Learning Zone

The South Pennines Grasslands Project aims to restore, improve and create species-rich grassland in the West Pennine moors.

“Wildflower meadows are vital habitats for birds, butterflies, bees and other wildlife. It is crucial that action is taken to restore these endangered habitats and create new species-rich grasslands.”

Philip Reddell, LWT Project Officer

Species-rich grassland contains a high diversity of plant and grass species and includes hay meadows, unimproved pasture and acid grassland, but it has been estimated that 97% of species-rich grassland in the UK has been lost since 1945.

The scale of the loss and fragmentation of species-rich grassland has proven unsustainable for a number of species supported by this habitat:

  • Two Bumblebee species have become extinct in the UK during the 20th Century;
  • Six Bumblebee species are BAP (Biodiversity Action Plan) listed as priority species for conservation action;
  • Specialist grassland butterflies – Large Skipper, Common Blue, Small Copper and Meadow Brown have become highly localised due to a drastic decline in availability of the wildflowers utilised as larvae food plants;
  • Bird species such as the Twite that rely on hay meadows to feed their young and Skylarks that nest in dense vegetation of hay meadows have declined in numbers;
  • One in five native wildflower species is currently threatened by extinction.

The ecosystems associated with species-rich grasslands also provide vital ecological services for humanity, such as pollination and natural pest control for agricultural crops.

The site comprises of land extending along both sides of Thursden Brook for approximately 3 km, from Cockden Bridge in the west to Halifax Road in the east. The valley supports a mosaic of habitats, including species-rich grassland, flushes, scrub and woodland. The site contains old “hushings” – areas worked for the limestone content of the local boulder clay – and these typically support flush/dry grassland mosaics. A nationally scarce Cranefly and Horsetail Weevil have been recorded in the valley.

Species-rich, flushed, neutral to acidic pastures are present on the steeper slopes on both sides of the stream. Typically Yorkshire-fog and crested dog’s-tail dominate, accompanied by sweet vernal-grass and common bent, together with species such as yellow rattle, pignut, common bird’s-foot-trefoil, autumn hawkbit and mouse-ear hawkweed.

In more acidic areas, wavy hair-grass, mat-grass and sheep’s-fescue are found, along with occasional heath-grass, heath bedstraw, heather and heath speedwell. Flushed ground supports a diversity of plants, including sharp-flowered rush, meadowsweet, common and greater bird’s-foot-trefoil, zigzag clover, devil’s-bit scabious, ragged-robin, sneezewort, common knapweed, self-heal, common spotted-orchid, lady’s-mantle, common fleabane, marsh valerian, bitter vetch, marsh-marigold and adder’s-tongue. In the more base-enriched “hushings” plants such as purging flax, harebell, eyebright and quaking-grass are found. Scattered scrub and trees include alder, ash, rowan, guelder-rose, hawthorn, hazel, willow, blackthorn and soft downy-rose. In places there is a denser cover of woody plants, with blackthorn, hawthorn, alder and ash occurring in abundance, together with occasional hazel, oak, field-rose, dog-rose and soft downy-rose. Wood-sorrel and wild strawberry occur in the ground layer in shaded areas.

As the lead partner in the South Pennines Grasslands Project the Lancashire Wildlife Trust is working with HAPPA to restore 11 hectares of flower rich grassland on the HAPPA site.

The Wildlife Trust is working with volunteers and contractors to re-establish stock fencing and expand the existing flower rich grasslands. HAPPA will use their horses and ponies to manage the grasslands under a grazing plan that aims to increase wildflower abundance and diversity. The meadows at HAPPA will be used as a ‘seed bank’ for the restoration of other areas that have lost the species diversity that HAPPA’s meadows support.

The project is for five years and wildflower surveys will be conducted every year to assess the impact that the habitat management works are having on the meadows.

Wildflower ID training will be held on the HAPPA site in June this year. Please contact Philip Reddell, preddell@lancswt.org.uk for details.

The Thursden Valley Biological Heritage Site at HAPPA is a beautiful place and is full of a variety of wildlife. The habitats range from woodlands and grasslands to shallow river beds and exposed river gravel. There are three walks that you can start and finish at HAPPA for a range of abilities and weather conditions.

