A Summary

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Strictly speaking, a meadow is a grass field which is cut for hay. For the purposes of these pages, a meadow is taken to be a flower rich, low intensity agricultural grassland.
  • Meadows are small, permanent pastures which have not been ploughed for at least seven years.
  • They are grazed by small numbers of cattle or sheep and, or cut for hay.
  • They are low input, low output grasslands. Grass yield is typically 15 times less than intensive grasslands.
  • They tend to be old landscape features, bounded by similarly old boundaries such as species rich hedges, old stone walls or woodlands.
  • Meadows harbour a great diversity of plant and animal species, although individual meadows will tend to be a fairly uniform habitat overall.
  • Meadows can be broadly divided into two types: Dry hay meadows and wet, water meadows.
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  • The plants and animals which are found in each type will usually differ substantially because of differences in the soil condition.
  • Hay meadows are cut late in the summer season which allows ground nesting birds and mammals time to rear their young.
  • Meadows are composed of many plants which include mixtures of native wild grasses, interspersed with different wild flower species.
  • A great variety of invertebrates, birds and mammals can be found in meadows, either feeding on the plants or on each other.
  • 97%  of meadows have been lost since World War II, largely as a result of changes in farming practices.
  • This has led to a decline in many once common species, both plant and animal.
  • Some species such as the Cornkrake, nest in hay meadows and have become extinct in England.
  • Meadows can be restored or recreated, but it takes a long time to establish the complex ecosystems present in old meadows.


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Meadows can support a wide range of plants, fungi and animals