GS6: Management of species-rich grassland

Natural England

September 20
11:02 2022

How much will be paid

182 per hectare (ha)

Where to use this option

Its available for Countryside Stewardship Mid-Tier and Higher Tier on whole and part parcels on grassland priority habitat.

In Mid-Tier you can only use this option if it meets the relevant criteria and you have written approval from the Rural Payments Agency (RPA).

The land must also be mapped on the Priority Habitat Inventory (see the?MAGIC website) as one of the following.

  • Lowland calcareous grassland
  • Lowland dry acid grassland
  • Lowland meadows
  • Upland hay meadow
  • Purple moor grass
  • Rush pasture

Features that can be included in this option

You can include the following features if they are part of the land, even if they are permanently ineligible for the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS).

  • Ditches, dykes, drains, rivers or streams that are less than 4 metres (m) wide for the majority of their length in the parcel
  • Temporary water
  • Permanent water less than or equal to 0.1ha (at the discretion of Natural England)
  • Natural unsurfaced roads, tracks, paths and bridleways (as long as you can still carry out the requirements of the option)
  • Bracken
  • Scree, rock outcrops and boulders up to 0.1ha
  • Grazed woodland and scrub that has grass underneath it and that livestock can access (at the discretion of Natural England)
  • Small areas of other habitat types, such as reedbeds, at the discretion of Natural England

These options and supplements can be located on the same area as this option.

How this option will benefit the environment

It will maintain and improve priority grasslands. It will increase the number and frequency of important plant species, with most wildflowers in bloom over the summer. Many other priority species, such as bumblebees, butterflies, birds or bats, will benefit, and buried archaeological features will not be disturbed.


If youre selected for a site visit, we will check that delivery of the aims is being met and the prohibited activities have not been carried out. This will ensure the environmental benefits are being delivered.

During the spring and early summer, the grassland will have a good cover of flowering grass and wildflower species, including at least 4 high value plants typical of the priority grassland type. The grassland may also contain scattered areas of scrub and/or rushes. Grazing and/or cutting will ensure a variety of plant heights, appropriate for the priority grassland type. Bare ground will be very limited.

By autumn, the sward will vary in height, appropriate for the priority grassland type, with some grasses and wildflowers allowed to go to seed.

Any archaeological or historic features will be protected under a grass and wildflower cover, with a low cover of scrub, bracken or bare ground, and no damage incurred due to machinery use.

Prohibited Activities

To achieve the aims and deliver the environmental benefits, do not carry out any of the following activities:

  • plough, cultivate or re-seed
  • cut between 15 March and 30 June
  • use pesticides, except for herbicides to spot-treat or weed-wipe to control nettles, bracken, injurious weeds or invasive non-native species (weed wiping may not be allowed on some sites this will be specified in your agreement)
  • harrow, roll, supplementary feed or allow additional scrub or bracken to encroach on historic or archaeological features
  • operate machinery or carry out other activities during the bird breeding season that may disturb breeding birds or damage nests
  • supplementary feed except for the provision of mineral blocks (non-energy based)
  • carry out drainage works, including modifying existing drainage, without the RPAs written permission before work starts.
  • apply any inorganic fertiliser
  • apply farmyard manure in years when the field is not cut for hay/haylage
  • apply more than 12 tonnes per ha of farmyard manure, or increase the application rate if it is currently less than this

On your annual claim you will be asked to declare that you have not carried out any prohibited activities.

In Mid Tier you can only use this option if it meets the relevant criteria and you have written approval from RPA. Additional aims and prohibited activities may be added to refine the standard requirements, as part of the approval process.

To assist you in achieving the aims and deliver the environmental benefits for this option, we recommend that you use best practice.

We recommend that you:

  • manage the grassland by grazing, hay/haylage cutting, or a mixture of both, to maintain or increase the presence and abundance of high value plant species
  • maintain the appropriate plant heights for the priority grassland type, as stated in the additional aims within your agreement
  • exclude livestock for at least 7 weeks before cutting for hay/haylage, and graze the aftermath
  • maintain a continuous grass and wildflower cover, particularly over historic features
  • graze or cut areas of dense rush growth so that stands of soft or hard rush cover 20% or less of the parcel area and are less than 20 centimetres (cm) high by 30 September
  • control undesirable plants, such as nettles, bracken, injurious weeds or invasive non-native species
  • agree all drainage works, including modification to existing drainage, in writing with Natural England before you carry out any work
  • check for breeding birds before operating machinery or carrying out other activities which may disturb breeding birds or damage their nests. The breeding season tends to run from mid-March until mid-July, but it can start earlier and finish later, depending on the species and the weather

You should not:

  • top more than 50% of the total area in any one year

Keeping records

You must send the following with your application.

  • Map of species rich grassland - this can be marked on any map including the Farm Environment Record (FER)

Where theres uncertainty about whether the aims of the options have been delivered, we will take into account any records or evidence you may have kept demonstrating delivery of the aims of the option. This will include any steps youve taken to follow the recommended management set out above. Its your responsibility to keep such records if you want to rely on these to support your claim.

  • Receipted invoices, consents or permissions connected with the work
  • Field operations at the parcel level, including associated invoices
  • a standard soil analysis carried out in the last 5 years, including analysis of organic matter by loss on ignition. The

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