The High Weald AONB is a known refuge for species-rich grasslands which are scattered across the AONB - jewels in a medieval landscape. The Weald Meadows Networks raises awareness of the value of these rare habitats and provides practical support to landowners with grassland surveying, management, restoration and creation.
Between 2006 - 09, with a full time Meadows Officer, 141 meadows were surveyed, 612 grassland owners received advice and support (855ha), high value grasslands were entered into grant schemes (380ha into Countryside Stewardship and 74 ha into other schemes), and 78 sites were enhanced (55 ha) and created (10ha) using 248 kg of Weald Native Origin Seed (WNOS) harvested from ancient meadows.
Species-rich grasslands are the High Weald’s most vulnerable habitat. Some are designated as SSSIs or local wildlife sites but many are undesignated. Maintaining traditional management is a challenge, particularly for the increasing number of non-farming owners who have limited knowledge of land management and don’t own equipment or stock. There is a great deal of enthusiasm to care for and create species-rich grasslands and huge potential to enhance significant areas of semi-improved grassland to create a species-rich grassland network. By providing free advice and support the Initiative successfully channels and guides landowners’ enthusiasm into successful practical projects that maintain and increase high value grassland habitat.
The partnership operates across the whole of the High Weald AONB, a 1461km2 area at the heart of South East England.