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How a College does No Mow May

Plumpton College, a horticultural and agricultural college in South Downs takes part in No Mow May 2024.

Alex Waterfield, Grounds and Garden Manager, shares their experience, challenges and why they think letting their green spaces grow wild is great for nature.

Tell us a bit about Plumpton

Plumpton College is an independent land-based FE & HE College, located at the foot of the South Downs in the South Downs National Park. Its estate covers more than 850 hectares, covering chalk downland and ancient woodland.

Plumpton has 18 different subject areas including Horticulture, Animal Management, Equine and Viticulture, just to pick a few. Learners range in age from 14 up to 80, depending on their choice of study. Plumpton offers short and full-time courses, as well as bespoke courses, for example in Food studies, with around 2000 students currently enrolled on courses.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?

I am the Grounds and Gardens Manager and, including myself, form a team of 5 that develops and maintains approximately 30 acres of campus areas, as well as a small team at One Garden Brighton, our restored walled garden at Stanmer Park.

On the Plumpton campus, we have a mixture of formal and naturalistic planting schemes, providing a range of plants for identification and different propagation methods.

We work closely with curriculum teams to facilitate opportunities for students to work in groups or alongside the Grounds and Gardens team to gain practical experience in the day-to-day management or real life capital projects.

I give talks and tours to internal and external groups describing the way in which we manage the campus for the benefit of the environment. Examples of these groups are National Trust and RHS apprentices and local U3A groups.

How big is the green space?

There are different locations of green space around the campus, all of the areas would equal approximately 200m². The locations include the edge of car parks, ditches, the boundaries of large lawn areas, beneath trees. On a campus like ours, leaving edges a little wilder, blurs the boundaries between the wider estate and our campus areas, enabling the campus and countryside around it to feel like one.

Please tell us what made you take up No Mow May?

All of us in the team are in this career for the nurturing of plants and a passion for the environment. Being part of No Mow May gave us credence to the work we are trying to do on the campus, increasing wildlife diversity across the campus.

It gives us power to be able to use the resources provided by Plantlife to endorse the work we do, this isn’t something the Grounds and Gardens team wanted to do because they liked the idea, but a national initiative with a scientific basis.

In a public location such as ours, we can raise the profile of the campaign to a larger audience, hopefully inspiring others to do the same in their own spaces.

What are your future plans for the space?

The areas will need managing later in the year to ensure that the grass species don’t out compete the floral species. Around the end of August, depending on the species present, we will cut areas, leaving seed to drop in a floral meadow before clearing the arisings so they don’t decompose and raise fertility rates in the soil to the benefit of the grass species.

Some areas we won’t cut at all and leave as long grass and dead stems to provide seed source for birds, a place for invertebrates and arachnids to hibernate and be safe from predation. We won’t cut these areas till later in the following year, so fallen grass can be used by field voles and possibly even harvest mice for nesting.

The over wintering areas are left on rotation, again so that the grass doesn’t become dominant, blocking light to the soil surface for wildflower species to germinate.

In the spaces that are more grass species heavy, we will carry out a hard scarification and over seed with a general wildflower mix suited for the aspect and soil conditions of the site. Growing wildflowers from plugs is also another option that we will look to undertake in populating areas with more flowering species.

 

Were there any challenges you faced?

In the beginning, I probably went too wild for some peoples tastes and had to rein this back so that areas looked more under control and managed.

A simple way to achieve this was where we could, we would mow a perimeter to the areas – sub consciously those walking by assume that the green space is being cared and maintained, just by having a defined edge.

Going back to the human need for neatness, embedded in some of us over generations a neatly mown edge shows off and frames the green space you are managing for nature.

How did you convince people?

The raising of awareness of the nature and climate emergency in the public eye has helped to convince people that this is the right course of action to take. It is getting more mainstream now to behave and look after areas as adopted in the campaign. So making use of social media – the more posts that get likes gives power to our cause.

Being super enthusiastic about the initiative myself and within the team also helps, enthusiasm is infectious and this will only rub off on others.

