Environmental Stewardship Scheme Guidance Notes (PB10494)

Environmental Stewardship Guidance 017:

Lowland Chalk and Limestone Grassland - June and July

This guidance has been developed specifically to support Environmental Stewardship agreements. It does not replace your Agreement and you must continue to follow the prescriptions and specifications. The outcomes shown may not be appropriate or suitable for all sites. Please consult scheme handbooks or your RDS adviser for further information.

Chalk and limestone grassland in June and July should be ablaze with flowers and butterflies, and buzzing with bees, grasshoppers and other insects. This grassland varies widely, from the south-facing, shallow soils of the chalk Downs in the south to the north-facing slopes of the limestone Dales. Whatever the location, in the right condition it can support a huge number of plants and animals.

Commoner flowers include Bird’s-foot Trefoil and Salad Burnet; the richest swards will also contain Kidney Vetch, Common Rock-rose, Greater Knapweed, Small Scabious, Carline Thistle, Mouse-ear Hawkweed, Thyme, Fairy Flax, Stemless Thistle, Bee and Pyramidal Orchids. There should also be a wide range of grasses, including Quaking Grass. Insects may include Six-spotted Burnet Moth and a number of butterflies including Common Blue, Brown Argus and, further south, Chalkhill and Adonis Blues.


Unless managing for a particular species with different requirements, aim for:

  • A fairly short sward (5-10 cm tall) over most of the site.
  • Taller clumps (15-30 cm tall) on up to a third of the area.
  • Small areas (2-5%) of bare ground.
  • Scattered scrub with taller herbage around it.


Too short

  • Flowers eaten and sward too uniform.
  • Too much bare ground with few tussocks for insects, spiders and other animals.
  • Anthills damaged.
  • No scrub or only scattered “lollipop” bushes.

Too rank for main area of field

  • Smaller wildflowers and anthills shaded out.
  • High proportion of grasses, including dominant species such as Tor Grass.
  • Build up of dead plant litter.
  • Scrub and trees will colonise.

Rural Development Service. RDS is part of the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs
Environmental Stewardship: Farm Environment Plan Guidance 017
First Edition, Published March 2005

PB 12345. Produced by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Illustrations by Jackie Hunt and Dan Powell.
© Crown copyright 2005. Reproduced for ADLib under licence.

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