Setting up a grassland restoration programme
1. Site assessment
What already occurs on the site? Are there any useful indicator species?
What habitats and wildlife occur locally? Visit other sites and consider the potential for your own.
Which plants might colonise naturally if conditions were suitable?
Which animals might use the site if conditions were right for them?
What is the current management? What can you find out about the past management?
What soil type(s) is present? What is its nutrient status and physical condition?
2. Create a base map
Look at field sizes, location, boundaries, watering points, shelter, animal / people access etc, from the perspective of creating an integrated grassland restoration plan
3. Research management options
What type of livestock is available, how many and when?
Is the infrastructure adequate – fencing, watering, checking, shelter, access, escape routes (if public site)?
Where will the animals be accommodated before and after the desired grazing period(s)?
Will you allow supplementary feeding? Will you allow chemical wormers?
How will you ensure control and flexibility within any grazing regime?
Is any of the site suitable for cutting hay? How will you store/use/sell it? Who will do the cutting/topping?
Are there any other management issues eg scrub encroachment? How will you solve these?
4. Evaluate the options
Consider the grassland habitats that are (potentially) present on your site. What are their management requirements? Can you fulfill these?
What resources do you have at your disposal (time, money, skills, materials, staff and/or contractors)? Are any other roles needed for the site (eg recreation)? Are these compatible or conflicting?
Are there any legal or health and safety considerations?
Do you need to consider the economic impact of changing the existing management?
Are there any grants or advisory bodies that could help?
5. Design your plan
Use photocopies of your base map, transparent overlays or a computer to try out different combinations. Take into account the cost of each option and the ideal timescale. Date the plan and provide a written rationale – if only by annotating the map itself. Prepare a costed implementation schedule for any capital works eg fencing. Remember that management requirements may change with time.
6. Implement your plan
Create a realistic timescale and think about jobs that require contractors, equipment and/or materials. Should these be scheduled together or kept apart? Is there a ‘best’ time of year to do certain jobs? Who will oversee the implementation? Who will check the livestock and grassland condition?
7. Manage, monitor and modify
Monitor the site regularly and make changes if necessary, based on sound observation and/or advice. Aim for a suitable structural condition for the time of year (spring; early summer; autumn/early winter). In the longer term, observe whether the desired botanical changes are occurring and whether a greater range of wildlife is using the site. If not, why not? Is any further action required or advice needed? Consider if and when the site might be moving out of the restoration phase and into the conservation phase - and whether changes in management are needed.
This is a handout produced by the Shared Earth Trust. Contact the Grazing Advice Partnership
for more detailed guidance and advice on setting up grazing regimes.