Different needs for the land use

There are a lot of pressures on different land use around the campus and the need to consider the needs of others when planning on where we can leave areas unmown. For example, we have just had our College open day and some of the public stalls and the Forestry demonstration area were located on an area where we would like to have created islands of long grass. But we have had to pause these plans. Now we can allow the grass to grow, before mowing shorter again, ahead of next year’s event.

Monetary rationale
We also used the monetary and efficiency rationale. Why pay someone to mow all the grass areas for th sake of mowing somewhere. Less mowing equals labour and more time to spend on other areas of the campus, plus less fuel/battery charging and less where and tear of resources – everybody wins.

Would you recommend this to others and why?

I would 100% recommend others to do this. There a number of different green spaces across the campus we have adopted into the campaign. These have been strategically chosen for a various reasons:

  • Provide connectivity/nature corridors through the campus – whether you are an invertebrate or small mammal, there will be areas of safe passage away from predation.
  • Carbon sequestration – research tells us that grassland areas are more reliable than forests at sequestering carbon, where they store it in roots and the soil.
  •  Natural Flood Management – we’ve allowed the vegetation and grass to grow up along a hedgerow ditch. When we get heavy downpours of rain, the vegetation slows the rate of discharge further downstream, reducing the risk of flooding neighbouring buildings and land. By doing this we’ve found we’ve created habitat for small mammals and see flora appearing such as Sweet Violet and St. John’s perforate where we hadn’t have otherwise.
  • Aesthetically – the longer, wilder areas, provide a soft edge to what otherwise might be a hard structure such as a fence, wall or kerb line.
  • Wellbeing – it’s great when you see students, staff and visitors making use of the mown paths you have provided through a particular area. We will mow out larger spaces beneath the shade offered by trees, surrounded by long grass, providing a calm, social space for people to gather out of the hot summer sun. Longer grass and floriferous spaces also provide stimulus for all the senses – sight, sound, touch and scent. And we can’t forget the importance of nature’s very own colour palette of different textures of leaf and flower colour. These areas are calming for the soul and you can see others get excited when they see a ladybird or bee – allowing a space for people to have a closer connection with nature without having to travel to far.
  • We feel we are custodians of our spaces and have the power to be able to bring these opportunities to people, raise and educate others on the subject without them necessarily realising it’s happening.
  • Doing this in different areas across the campus shows how the idea can be scaled up or scaled down, depending on an individual’s space, so as mentioned before, hopefully it can inspire others. It gives the message that if everyone can do a little bit, it will all add up to a greater good.

What are the things you are doing to the space other than not mowing?

  • We are a hedgehog friendly campus, moving towards our Silver award. This is being achieved through hedgehog awareness campaigns and log pile supermarkets for hedgehogs – attracting the grubs and bugs they’ll feed upon,
  • Creating small dead hedging in herbaceous borders which provide habitat for wildlife and create interesting natural shapes, which provide structure in a border after the plants have been cut back.
  • Leaving dead stems on herbaceous perennials to provide seeds for birds, hibernating sites for invertebrates and arachnids.
  • Not clearing leaf piles from borders where they’ve dropped, providing a mulch for the soil and habitat over winter.
  • Using home grown made compost as mulch generated from green waste across the campus.
    St. Michael’s church – we have a church yard in the centre of the campus where we adopt our No Mow May approach to the grass areas.

 

Thank you Alex, we really appreciate you sharing your No Mow May journey with us. We hope more colleges manage their green spaces like you.

Plantlife Team

Images Credit: Alex Waterfield

A Day Volunteering at Plantlife’s Deep Dale Nature Reserve

Find out what it’s like to volunteer at one of our nature reserves. Jim Whiteford describes a day working outdoors, protecting and restoring nature in Deep Dale, Derbyshire.

person smiling

I’m Jim, an Ecologist at the walking and cycling charity Sustrans. As Sustrans are committed to supporting sustainability across the UK, I’m encouraged to spend at least one day a year volunteering for a charity which is making a difference either by improving the environment or peoples’ lives.

