A wild flower meadow at Sedgemoor

Meadows and grasslands

Grassland is home to very special plant species and some inspiring birds. Imagine exploring a meadow and pausing to take a closer look at a beautiful flowers, while colourful butterflies flit by and skylarks sing to you from above.

Why is this habitat different?

  • You might think of a bright green field grazed by black and white cows when someone mentions 'grassland', but the really good stuff that's filled with important plants and animals is less green in colour and much rarer. 
  • Like heathland, most grassland is a man-made habitat, dating from when Bronze Age humans cleared our natural woodland to grow their crops. 
  • It's thought that 97 per cent of grassland has been lost since 1930! That's why the plants and animals found on it are so precious.

What lives there?

Grassland is great for a wide variety of plants and animals which are not found in other, more common habitats.

Insects and flowers are the crowning glories of good grassland. Which ones are present depends on the soil beneath. For example, on chalk grassland you'll find marbled white butterflies flitting around, and on neutral or acid soils, maybe red and black six-spot burnet moths lurking amongst the grasses.

Grasslands are the best place to find orchids with weird names like green-winged orchid, man orchid and pyramidal orchid. They look as wonderful as they sound odd.

Visit in spring and you're certain to hear the famous song of the skylark, performed as it flies higher and higher above its territory until it's invisible to the naked eye.

You're also likely to encounter 'Professor Yaffle' - the green woodpecker - as he hops about on the ground and attacks ant-hills.

In a very few areas, stone-curlews, weird, boggly-eyed, long-legged wading birds, hunt for insects amongst the grass.

Stay until dusk and you might find a barn owl floating back and forth in search of a furry supper.

Why is it in trouble?

Farming and building

Modern farming uses lots of fertilisers which are bad for the small rare plants that make this habitat special. In many cases people have also built on this land, meaning there is only a tiny amount of it left. 

Care and attention

Grassland needs to be looked after - left alone it will naturally sprout bushes and then woodland. Just the right amount of cows and sheep are needed to keep this delicate habitat as it is. 

Split up

Now there's much less of it than there was, the remaining isolated fragments of habitat mean that species are vulnerable, trapped out on a limb.

See if for yourself!

Our grassland reserves are vital sanctuaries for nesting birds such as skylarks and waders. The wild calls and display flights of lapwings, curlews, snipe and redshanks are a star spring attraction. In the summer, colourful displays of wildflowers bloom.

Our grassland meadow reserves

To find out more, pick a marker from the map or zoom in.
    • Balranald

      Balranald

      This beautiful Hebridean reserve has sandy beaches, rocky foreshore, marshes and sand-dunes. An information centre explains the importance of traditional crofting agriculture for corncrakes and other wildlife.

      Find out more
    • Baron's Haugh

      Baron's Haugh

      A real gem for wildlife and for visitors, too. Spend time in one of the four hides, looking out at the ducks and swans on the haugh, or take a walk through the woods. If you're lucky you may even see a kingfisher or an otter on the river.

      Find out more
    • Berney Marshes and Breydon Water

      Berney Marshes and Breydon Water

      Experience the spectacle of the tens of thousands of wintering ducks, geese and swans that visit the estuary and surrounding grazing marshes. In spring, the marshes are filled with the atmospheric calls of lapwings and redshanks.

      Find out more
    • Bowers Marsh

      Bowers Marsh

      Bowers Marsh is an ancient landscape alive with the sights and sounds of wildlife. Now, after careful restoration, it's ready and waiting for you to explore and enjoy.

      Find out more
    • Carsington Water

      Carsington Water

      Owned and managed by Severn Trent Water, Carsington Water is a large reservoir. It boasts a range of wildlife habitats from ancient hedgerows, species-rich wildflower meadows and native woodlands, to pond and scrapes, reedbeds and islands.

      Find out more
    • Church Wood

      Church Wood

      This is a beautiful place for a quiet woodland walk. You can take a stroll along dappled paths through beech, ash and oak trees. In springtime you can enjoy a carpet of sweet scented bluebells and there is also a flourishing meadow.

      Find out more
    • Coombes Valley

      Coombes Valley

      This is a delightful oak woodland to walk through - especially in spring and early summer when lots of migrating birds come to breed at the reserve.

      Find out more
    • Coll

      Coll

      Stroll down a shell-white beach, marvel at the summer colour as the flowers bloom along the sand dunes, and keep your eyes peeled for the most elusive of birds - the corncrake.

      Find out more
    • Exminster and Powderham Marshes

      Exminster and Powderham Marshes

      Just five miles from Exeter city centre, Exminster and Powderham Marshes are great places to see birds all year-round. You can enjoy lovely walks here in this fascinating landscape.

      Find out more
    • Fen Drayton Lakes

      Fen Drayton Lakes

      This complex of lakes and traditional riverside meadows next to the River Great Ouse used to be gravel workings. It is a fantastic place to explore and watch birds with huge numbers of ducks, swans and geese on the lakes in winter.

