Lincolnshire’s grazing marshes stretch from Grimsby to Gibraltar Point just inland from the coast.
Its culture and history is closely associated with traditional farming methods using livestock to graze fertile, moisture retaining, ancient pastures where species rich hay meadows were cut for forage. Around the villages, land was cultivated, producing ridge and furrow features.
The area’s history is also linked to the sea, grazing marsh having developed from saltmarsh over the last few thousand years as the coastline has changed. Archaeological evidence shows saltmaking dating from the Bronze and Iron ages and impressive churches mark former wealth and patronage.
The wildlife was once rich and varied. The land was kept dry enough for livestock to graze, but wet ditches provided ideal habitat for water voles and otters, dragonflies and damselflies and a high water table created perfect conditions for flocks of waders and birds such as lapwing and snipe. In some areas, it is now hard to find any grassland at all. The pasture that has survived is mainly dry, improved grassland, used to produce silage rather than hay. The ditches often hold little or no water and the typical Lincolnshire grazing marshes plants and animals are merely hanging on. Draining and ploughing the land has also resulted in significant damage to buried archaeological artifacts as well as the characteristic historical landscape features, such as ridge and furrow.
Fortunately, the project’s target areas still contain substantial swathes of the original grazing marsh and this is the primary reason for their selection. Visit these areas and you can still experience the solitude, peace, beauty and sometimes wonderment of this vanishing landscape. The spectacle of thousands of golden plover, lapwing, curlew or widgeon is a sight that touches everyone. These birds stop over on their annual migrations or stay for the winter, attracted by the rich source of insects the grazing marshes provide. The iconic lapwing, along with other scarcer birds, breed in a few special places in the grazing marsh. Working with farmers and landowners to preserve these areas whilst continuing to protect their livelihoods is one of the key objectives of the project.