The day starts with

I met up with Andy Kearsey and other members of the Plantlife Reserve Team to help-out at their fantastic Deepdale Reserve, in Derbyshire. After a useful and friendly introduction about what Plantlife do and the reserve itself, we cracked on with clearing areas of hawthorn, blackthorn and dog rose scrub using a selection of hand tools supplied by the team.

Andy explained how the area we were working in was managed using conservation grazing and that by cutting back the scrub this would help the cattle to do an ever-better job.

 

Lemon Drizzle

After working hard, I was then treated to some fantastic lemon drizzle cake and had an opportunity to find out more about the great work Plantlife are doing across all their reserves.

The day ends with

When we finished stacking away the scrub we had cleared, Andy and his colleagues  took me on a guided tour of the reserve.

It was great to learn about the rich archaeological history of the site and see firsthand the fantastic range of valuable habitats Plantlife are working hard to protect and improve.

It was fun to spend a day outside, with a gang of positive and friendly people helping to make a great place even better; I also appreciated the chance to beat my daily step count and get some exercise at the same time!

I hope to be able to get involved again over the summer at another reserve.

Deap Dale Nature Reserve

Deap Dale Nature Reserve

The reserve, located in the Peak District national Park is a special place if you visit at the right time of the year you would see colour spreading over the hill side.

Volunteer with us

Volunteer with us

Volunteer with Plantlife and help us in practical conservation work or by data entry and research, or even campaigning and advocacy work.

Stories
person holding a plant with white flowers

Stories

Read our other stories about plants and fungi conservation and the human behind them.

Wild plants and fungi are the essential fabric of our world.

They provide shelter, food, medicines, clean air and a wealth of health benefits to humans and animals alike.

Yet 54% of plant species are in decline and 28% of known fungi are threatened with extinction. Centuries of habitat loss, development and persecution through changes in land use and the effects of climate change have led to the UK being among the world’s most nature-depleted nations.

You can use your vote to give plants and fungi a voice at the 2024 general election on 4 July. 

What you can do

  • Join the Restore Nature Now march in London on 22 June
  • Follow the #Nature2030 campaign for other calls to action
  • Tell candidates that you stand with nature and that you expect politicians and governments to work together for our shared environment
    • Send a short, polite email
    • Attend local hustings
  • Ask your friends, family and colleagues to take action
  • Share our messages via social media- tag local nature groups, candidates, and us on Twitter/X  ,  Instagram , and/or on Facebook with #Nature2030
  • Support Plantlife – join our events, survey work or through donations

With upcoming global environment commitments and nature recovery targets being set in all UK nations, we need determined and rapid action by politicians to reverse the fortunes of our wildlife.

Restore Nature Now

Plantlife is joining forces with 100 other conservation charities in the Nature 2030 campaign calling for five key actions by the next UK Government:

  1. A pay rise for nature and farmers: Doubling the nature-friendly farming budget to £6bn.
  2. Making polluters pay:  Putting a Nature Recovery Obligation on polluting big businesses into law to counter the damage they cause.
  3. More space for nature by 2030:  A rapid delivery programme to fulfil the promise to protect and manage 30% of the land and sea for nature.
  4. Delivering the green jobs we need:  A National Nature Service, delivering wide-scale habitat restoration and creating thousands of green jobs.
  5. A Right to a Healthy Environment:  Establishing a human right to clean air and water and access to nature.

What difference could this make?

The Nature 2030 actions, if delivered by the next government, would go a long way towards bringing endangered plants and fungi back from the brink of extinction, and restoring our unique, species-rich habitats, such as grasslands and temperate rainforests in England.

These will also help to tackle climate change, create a green economy and improve our own health and wellbeing.

We already work tirelessly across the UK to influence and inspire farmers, local communities and other land managers to help create a world rich in wild plants and fungi. Many aspects of environmental law and policy are devolved. But we need all political parties and all nations’ governments to make things happen at a bigger scale and a faster pace, to bring back our wildlife.

Hazel Gloves Fungus’ common name comes from the finger-like projections of the stromata, cushion-like plate of solid mycelium. Found on Hazel trees in Britain, it is actually parasitic on the Glue Crust fungus Hymenochaete corrugate, and not the Hazel tree itself.

