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Nationally important wildflower grasslands get increased protection - Natural England

Marbled White butterfly on a wildflower. Credit: Natural England
Marbled White butterfly on a wildflower. Credit: Natural England

Important flower-rich grasslands in Luton gain national protection through SSSI designation.

Two nationally rare flower-rich grasslands have gained national protection in recognition of their national importance for wildlife, Natural England has announced today (14 October).

Dallow Downs & Winsdon Hill (DD&WH), a chalk grassland on the western outskirts of Luton, and Cowslip Meadow, a flower-rich meadow located in a residential area to the north of Luton, have gained national status as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

Over 97% of wildflower meadows have been lost since the 1930s with flower-rich grassland now only covering a mere 1% of the UK’s land area. Today’s move will see around 48 hectares of land receive strong legal protection on account of the rich array of wildflower-rich grassland and rare plant interest, including the nationally rare great pignut plant which has a stronghold on these sites.

The sites also have an array of woodland which is home to warblers and plants such as dog’s mercury and yellow archangel during the spring, and wetlands hosting species such as slow worm, water vole, and southern marsh orchid. The chalk grasslands hold a rich assemblage of invertebrates including the marbled white butterfly, which can be seen feeding on the abundant knapweed and scabious flowers in mid-summer. Cowslip Meadow hosts a number of water bodies, scrub and grassland which provide an oasis for a range of birdlife, and DD&WH offers a perfect viewpoint to see red kites flying high over the town.

Posted on: 14 October 2020

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