Please take care on the meadow – stick to the route way marked by red topped posts, keep your dog on a lead, do not pick the wildflowers – some are very rare.

The species-rich grasslands support a variety of wildlife. Bees and Butterflies drink the nectar and collect pollen that the flowers produce. Other insects live their short lives amongst the meadow grasses and flowers and in turn provide a rich food source for birds that nest in the meadows or in the trees which border the meadows. The river is teeming with life and shallow rock pools where the water flows slowly support the larvae of dragonflies that will buzz above the meadow in summer catching other insects out of the air. Hunting birds, called ‘Raptors’, hover over the meadow waiting for the rustle in the grass that betrays a small mammal darting to safety. Hare, Roe Deer and Badgers can all be seen on site.

A wildflower survey of the HAPPA site in October 2014 picked up 55 species – some of which are rare or threatened in Lancashire. See how many you can find.

Yellow Rattle – flowers May – September. The brown, purse-like calyxes (containing the sepals) of Yellow Rattle give this plant its common name – brush through a wildflower meadow at the height of summer and you’ll hear the tiny seeds rattling in their pods. This annual plant thrives in grasslands, living a semi-parasitic life by feeding off the nutrients in the roots of nearby grasses.

Bird’s Foot Trefoil – flowers May – September. This flower is well loved by Bees and the name comes from the slight resemblance of the seed pods to a birds feet. Other common names include ‘Butter and Eggs’ and ‘Eggs and Bacon’ which refer to the yellow and orange colour of the flower.

Self-Heal – flowers June – October. Self-heal can be seen creeping through the short turf of a grassland or the uncut grass of a woodland clearing or roadside verge; it can even pop up in lawns that haven’t been treated with chemicals. Its clusters of violet flowers appear from June to October and provide a nectar source for bees and wasps.

Wood Anenome – Flowers March–May. This flower can mainly be seen in woodlands but at HAPPA there are large patches of this pretty flower blooming on the meadow areas.

Red Clover – Flowers May–October. Red Clover is a common plant of all kinds of grassy areas in the UK, from lawns to pastures, roadsides to meadows. It is sown as a fodder crop for livestock and has long been used in crop rotation systems because of its ability to fix nitrogen, enriching soils. The trefoil leaves are collected by Wood Mice and the flowers are sort after by all kinds of bumblebees for their nectar.

Other flowers that you might see are: Common spotted orchid, Devils bit scabious, Eyebright, Sneezewort, Ragged robin, Meadow buttercup, Harebell and Common knapweed.

The species-rich grasslands support a variety of wildlife. Bees and Butterflies drink the nectar and collect pollen that the flowers produce. Other insects live their short lives amongst the meadow grasses and flowers and in turn provide a rich food source for birds that nest in the meadows or in the trees which border the meadows. The river is teeming with life and shallow rock pools where the water flows slowly support the larvae of dragonflies that will buzz above the meadow in summer catching other insects out of the air. Hunting birds, called ‘Raptors’, hover over the meadow waiting for the rustle in the grass that betrays a small mammal darting to safety. Hare, Roe Deer and Badgers can all be seen on site.

Butterflies

Meadow Brown, Speckled Wood, Peacock

Bees

Buff tailed bumblebee, Red tailed bumblebee

Birds

Curlew, Blue Tit, Kestrel

Dragonflies

Brown Hawker

River life

Bullhead Fish, Water Scorpion, Caddisfly Larvae, Dragonfly Larvae

Mammals

Field Vole, Hare, Roe Deer, Badger

Shores Hey Farm enjoys a host of wild flowers, grasses and specific planting. From our carefully created butterfly garden planted with a range of plants to attract all species of native butterfly to our indigenous self-seeded varieties scattered throughout our fields there is plenty to see. The trail is marked on your Farm Map and you can collect a fact sheet, telling you which plants to look out for at Reception or in our Visitor’s Centre. Guided tours are scheduled throughout the year. Check out our What’s On page for a date to suit you.

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