It was incredibly exciting to find Hazel Glove fungus. I knew about its importance as a rainforest indicator species and also its rarity status. I had seen many photos of it and so when I turned to take a second look at something I saw in the corner of my eye, I knew at once what it was.

I couldn’t share my unbridled joy at my discovery with anyone else in that moment, unless you include telling the singing Dipper I had just spotted or indeed talking to myself about it as I walked back along the trail. However, I was able to capture that moment on camera to relive again.

What does finding Hazel Gloves Fungus tell us?

Hazel Glove fungus is an indicator of good air quality and temperate rainforest conditions, making it a flagship species for this threatened habitat. Temperate rainforests are found in areas that are influenced by the sea, with high rainfall and humidity and damp climate.

They are home to some intriguing and sometimes rare bryophytes, plants and fungi. Plantlife are working in many ways to protect and restore this globally threatened habitat. 

Fungi need you to find them!

I have since sent in my record to the county fungi recorder with a 10 figure grid reference, only to discover that this species has not been officially recorded in that area before, which only heightened my sense of achievement.

Recording fungi and sending your finds to local wildlife recorders creates a more accurate picture of the wild and wonderful world around us – and helps people like us know where to target conservation efforts.

It’s estimated that more than 90% of fungi are unknown to science, and only 0.4% of the fungi we know about have enough data to be assessed for global conservation status – letting us know if they’re critically endangered or not.

Learn more about fungi

No Mow May: Can your garden be a carbon store?
Garden meadow by pond (c) Shuttleworth

No Mow May: Can your garden be a carbon store?

It’s not just trees that capture and store carbon – our meadows and grasslands can play an important role too.

The Wildlife in our Meadows
Duke of Burgundy butterfly on cowslip.

The Wildlife in our Meadows

From bumblebees to birds and moths to mammals – meadows are micro-cities of wildlife. Here's what to spot in your wildflower meadow.

Finding Hazel Gloves Fungus: Why Recording Matters

Finding Hazel Gloves Fungus: Why Recording Matters

Hazel Gloves Fungus is a priority species on the UK Biodiversity Action Plan, learn more about this rainforest fungi this Reverse the Red month.

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Significant agri-environment measures have been announced by the government, with light finally being shone on species-rich grassland.  

This is the change Plantlife has been calling for – and the choreography of the announcement could not be more symbolic.  

What was announced? 

While we were at the Oxford Real Farming Conference, DEFRA Minister Steve Barclay was at the Oxford Farming Conference where he announced significant changes to the Environmental Land Management (ELM) scheme (England’s new agri-environment scheme, paying farmers for more nature-friendly farming practices). 

One of the headline-grabbing announcements was an increase in funding for farmers managing species-rich grasslands in Countryside Stewardship (CS). Farmers who had previously been offered £182 per hectare can now expect £646/ha for the same land.  

Plantlife and its partners, alongside farmers, have been advocating for this policy change – a complete revaluing of these extraordinary multifunctional habitats.

What’s the problem?

Small square hay bailer in field

While this is an overall win for species-rich grassland, the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) payment rates are still too low.  

The low SFI payment rates risk more loss and destruction of irreplaceable meadows, as farmers can be rewarded more for ploughing and fertilising species-rich grassland, than maintaining them.  

Instead, farmers need to be offered better incentives to do the right thing for grasslands and wildlife.  

Crucially, alongside money, these schemes also need to provide the other thing that farmers need – accessible, high-quality and free (or affordable) advice. Whether farmers are taking the first leap, or tackling ever more ambitious restoration work, they need to know they can access the support needed.  

And there is still so much more that must be done to retore and protect grasslands across the country. That’s why we will continue, alongside our partners, to call on the government to commit to develop a Grassland Action Plan (GAP) for England.  

What should happen next?

