The Rare & Natural Beauty of Culm Grassland

Some things in life simply don’t need to be worked at to be beautiful, and Culm grassland, or Rhôs pasture (as it’s known in Wales), could be considered one of them. A natural grassy moor that’s not only naturally stunning but provides a haven for our insects and wildlife and an ecosystem that reduces flood risk. However, with vast swathes already lost and with a continuing threat of afforestation and overgrazing, it’s crucial that we not only preserve these natural landscapes but promote their expansion.

So, what is Culm Grass?

The soils associated with Culm grassland or Rhôs pasture are usually acidic, making Culm ideal for supporting its characteristic purple moor grass. This tussocky deciduous grass gives Culm its distinctive pale brown colour during the winter months. It offers a remarkable natural landscape that’s not only a vital habitat for our wildlife but plays an essential role in preventing flooding and keeping our water clean; ultimately, Culm habitats are only a good thing for our environment. With such an important role to play, it may surprise you that 92% of Culm grassland has been lost within the past 100 years, with 48% of these beautiful pastures disappearing between 1984 and 1991.

Where can you find Culm Grassland?

The Culm grasslands are considered particularly rare, typically occurring on poorly drained sites in lowland areas where high rainfall occurs. In Britain, these sites are confined to north Devon, north Cornwall, South Wales, and south-west Scotland. One prominent area would be the Culm National Character Area (NCA) in north-west Devon, covering most of the area between the Atlantic coast in the north and the uplands of Exmoor, Dartmoor and Bodmin Moor. Whilst most of us will be very familiar with all of Devon’s beautiful moorlands, how many of us can say we’re acquainted with what is a vast expanse of Culm that Devon secretly boasts? It covers a massive 2590 square miles!

Fauna & Flora of Culm Grassland

Whilst Culm’s distinctive purple moor grass is abundant, it’s not the only plant species to grow on these sites, sharing it alongside rushes, birch and willow scrub. Culm also supports a wide variety of beautiful flowering plants, including meadowsweet, heath spotted orchid, meadow thistle, bog asphodel, devil’s-bit scabious, creeping willow, greater bird’s-foot trefoil, water mint and various sedges. Rarer plants to be found include the lesser butterfly orchid, pale butterwort, and plane round-leaved sundew.

Although a scarce habitat, there is an abundance of wildlife species to be found in Culm grassland, especially butterflies. Prominent wildlife includes:

  • Dragonflies
  • The marbled white butterfly
  • Narrow-bordered bee hawkmoth
  • The brown hairstreak butterfly
  • Freshwater pearl mussels
  • The Marsh fritillary butterfly
  • Dormice

Typically found birds are the breeding and wintering snipe, short-eared owl and barn owl, willow tit, grasshopper warbler, reed bunting and woodcock. Also commonly seen on Culm are countryside animals like deer and fox who use these sites to find shelter.

Biodiversity

Culm grassland is a vital habitat for our wildlife and insects, but it goes much further than that with its distinctive natural purple moor grass and rush pasture which has a real potential to hold water, filter pollution, and retains carbon. Culm’s capacity to store and filter water reduces flood risk and helps to keep our water clean, and the top soils of the Culm grasslands also store double the carbon than intensively managed farmland. It’s only when we begin to understand all the services a Culm ecosystem provides that we can appreciate just how important these habitats are to our environment and why it’s vital to protect Culm grassland and restore lost sites.

Get Some Advice

It’s a win-win situation for developers, residents and wildlife and one we’re very excited about. With a growing awareness of the need for individuals, companies and governments to take effective action to protect the environment, we see this as an important opportunity for different partners to work together and create sustainable, thriving communities of the future.
For more information about Wildahome’s consultancy services, contact Paul Stenning on 0333 242 0602 Or use the button below to get advice