Rare and threatened ancient grasslands' prospects boosted thanks to National Lottery
♦ 92% of extraordinary grassland found only in Cornwall and Devon has been lost in the past 100 years
♦ Plantlife receives National Lottery funding to restore and extend Greena Moor reserve and the rare plants it harbours
♦ Six of the wild plants recorded at Greena Moor are listed as threatened on the England Red List
The conservation of 'Culm grassland', a rapidly-declining grassland limited in England to just a smattering of remaining fragments in Cornwall and Devon, is to be stepped up by Plantlife, thanks to £55,700 of National Lottery funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).
Culm grassland, already severely restricted in distribution, is now increasingly-rare; a staggering 92% has been lost in the past 100 years, with 48% disappearing between 1984 and 1991 alone - partly as a result of the rapid intensification of farming.
This unique ancient grassland is found in The Culm, a remote and sparsely-populated region where high rainfall and heavy clay soils overlaying carboniferous rocks combine to create an internationally-rare habitat. In this boggy grassland - a Habitat of Principal Importance under Section 41 of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 - a spectacular diversity of plants including saw-wort, meadow thistle, water mint and marsh violet flourish amongst rushes and tussocks of purple moor-grass.
Plantlife's 46-acre extension of the Greena Moor nature reserve, home to one of the largest surviving fragments of Culm grassland in England allows Plantlife, Europe's largest conservation charity dedicated to wildflowers and other flora, and partner Cornwall Wildlife Trust to restore this species-rich habitat on an expansive scale. The cash injection from the National Lottery allows for much-needed infrastructure improvements to the site that will make the reserve - designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest in 1992 - more accessible to local communities.
Joe Costley, Reserves Manager, Plantlife, said:
"This National Lottery investment provides a real lifeline for a unique and special grassland that has survived for centuries nestled between the more celebrated areas of Dartmoor, Exmoor and Bodmin but is now disappearing from view.
"The inland area between Launceston and Bude may not boast the pizzazz of Polzeath and Padstow but behind the wind-clipped hedgerows off the beaten track lie hidden botanical gems that warrant very special attention.
"At first glance these grassland moors may look unremarkable but closer inspection unearths sparkling diamonds in the rough. Peer into the damp ditches at Greena and you might spot wavy St-John’s-wort while three-lobed crowfoot lurk in the muddy hollows."
Six of the wild plants recorded at Greena Moor are listed as threatened on the England Red List. These are three-lobed crowfoot, petty whin, pale dog violet, wood bitter-vetch, hay-scented buckler fern and lesser butterfly orchid. The latter, a plant of sparkling beauty with spikes of white, night-scented flowers, is currently the subject of concerted conservation action at a national level. Plantlife hopes to resurrect its fortunes at Greena. Also at Greena are three species rare in Cornwall: whorled caraway, meadow thistle, and upright vetch.
Greena's special plantlife supports a wider array of wildlife. Devil’s-bit scabious is important as the food plant for caterpillars of the rare marsh fritillary butterfly, which is active on the reserve in late May and June. Reed buntings and meadow pipits are two of the many bird species that enliven the reserve.