This announcement is clearly moving in the right direction for the benefit of grasslands and farming. To build on this progress, we recommend that: 

  • The UK Government develops a Grassland Action Plan (GAP) for England, which: 
    • follows a strategic approach – prioritising all remaining high-quality grasslands; 
    • sets ambitious targets for species-rich grassland restoration and creation; 
    • steers ELM options to give more consistent signals to farmers on the value of their species-rich grassland, 
  • Managing species-rich grassland must also be available in Mid-Tier Countryside Stewardship, not just Higher-Tier; 
  • Additional advisory resources must be provided freely, or at low cost, to help farmers achieve good environmental outcomes from their land, and to expedite the assessment and listing of high-quality grasslands on the Priority Habitat Inventory so they are eligible for payment; 
  • Payments for low/no input grasslands in the Sustainable Farming Incentive must be increased to properly incentivise farmers and prevent more losses of species-rich grassland; 
  • Safeguards must be put in place to prevent semi-improved grasslands, with restoration potential, from being entered inappropriately into herbal ley ELM options. 
Cows in a field of grass by a gate in Greena Moor

What’s everyone else saying? 

It’s important to note that farming is not two separate camps – it is a continuum. Farmers plough their own furrows and few fit neatly into pigeonholes when it comes to method.  It is striking, then, that the announcement on species-rich grasslands is drawing similar responses from voices across conservation and farming.  

For example, the National Farming Union’s (NFU) president Minette Batters tweeted: “Credit where it’s due to @DefraGovUK. I’ve been critical of the lack of value in species rich grassland; delighted that the payment rate now reflects the incredible biodiversity & sequestered carbon benefits of grass.” 

Many of our GAP partners have echoed sentiments of support, such as Butterfly Conservation. 

The details and our thoughts

Managing species-rich grassland in Countryside Stewardship:  

  • We welcome the increase in rates per hectare from £182 to £646 
  • It rewards farmers who have taken the plunge and committed land to the higher-level agri-environment schemes  
  • But this change is only likely to bring a modest area of land into appropriate management because only grassland on the Priority Habitats Inventory (PHI) will be eligible, and the PHI is far from complete  
  • Additional resources are needed to expedite the assessment and listing of good quality grasslands, without significant extra work or delay for farmers  
  • Farmers in mid-tier Country Stewardship might also be cautious about taking up these options without better access to advisory and support services  

Restoration or creation of species-rich grasslands in Countryside Stewardship:  

  • These options pay at the same rate as management options (£646/ha) – and again are welcomed  
  • These rates should generate interest, but many farmers will also want to know whether they will have access to sufficient advisory support 
  • These options are also only available in Higher Tier Countryside Stewardship, which could significantly limit uptake as there is no intermediate option available 

Species-rich floodplain meadows in Countryside Stewardship: 

  • We welcome new options at £1,070/ha for managing and connecting floodplain meadows  
  • The change to payment rates reflects the immense multifunctional benefits of these habitats and the complexity of their management  
  • Floodplain meadows are at the cutting edge of nature-based solutions to the climate-fuelled challenges of managing soils, water and carbon, as well as restoring nature 

No change to Sustainable Farming Incentive grassland management rates:  

  • The increases to CS rates highlight the gap compared to SFI incentives for grassland, which remain at a low level in SFI 
  • It is yet to be seen whether higher CS rates will encourage farmers to accelerate towards applying to enter CS. The risk remains that the higher payment rates for other SFI options, (such as £382/ha for herbal leys, compared to £151/ha for managing grassland with very low inputs), incentivise farmers to plough up/plant permanent grassland to enter into other SFI options, resulting in further loss of grassland habitat  
  • We have previously highlighted the need for better safeguards around the entry of land into SFI herbal ley options, which attract higher payments than low-input grassland management. This is because there isn’t a mechanism to differentiate between the eligible improved grassland, and grassland that has been semi-improved but still has some restoration potential 
  • The risks remain that semi-improved grassland with restoration potential is entered into herbal leys, or that species-rich grassland is fertilised or ploughed in order to ensure its eligibility  

Advice and support are needed:  

  • These changes demonstrate how vital it is that, alongside money, these ELM schemes also provide advice and support for farmers  
  • This should be available for all farmers, whether taking their first steps into grassland restoration or tackling ever-bigger restoration projects  
  • The UK government announcement refers to advisory services, but without detail 

Our work

Fen Orchid Programme

Fen Orchid Programme

A more than 10 years programme of increasing the population of the Fen Orchid in the UK lead by Plantlife.

