Grasslands that once covered much of the North West are vanishing, leading to a dramatic decline in wildlife.
According to findings by the Lancashire Wildlife Trust, “lost” areas have been recorded across Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside.
They include Brockholes Meadow, in Preston which has gone through a combination of scrubbing up and ploughing since it was effectively isolated by the widening of the M6 motorway; semi-natural grassland in the valley of the River Yarrow, at Chorley, which has lost many key species and their habitat, and Wood Lane Pasture at Parbold, once grazed by pigs and horses, now left unmanaged, leading to a build-up of scrub and saplings.
Stephen Trotter, the Wildlife Trust’s director said: “Wildlife-rich grasslands have been in trouble for decades, but our newly collated information shows that the remaining hay meadows and flower-rich pastures are still at risk. We’re seeing an insidious yet catastrophic decline; the pressures are enormous, from development and changes in agricultural practices, to neglect.”
The Wildlife Trust is calling for a review of protection for environmentally important grasslands, to strengthen policy and regulations to prevent further losses.
Stephen added: “If we don’t act fast we’ll lose the natural heritage that has inspired writers and artists through generations – from Shakespeare to Hockney.
“We’ll lose an important natural resource that benefits farming, wildlife and people.
“The shocking examples of our best sites in decline should be a wake-up call for Government to start working now with farmers, local authorities and nature organisations to halt the loss.”
The Wildlife Trust has restored wildlife-rich grasslands like Freeman’s Pasture in Chorley and Lightshaw Meadows in Wigan, in the hope of encouraging wildlife back to the area.
If you would like to get involved, add your vote to the Wildlife Trust’s Save our Vanishing Grasslands petition at www.wildlifetrusts.org/dontfadeaway.