Habitat Action Plans

Unimproved grassland

Current status


Grasslands are widespread throughout the country and can be divided broadly by their degree of agricultural improvement, the soil type and the water regime.

In the Calderdale context the main types are lowland grasslands on neutral soils, and more elevated grasslands on less nutrient rich soils, some of which may be distinctly acidic, and may be wet.

Much of the most interesting grassland in the district is of this type, often called In-bye, which is restricted to higher ground around the edges of moorland and is generally more common in the north of England.

In-bye consists of unimproved and semi-improved grassland, it is often with associated wet rushy or boggy areas, adjacent to, or close to unenclosed moorland. It may include improved permanent grassland where this is part of the local mosaic, or contains wet areas. Upland hay meadows, which may be part of the in-bye mosaic, have their own Action Plan nationally. In-bye does not generally have a particularly diverse flora, although some springs and flushes may be important. It does however form a vital feeding and breeding area for many upland birds, especially breeding waders – lapwing, curlew, snipe, redshank and feeding golden plover.

Lowland meadows are quite a wide family of grasslands, ranging from relatively rich wet pastures through to hay-meadows. Within Calderdale wet seasonally flooded meadows exist in the valley bottoms with drier hay meadows on the shallow slopes of the lower valley sides. Roadside verges can be important in areas with few grasslands.

All these types tend to grade into each other, and firm definitions are often difficult and may not be very helpful.


The Southern Pennines holds an important representation of the southern-most extent of in-bye grassland. Many upland breeding birds feed on these areas and depend on the abundance of seeds and invertebrates during the breeding season and the pastures provide soft ground conditions for probing waders. The mosaic of habitats within the in-bye attracts a variety of species. Other grassland types are poorly represented, with most lowland grassland being improved. These may still be important in places for a variety of birds, especially where they exist as set-aside or as damp areas within more improved ground.


In-bye habitat is scattered but fairly extensive along the western boundary of the district, associated with the uplands of the South Pennine Moors. Calderdale does include significant areas of upland acid grassland, some of which is degraded heathland.

Lowland grassland is found in east Calderdale and along the valley bottoms. Wet rushy pastures are common. Hay meadows are now scarce in the South Pennines.

Current factors causing loss or decline

Current action

Legal status

Priority species

The following Calderdale Priority Species are associated with this habitat:
Birds e.g Hobby, Lapwing, Snipe, Curlew, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Linnet, Yellowhammer Reptiles e.g Grass snake Butterflies and Moths e.g Ghost Moth, Small Copper, Chimney Sweeper Plants e.g Autumn Crocus, Frog orchid. Fungi e.g Pink Waxcap, Earthtongue, Straw Club, Date Coloured Waxcap.


1. Policy and LegislationLead PartnerOther partners
Ensure the needs of in-bye are taken into account when developing and adjusting agri-environment schemesDEFRA / RDSCMBC (CAFU), EN, FWAG, RSPB
Ensure that UDP policies are in place to protect this habitatCMBC (DC)CMBC (CAFU)
Consider the impact on this habitat when assessing planning applicationsCMBC (DC)CMBC (CAFU)
Take opportunities through the planning system to restore or create grasslands. Explore possibilities of long term management agreementsCMBC (DC)CMBC (CAFU)
Enforce EIA legislation as appropriateCMBC (DC)CMBC (CAFU), EN
Ensure that the best examples of unimproved grassland are designated as SEGIs or SSSIsWYE / ENCMBC (CAFU), CMBC (DP)
Ensure the needs of the habitat are accounted for in Flood Defence Catchment Management PlansEACMBC (CAFU)
2. Site safeguard and managementLead PartnerOther partners
Gather information on the value of areas (identify bird feeding / breeding areas and any lowland grassland sites of interest). Inform owners / occupiers and ENWYEEN, RSPB, CMBC (CAFU), HBC, HSS, TNHS, UCWN, YWT
With owner / occupiers, draw up management plans for all wildlife sites. Assist with and support applications for CS where appropriateWYERSPB, FWAG, DEFRA, EN, CMBC (CAFU), YW
Identify areas adjacent to existing sites of value and assess potential for expansionCMBC (CAFU)RSPB, WYE, YW
3. Research and monitoringLead PartnerOther partners
Monitor extent of habitatENWYE
Maintain sites databaseWYE, CMBC (CAFU)-
4. AdvisoryLead PartnerOther partners
Disseminate information on best management practice and the importance of key areas to owner / occupiers and policy makersENFWAG, RSPB, CMBC (CAFU)
Provide advice on habitat re-creation / restorationENRSPB, FWAG, WYE
5. RegionalLead PartnerOther partners
Consider the development of a demonstration area to show best management practiceRSPBCMBC (CAFU), EN, FWAG
6. Communication and publicityLead PartnerOther partners
Raise awareness of the importance of this habitatCMBC (CAFU)ATC

Key to abbreviations
ATCAlternative Technology Centre
CMBC (CAFU)Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council (Countryside and Forestry Unit)
CMBC (DC)Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council (Development Control)
CMBC (DP)Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council (Development and Policy)
DEFRADepartment of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
EAEnvironment Agency
ENEnglish Nature
FCForestry Commission
FWAGFarming and Wildlife Advisory Group
HBCHalifax Birdwatchers Club
HSSHalifax Scientific Society
RDSRural Development Service
RSPBRoyal Society for the Protection of Birds
TNHSTodmorden Natural History Society
UCWNUpper Calderdale Wildlife Network
WYEWest Yorkshire Ecology
YWYorkshire Water
YWTYorkshire Wildlife Trust

Plan Co-ordinator: Felicite Dodd, English Nature

Last Updated: 19/09/2016