A big win for grassland, but farmers need more
Cows in a field of grass by a gate in Greena Moor

A big win for grassland, but farmers need more

After a big government announcement, our experts have been delving into the details on the latest funding changes for farmers.

Sustainable farming needs government support, report reveals
Wildflowers growing in a meadow with cattle behind

Sustainable farming needs government support, report reveals

As governments continue to undervalue grasslands, Plantlife is calling on policymakers to help farmers make sustainable choices. 

How cut-and-collect can save your council money – A Dorset Council case study

Learn how Dorset Council were able to invest for nature while cutting its mowing bill by 45% in seven years.

Dorset Council is working to meet climate and biodiversity targets by adopting a new approach to road verge management that will provide the greatest opportunity for wildflowers to thrive whilst reducing management costs and building a business case for investment in cut-and-collect equipment.   

“Lichens are cool because they are everywhere. Once you notice them, you realise they are crazy, weird, colourful and interesting.”

Rob Hodgson started his lichen journey in lockdown as a complete beginner. Walking around Bristol one day, a lichen peaked his interest and from then on he was gripped by these secret miniature forests.

As an illustrator, Rob has created dynamic and lifelike lichen characters to help more people starting out.

We went to chat to Rob and join him on a lichen hunt.

Man looking at a tree for lichens

What’s it like as a lichen beginner?

“It was kind of my lockdown project and I just got interested one day, like what is this crazy thing. When I first started looking at lichens, you go online and there’s a million Latin names and I was just like, no this isn’t for me – I’m not a lichen expert. But once you learn the common names and you start to spot different ones, it gets easier. You don’t have to go anywhere far away, you can see these things just on the street. There’s one called chewing Chewing Gum lichen that you can see everywhere once you tune into it, just on the pavement.

Where are all these lichens?

“You do definitely notice if you go to the countryside, it’s like a lichen explosion. But I live in the centre of Bristol pretty much and there’s still lichens everywhere. On my doorstep, you see them on the pavements, you see them on walls and in my local parks there’s loads of lichens.

It’s a really good time of year to go lichen hunting [autumn/winter] and you don’t need any stuff. You can just go and as soon as you get out of the house you are on a lichen hunt – that’s as easy as it is. You just need to look on the floor, look in the tress and you’re good to go.

Let’s meet the lichen characters…

Rob Hodgson looking for lichens on a wall

How did you make the lichen characters?

“The way I work things out sometimes is through my work. When I was looking at lichens, I thought how can I make this more interesting than all of these super technical, botanical drawings. I drew one, and then once you notice one, you notice another, and then all of sudden I had drawn 20 different lichens.

There was a lot of back and forth between going out and looking at lichens and going back and modifying them.

That was where I was coming from, trying to make them fun and accessible.”

 

Rob has made beautifully designed lichen characters including dust lichen, shield lichen and oak moss. Follow him on social media here.

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Species-rich meadows and pastures are hanging by a thread. As we watch governments deciding on detail and picking payment rates for their respective agri-environment schemes – will policy decisions be lifelines for farmers and nature, or money for old rope?   

It is time for us to take a new look at old grasslands.  

Understanding the value of grasslands

Small square hay bailer in field

Permanent, species-rich grassland needs to be properly valued, prioritised and resourced. We are calling on policymakers to help our brilliant farmers protect these special grasslands, which are the product of decisions by generations of farmers.

Today a strategic approach by governments – in England, Scotland and Wales – is needed to ensure the right decisions for future generations, for nature and for grassland.

Why should governments listen?

Our new report ‘Farming Income for Semi-Natural Grasslands’ shines a light on the risks, rewards and potential in farming nature-rich grasslands. It spells out some of the tough questions facing farming and conservation efforts in England, Wales and Scotland – and what governments can do to help.

