The High Weald AONB Partnership has partnered with Natural England to carry out a summer surveying programme of the area’s precious meadow habitats. The project has recorded wildflower and grass species at existing sites while also searching for new, previously ‘undiscovered’ habitats.
The surveys were carried out during June by a team of specialists drawn from both organisations at 63 fields within or close to the Upper Rother and Dudwell Farm Cluster; an area where landowners are working together to achieve landscape-scale environmental benefits.
The High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is one of best surviving medieval landscapes in North West Europe. Many of its small, irregular-shaped fields are managed as meadow or pasture, containing small pockets of wildlife-rich grassland; these habitats are extremely rare.
However recent surveys have suggested that there is a significant number of valuable ‘undiscovered’ grassland sites. The surveys will provide a deeper understanding of their number and value and, practically, may guide day-to-day management. Traditional management of these habitats is costly, and the survey results will help the Farm Cluster members secure financial support for their management through the current Countryside Stewardship Scheme.
Jason Lavender co-director of the High Weald AONB Partnership says: “The High Weald is a national ‘hotspot’ for meadows, boasting one of the highest concentrations of the UK’s remaining meadow habitats. With the future of farming support being debated, we want the make sure our farmers are supported for the public good they provide, such as our wonderful grasslands.”
Dean Camilleri, Environmental Co-ordinator at British Gypsum, whose Robertsbridge site was surveyed as part of the programme, said: “I was delighted to discover that one of our grasslands was species-rich with a wide range of plants and will be looking into potential conservation measures to look after this valuable habitat’.
The results of the surveys will be shared with landowners and the headline results will be published on the High Weald website later this year.