What are they?
They are composed of a mosaic of wet grassland, wetland (ditches, ponds, swamp communities) and other grassland types including lowland meadows. They are periodically inundated grasslands with ditches to maintain the water levels containing standing brackish or fresh water. These ditches are especially rich in plants and invertebrates. Almost all are grazed, but some are cut for hay or silage. Sites may contain seasonal water-filled hollows and permanent ponds with emergent swamp communities, but not extensive areas of tall fen species like reeds, although they may abut with fen and reed swamp communities.
How they are traditionally managed
Floodplain grazing marshes are tradionally managed by grazing, but some are cut for hay or sillage.
Distribution in Bedfordshire
The largest areas of floodplain grassland are located in the Ouse, Ivel, Ouzel and Flit valleys. Whilst some areas, particularly in the Ivel and Flit valleys are of County Wildlife Site status most are now agriculturally improved grasslands. Fenlake Meadow Local Nature Reserve in Bedford is a good example of floodplain grazing grassland which also contains some areas of marshy grassland.
Distribution in Cambridgeshire
The largest areas of floodplain grazing marsh in Cambridgeshire are in the Ouse Washes (around 1,900 ha – both Cambridgeshire and Norfolk) and Nene Washes (around 1,000 ha). Other areas of floodplain grazing marsh in Cambridgeshire can be found within the Cam Washes SSSI, the Ouse and Nene Washes and on the south bank of the Welland. Castor Flood Meadows SSSI and Portholme SSSI/cSAC are also important sites within the county.
Distribution in Northamptonshire
The largest areas of foodplain grazing marsh in Northamptonshire are found along the Nene and Welland valleys. Much of the floodplain grazing marsh along the Nene is associated with the Upper Nene Gravel Pits, however outside of this few areas are considered Local Wildlife Sites standard. Examples include Irthlingborough Lakes and Meadows and Hardwater Meadows in the SPA and the WT reserve at Abington Meadows.
Species associated with them
Just by spending a few minutes looking at your grassland, you will notice that it is composed of grasses, sedges, rushes and herbs of different shapes, sizes and colours. The presence of these species will give you an indication of the type of grassland you have.
- Flora associations
They are composed of a mosaic of wet grassland, wetland (ditches, ponds, swamp communities) and other grassland types including lowland meadows. Tufted grasses, sedges and rushes are characteristic of damp areas and are common in this habitat. Flowering plants typical of lowland meadows may also be found in floodplain grazing marsh - creeping and meadow buttercup, white clover, cuckoo flower, thistles, ribwort plantain. Other species you might associate with floodplain grazing marsh are purple moor grass and greater bird's foot trefoil. The ditches may be composed of species such as celery leaved buttercup and purple loostrife.
- Fauna associations
This habitat is important for breeding and migrant waders such as snipe, redshank, lapwing and curlew and other wintering wildfowl. Otters and water voles. Rare dragonflies and water beetles.
Examples available to visit
Flitwick Moor SSSI - near Flitwick in Bedfordshire
Abingdon Meadows - near Weston Favell in Northamptonshire
For more information
View floodplain grazing marsh Biodiversity Action Plan for Bedfordshire
View floodplain grazing marsh Biodiversity Action Plan for Northamptonshire
There might be some opportunities for getting funding