The report highlights inspiring farmers who are rethinking the value of species-rich grasslands as a way to rebalance inputs, outputs and profit. Many of them are concluding that permanent low-input grasslands can be key to making farm finances more sustainable.

However, other farmers are re-evaluating these grasslands and warning that agri-environment scheme offers aren’t sufficient to secure the future management of species-rich grasslands, the report reveals. Right now, for example, farmers in Wales are being offered drastically reduced payment rates for habitat management and in England farmers are being offered less for managing species-rich grasslands than they would get on the same land for short term herbal leys of minimal conservation value.

WATCH: Plantlife’s Agricultural Advisor, Hywel Morgan talks about the benefits of sustainable farming:

Cows in a field of grass by a gate in Greena Moor

Governments need to prioritise grasslands

Governments across the UK need to have strategic approaches to permanent grasslands, the report concludes. Grasslands need to be recognised for their multifunctionality when it comes to land use, nature and climate.

Strategic plans for grassland should include:

  • long-term agri-environment schemes to provide a compelling basis for farmers to see permanent species-rich grassland as a viable business option;
  • access to high quality advisory and support services for farmers, including peer-to-peer knowledge transfer on managing high nature value grasslands
  • developing grassland data and specialist capacity within government agencies.

Why are grasslands important?

Permanent grasslands in the UK have been persistently undervalued, our previous work [1] with partners has demonstrated. Alongside producing high-quality food, these grasslands deliver habitats for nature, ecological connectivity, carbon and water storage, flood mitigation, and healthy soils. In summary, species-rich grasslands offer a way to combine food production with nature, in ways more complementary than competitive.

The report ‘Farming Income for Semi-Natural Grasslands’ was funded by Airwick Botanica, and researched and compiled by SLR Consulting, on behalf of a partnership of WWF UK, Plantlife and Pasture for Life.  The partner bodies are very grateful to the inspiring farmers who volunteered case studies.

Our work

Fen Orchid Programme

Fen Orchid Programme

A more than 10 years programme of increasing the population of the Fen Orchid in the UK lead by Plantlife.

A big win for grassland, but farmers need more
Cows in a field of grass by a gate in Greena Moor

A big win for grassland, but farmers need more

After a big government announcement, our experts have been delving into the details on the latest funding changes for farmers.

Sustainable farming needs government support, report reveals
Wildflowers growing in a meadow with cattle behind

Sustainable farming needs government support, report reveals

As governments continue to undervalue grasslands, Plantlife is calling on policymakers to help farmers make sustainable choices. 

Characterised by the presence of unique lichens, bryophytes, mosses, and liverworts, rainforest habitats are highly fragmented and face threats from invasive non-native species, such as Rhododendron ponticum, alongside ash dieback, inappropriate grazing, and air pollution. 

How governments can protect and restore this internationally-rare habitat

Temperate rainforests have some of the highest diversity and abundance of wild plants and fungi in Britain, with many sites qualifying as Important Plant Areas.

Protecting and restoring this ecosystem would speed up progress in meeting national and global targets to address the nature and climate emergencies, including the 2030 Global Biodiversity Framework. Investment in rainforest restoration would also build on past and present conservation actions, and help to build a green economy through employment, skills training and tourism. 

 

The future of Britain’s temperate rainforest and its unique species depends on targeted action by the Scottish, UK and Welsh Governments to:    

1. Establish national rainforest funds from both public and private sources to support long-term landscape-scale projects and other practical action.

a) The Alliance for Scotland’s Rainforest has identified the cost of restoring the temperate rainforest zone in Scotland to be £500 million.   

