Barnsley Biodiversity Trust: Barnsley Biodiversity Action Plan. Last Updated January 2016

Floodplain meadows and grazing marshes are replacements for the natural cover of wet woodland on alluvial soils in river floodplain areas. They are sustained after winter flooding by summer hay-cut and consequent grazing or spring and summer grazing resulting in differences in vegetative cover.


The UK BAP priority habitat defines floodplain grazing marsh as periodically inundated pasture or meadow with ditches which maintain the water levels. The ditches may be especially rich in plants and invertebrates. They are usually grazed and some are cut for hay or silage.  There may be little distinction between floodplain grazing marsh and wet neutral lowland grassland, within the lowland meadow UK BAP priority habitat.


Floodplain grassland and grazing marshes are particularly important for the number of breeding waders such as snipe, and they also support lapwing and important populations of wintering wigeon.


The sites are also important for eel and grass snake and can contain a rich mosaic of plant communities, including some regionally-scarce species such as pepper saxifrage and great burnet.


Wombwell Ings is probably the most significant floodplain grazing marsh in the Barnsley areas and has possibly been managed as floodplain meadow historically.


Other sites include: Broomhill Flash, Park Hill Brickworks, Edderthorpe Ings, Wath Ings, Doveside, Carlton Marsh and Wilthorpe Marsh. RSPB Old Moor includes new and modified areas of this type. For information on local wildlife sites see below.

Priority habitat

Floodplain grazing marsh is identified as UK priority habitat within the broad category improved grassland.


However the UK BAP priority habitat lowland meadow - which includes seasonally inundated grassland - is within the unimproved and semi-improved neutral grassland broad habitat category.


Unimproved and semi-improved neutral grassland and marshy grassland are identified as such in Phase 1 habitat surveys.  


The National Vegetation Classification identifies the following plant communities for inundated grassland

MG4 Burnet floodplain meadow

MG5 Knapweed meadow

MG7 Foxtail grassland

MG11 Silverweed pasture

 

Grassland or grazing marsh that meets the priority habitat criteria is quite scarce and under threat. They should be protected and conserved.

Floodplain grazing marsh: These wet grasslands are periodically inundated pastures or meadows in river floodplain areas, usually criss-crossed by ditches that maintain a high water level. Most sites also have an important role in flood defence. The combination of grasslands and wetland margins or ditches promotes biodiversity.

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Local Wildlife Sites

Floodplain grazing marsh

25 Barnsley Canal / Wilthorpe Marsh

37 Gipsy Marsh

27 Carlton Marsh

36 Broomhill Flash & Wombwell Ings

38 Old Moor & Wath Ings

39 Bolton-on-Dearne wetland



The Barnsley criteria for selection of a local wildlife site due to its floodplain and grazing marsh are that it should be ≥0.5ha in size and have 18 or more  species from a list of 90 grassland indicator plants including grasses and sedges. It may also be selected because of the fauna that such grassland supports.

Links for information and advice

Floodplain meadows partnership.


RSPB: Grazing grassland

RSPB: Rewetting grassland

RSPB: Grassland management for birds


NE: Assessing grassland priority habitat

NE: Grassland management handbook



Map …

For information on causes of loss and decline,  legal protection, good management practice  and roles, see general information on grasslands.