Lowland Calcareous Grassland

Lowland Calcareous Grassland

What are they?
They are found on shallow, well-draining lime-rich soils (soil pH above 7), generally overlying limestone or chalk in the warmer, drier areas of England.

How they are traditionally managed
They are typically managed as components of pastoral or mixed farming systems, supporting sheep, cattle or sometimes horses; a few examples are cut for hay.

Distribution in Bedfordshire
Chalk grasslands are largely found on the steep slopes of the Chiltern Hills in the south of the county.  There are some small pockets in north Bedfordshire.

Distribution in Cambridgeshire
This habitat is found in a band that goes from the southeastern boundary of the county below the river Rhee and continues diagonally up, south of Cambridge, to eventually surround the outskirts of Newmarket.

Distribution in Northamptonshire

This habitat is found in association with the bands of calcareous grassland in the far northeast and southwest of the County. There are also areas where ironstone quarries have exposed the limestone below and a calcareous flora has then developed. Good examples include the Wildlife Trust reserves of Old Sulehay, Twywell Hills and Dales and Collyweston Quarries.

Species associated with them
The soils are infertile encouraging an intricate mixture of plants and animals. A careful search may reveal as many as 40 plants species in a square metre.

Just by spending a few minutes looking at your grassland, you will notice that it is composed of grasses 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

Quaking-grass, clustered bellflower, wild thyme, a range of orchids and the nationally rare pasqueflower and great pignut.

If you would like to see pictures of some of the species listed above, please click here.

  • Fauna associations

A number of rare and declining butterflies and birds including small blue, duke of burgundy, dingy skipper, grizzled skipper, skylark, stone-curlew and whinchat.

Examples available to visit


Blow’s Down in Dunstable

Pegsdon Hills and Hoo Bit in Pegsdon

Fulbourne Fen near Cherry Hinton


Old Sulehay – near Wansford

Twywell Hills and Dales – near Twywell

For more information
View our lowland calcareous grassland leaflet
View Lowland Calcareous Grassland Biodiversity Action Plan for Bedfordshire

View Lowland Calcareous Grassland Biodiversity Action Plan for Northamptonshire

Help available
If you think that you may have some of the plant species listed above in your grassland then you could receive a free site visit from a Wildlife Sites Officer.  Or if you would like more information about lowland calcareous grasslands, please contact: Bedfordshire – Laura Downton Email.
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Tel. 01234 364213.  Cambridgeshire – Jessica Hatchett Email.
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 Tel. 01954 713500. Northamptonshire – Matt Johnson Email.
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Tel. 01954 713500

There might be some opportunities for getting funding

Chloe Granger

Admin at Cut & Chew
The admin of the Cut and Chew website, and activist for improving the UK grazing landscape.

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