Agriculturally unimproved grasslands are nationally valuable because of the wildlife they support. They once covered much larger areas of the country, but now remain as smaller fragments. They have evolved over thousands of years, shaped by early agricultural practices. They are now a refuge for once-common plants and animals that have become dependent upon traditional farming practices.
All unimproved grassland types are important in Britain, but the country holds much of the world's resource of chalk grassland, and is internationally recognised for it. Major concentrations are found in Wiltshire, Dorset and the South Downs, and despite dramatic losses in recent years, Dorset retains around 10% of the UK's total.
Above all, these grasslands are part of our natural heritage and should be maintained for the appreciation and enjoyment of future generations. Unimproved grasslands are difficult to recreate, but there are opportunities for increasing the wildlife value of grassland without limiting its productivity.
In Dorset, grasslands are a major feature in our beautiful landscape. The county boasts steep chalky banks, flower-rich clay meadows, wet grasslands in river valleys, and lush green dairy pastures. Most important for wildlife are those which have not been agriculturally improved through ploughing or the addition of fertilizers.
These grasslands have evolved from ancient origins and have been maintained by centuries of traditional management such as grazing or hay-making. They support a wide range of plant and animal species, and are often rich in wildflowers.Read more about Dorset AONB's grassland wildlife