2. Increase protection of remaining rainforest sites and species through national strategy, policy, and legislation.  

3. Provide advice and support for land managers to enhance and restore rainforest on their land.  

4. Take urgent action to tackle key threats to rainforest including air pollution, invasive non-native species (INNS), and deer management.

a) More than 94% of the UK’s woodland is impacted by excess nitrogen deposited through air pollution and rainfall. Lichens are essential species in temperate rainforests, but they need clean air to thrive. Lichens provide food, shelter, and microhabitats for invertebrates, in addition to carbon cycling and water retention.  

b) Invasive non-native species, like Rhododendron ponticum and ash dieback currently have the potential to wipe out much of the species diversity in Britain’s temperate rainforests. Funding projects that address this, in addition to making powers of enforcement more widely known and used where necessary, give rainforests to chance to thrive.  

c) Deer are a natural part of thriving temperate rainforest areas; however, at their current population density, particularly within Scotland, their grazing prevents essential tree species from growing and this leads to a decrease in long-term regeneration of woodland areas.  

Our work

A Temperate Rainforest Strategy for England:
branches and tree covered with lichens

A Temperate Rainforest Strategy for England:

A new English government strategy for temperate rainforest has been released, but restoring the rainforest in England requires a more detailed approach that recognises and addresses the threats. To put the rainforest on the path to recovery, concrete action is needed.

Government Action for Temperate Rainforests 

Government Action for Temperate Rainforests 

Discover how Plantlife is working with governments to protect and restore temperate rainforest along the Atlantic coast of Britain.

Saving species in Devon and Cornwall’s rainforests
Wistmands Wood Building resilience rainforest

Saving species in Devon and Cornwall's rainforests

Our wild and wet woodlands and the species that live within them are facing severe threats which Plantlife will be tackling through the Species Recovery Project.

How volunteers care for Three Hagges

Volunteers have been helping to care for the woodmeadow for over 10 years. The group was founded by residents in surrounding villages joining forces to turn a 10ha arable field into the Three Hagges nature reserve that we know and love today.  

We meet every Tuesday morning, rain, shine, or snow, and we do a range of practical conservation tasks to keep the woodmeadow a pleasant place for visitors and a thriving habitat for wildlife.  

Tasks change from season to season but include: 

  • Growing flowers and trees from seed in our bespoke polytunnel 
  • Planting wildflower plug plants and trees
  • Collecting seed 
  • Maintaining paths, benches and interpretation boards within the woodmeadow 

This winter we are coppicing areas of Hazel and we will use the material to create dead hedges throughout the site. Last year we used the hazel to create a woven story-telling den which was great fun. 

There’s always a long list of jobs to do so we never run out of tasks! 

Get involved with protecting nature

We’re lucky to have a wonderful network of volunteers who help survey and record the different species here. Volunteers regularly do moth trapping, as well as bumblebee, bird, reptile and plant surveys. This helps to understand the biodiversity this special place supports. 

The woodmeadow is incredibly diverse – you may be lucky enough to come across a basking Grass Snake or see a Buzzard circling overhead as you explore Three Hagges and the pond is teeming with dragonflies and damselflies in the summer. 

We can even keep track of weather conditions and water levels on site too through our recently installed weather station. None of this monitoring would be possible without the expertise and dedication of our survey volunteers. 

The magic of Three Hagges Woodmeadow

The whole of Three Hagges Woodmeadow is incredibly special. There are surprises around every corner to enjoy, such as a bee hotel, Crombie Roundhouse (a traditional shelter made of materials found in the wood) and wildlife pond.  

I love how the site changes throughout the seasons. In spring, the meadows and woodland are coming alive, with early spring flowers. Looking closely in the woodlands you can spot Violets, Wood Anemone and Stitchwort.  

As summer moves closer, the wildflower meadows burst with colour and are truly breathtaking as a sea of purples and yellows take hold with species like Field Scabious, Common Knapweed and Bird’s-foot Trefoil. 

Volunteering at Three Hagges

Without the volunteers, Three Hagges Woodmeadow would simply not exist. Volunteers have worked tirelessly growing hundreds of wildflowers a year so that the meadow is bursting with colour, and cutting back vegetation from benches and interpretation boards so that the site can be enjoyed by visitors.  

I would be completely lost without my team of volunteers – I couldn’t enhance and maintain Three Hagges on my own.

The volunteers are the heart and soul of the woodmeadow and they turn up, whatever the weather, to work hard, laugh hard and go home tired and happy.