Following last week’s post about tree planting on a very species-rich grassland in Cumbria, organised by the Woodland Trust, I’ve been contacted with another story of a similar nature, in Cheshire.
This time it’s a piece of lowland acid grassland – about 0.8ha of what may well be a very unusual species-rich form of acid grassland, as it supports a large population of Lathyrus linifolius (montanus previously) commonly known as Bitter vetch.
According to the source “Around 2 years ago the local community helped to plant it up with trees sourced through a Woodland Trust fund.” When the WT were approached and asked why they had planted up a species-rich grassland and whether they would do anything about it, they did nothing about it.
The grassland is not a County Wildlife Site but is being considered as one, in the hope that if it meets the criteria the owners can be persuaded to remove the trees and start grazing it again.
Nearby sites on similar geology support an interesting range of neutral and acid-loving plants, which would easily qualify them as SSSI. This type of grassland also supports internationally important communities of fungi, particularly waxcaps.
Once again we see the Woodland Trust supporting tree planting efforts on wildlife-rich grasslands. In this case it’s the local community who has been persuaded to carry out this piece of environmental vandalism, in the name of err environmental enhancement and climate action. The landowner is also an innocent party, as was the case in Cumbria.
For those of you thinking – “it’s just 0.8ha of grassland – why all the fuss?”. Cheshire has lost 99% of its species-rich grassland – and lowland acid grassland, especially of the species-rich form which this site may support, is found across a few hundred hectares of very small sites.
If we are ever to restore wildlife across the UK, at a large scale, these small sites will be vital in providing the wildlife to colonise back into the surrounding landscapes.
But quite apart from that, they are little jewels, created by millennia of interplay between people and nature.
They hold our history, they provide meaning, they hold memories and they are places which we must cherish.