As a result of the ease in which meadow grassland can be converted for agricultural use, meadow grassland has become a rare and declining landscape feature with 97% being lost in the UK since the 1930s. Meadow grassland accounts for 20% of all semi-natural habitats in Kent but the quality and extent of these vary considerably especially where meadows have become isolated.
Most meadow grassland has been ‘improved’ leading to true semi-natural ‘unimproved meadows’ becoming rare. For many, the traditional management of hay cutting in late summer for winter feed is an iconic picture of meadows. ‘Improved’ meadow grassland is still of great value in the AONB and as land usage changes grasslands used for horse pastures are key features on the Downs (for further information click here).
Grassland is an important habitat for many species of plants and animals ranging from the green-winged orchid and fox sedge to the marsh fritillary butterfly. They hold great value for the landscape, wildlife and local communities of the Downs. Meadow grassland is the dominant landscape feature in the Low Weald LCA, both ‘improved’ and ‘unimproved’. Because of the rare nature of ‘unimproved’ meadow grasslands, their presence in the Low Weald is very important in the context of the Kent Downs landscape.