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.
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
RSPB: Grazing grassland
RSPB: Rewetting grassland
For information on causes of loss and decline, legal protection, good management practice and roles, see general information on grasslands.