Grasslands in Norfolk are very diverse in their origins and, consequently, in the species which may be found in them. What unites the various grassland types found in the county is that all are a product of the interaction of natural factors, such as soil type and availability of water, with human management.
The non-flooded grasslands of Norfolk are broadly all the product of ancient deforestation followed by centuries of grazing by cattle, sheep, ponies and other livestock. In south Norfolk, on the heavy soils of the claylands, are extensive old commons with a distinct flora including national rarities such as sulphur clover. To the west are the extensive dry grassy heaths on the sands of the Brecks, which are home to many rare plants including spiked speedwell, Spanish catchfly, Breckland speedwell, bur medick and Breckland thyme.
In West Norfolk and North Norfolk are small areas of chalk grassland, more typically a habitat of the south of the UK. These sites, including NWT Ringstead Downs and Warham Camp, have a diverse flora including squinancywort, dropwort, fairy flax, horsehoe vetch and pyramidal orchid.
Small patches of any type of dry grassland may be found in gardens, old churchyards or old paddocks which have never been treated with fertiliser. All benefit from traditional management such as hay-cutting at the appropriate time of year and grazing by livestock. If you have an unimproved patch of grassland in your care and would like advice on its management, contact the Wildlife Information Service
For information on Norfolk’s flooded grasslands, known as freshwater grazing marshes, click here