      Find out more
    • Portmore Lough

      Portmore Lough

      Portmore Lough is a great day out at any time of year. In summer, the hay meadows attract a bewildering variety of insects, while in the winter greylag geese, whooper swans and thousands of ducks can be seen from the hide.

      Find out more
    • Flatford Wildlife Garden

      Flatford Wildlife Garden

      In a quiet corner of Suffolk, we have transformed an overgrown, forgotten garden into our first dedicated wildlife garden. Why not pay a visit and be inspired to garden for wildlife in your own garden!

      Find out more
    • Fowlmere

      Fowlmere

      The reedbeds and pools here are fed by natural chalk springs, and a chalk stream runs through the reserve. Special birds include kingfishers, water rails, and nine species of warblers, including sedge, reed and grasshopper warblers.

      Find out more
    • Hayle Estuary

      Hayle Estuary

      In cold winters, as many as 18,000 birds have been seen here, because this most south westerly estuary in the UK never freezes. During spring and autumn, it is an ideal place to see migrant wading birds, gulls and terns.

      Find out more
    • Loch Gruinart

      Loch Gruinart

      There's always plenty to see at Loch Gruinart. In autumn, thousands of white-fronted and barnacle geese arrive from Greenland. When they leave in spring, wading birds take centre stage.

      Find out more
    • Loch Lomond

      Loch Lomond

      RSPB Loch Lomond is one of the best places for wildlife in Scotland. On the southeast shores of Loch Lomond, the site has a remarkable mix of habitats.

      Find out more
    • Nagshead

      Nagshead

      Spring here is an especially good time to visit as you can wander along the trails looking for pied flycatchers, redstarts and species of tits around the nestboxes. There are hawfinches and all three British woodpeckers in the woods.

      Find out more
    • Nigg Bay

      Nigg Bay

      Nigg Bay is an extensive area of mudflat, saltmarsh and wet grassland on the Cromarty Firth. Visit any time between October and March and you're sure to see countless wading birds, such as bar-tailed godwits and knots.

      Find out more
    • Nene Washes

      Nene Washes

      One of the finest areas of floodplain meadows in the UK, with large numbers of breeding wading birds including snipe and black-tailed godwits.

      Find out more
    • Minsmere

      Minsmere

      There's so much to see and hear at Minsmere: splendid woodland, wetland and coastal scenery, rare birds breeding and calling in on their migrations, shy wildlife like otters, the 'booming' of bitterns in spring, beautiful bugs and flowers.

      Find out more
    • Marshside

      Marshside

      There's something for everyone all year round at this delightful coastal reserve. In the spring you can see brown hares boxing in the fields, while in the early summer you'll spot nesting birds like avocets and lapwings.

      Find out more
    • Ouse Washes

      Ouse Washes

      In the heart of the Fens, the Ouse Washes forms the largest area of washland (grazing pasture that floods in the winter) in the UK. The reserve attracts thousands of ducks and swans in winter, and in spring, hundreds of breeding waders.

      Find out more
    • Pulborough Brooks

      Pulborough Brooks

      Set in the heart of beautiful countryside, this reserve is a fantastic day out for people of all ages. Walks lead through hedge-lined paths to viewing areas and hides where volunteers are often on hand to help point out the wildlife.

      Find out more
    • Rainham Marshes

      Rainham Marshes

      We acquired Rainham Marshes in 2000 and set about transforming it into a great place for nature and people. You can expect to see breeding wading birds in spring and summer, and large flocks of wild ducks in winter.

      Find out more
    • Rye Meads

      Rye Meads

      For a great family trip, visit this delightful wetland reserve beside the River Lee. Rye Meads is a favourite with walkers, birdwatchers and photographers too.

      Find out more
    • Strumpshaw Fen

      Strumpshaw Fen

      Walk round the reedbeds, woodlands and orchid-rich meadows and you could chance upon marsh harriers, bitterns and kingfishers. Come in spring and summer when the meadows bloom with flowers, and see an array of dragonflies and butterflies.

      Find out more
    • The Lodge

      The Lodge

      The nature reserve here opened in 1961. The woodland, heath and acid grassland along the Greensand Ridge are being restored to form the largest stretch of heathland in Bedfordshire.

      Find out more
    • West Sedgemoor

      West Sedgemoor

      Part of England's largest remaining wet meadow system. Set among the Somerset Levels and Moors, it has the largest lowland population of breeding wading birds such as lapwings, snipe, curlew and redshanks in southern England.

      Find out more

    Top tips for a visit!

    These tips will help you to make the most of your visit:

    • Visit in spring for birdsong and the amazing display flights of wading birds
    • Look down - grassland and wet meadows are rich in wildflowers in spring and summer
    • Grassland is great for insects too - look for butterflies, bees and all kinds of fascinating creatures