Map of UK Conservation Grazing Schemes

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Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Location:Cotswolds, Gloucestershire



In brief:A multi – objective landscape scale partnership project funded by HLF focusing in part on achieving long – term, sustainable grazing management of unimproved limestone grassland sites within the project area, including several large commons. The project has now finished but resources are available direct from AONB staff or to download from their website.

Contact:Mark Connelly

Tel:01451 862006

Cotswolds AONBCotswold grassland is wildflower rich grassland that has not been affected by modern farming methods and is a key characteristic of the Cotswold landscape. The Cotswolds Conservation Board grassland work helped to improve the management of one-third of this grassland through practical improvement work, the re-introduction of grazing, information and training. This formed part of the Conservation Board's 'Caring for the Cotswolds' project, which had funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Led by Cotswold AONB this involved 34 local, regional and national organisations including 17 local authority partners.

In 1935 about 40% of the Cotswolds was still covered with unimproved grassland. Today, approximately 3,000 ha remains - 1.5%. There are over 400 sites but they tend to be small with few sites larger than 20 hectares. The future of such valuable grasslands is not bright. The biggest threat is the lack of grazing or alternative management. Without management the grassland becomes scrubby and loses wildlife importance. The Adonis blue and large blue butterflies have become extinct in the Cotswolds over the last 30 years and further extinctions are a real possibility.

The Cotswold Hills ESA, which covered approximately 2/3 of the AONB, included a prescription for extensive permanent grassland (Tier 1C), which covered the conservation of semi-improved and unimproved limestone grassland. Farmers still within the scheme are obligated to graze the land to prevent the build up of coarse grasses and scrub. The Entry and Higher Level Schemes also offer further opportunities for conserving this landscape.

Branding opportunities were also being explored so that farmers engaged in conservation grazing could ask an additional premium for their beef and lamb, and the project was successful in engaging local communities in grazing schemes and helping resolve issues associated with common land management.