from loss or damage.
CCW undertakes an active research program on lowland grasslands.
The results may help to guide management decisions, facilitate site
monitoring or aid attempts to restore and re-establish species-rich
lowland grasslands through Tir Gofal schemes and local Biodiversity
Within CCW, relevant issues are debated though an active Lowland
Grassland Network Group. At a higher level, we chair UK level
discussions through the two key groups: the lowland grassland Lead
Coordination Network (LCN), which involves each of the 4
countryside agencies plus JNCC, and the lowland grassland Habitat
Action Plan (HAP) group, which includes non-government
organisations such as Plantlife and the Wildlife Trusts as well as