Grassland Management

Grassland Management is one of our organization’s main tasks. Contact us to discuss any particular requirements for your site. One of our biggest projects is work in Richmond Park, the largest area of lowland acid grassland habitat in Greater London. This rare habitat contributes largely to the parks status as a National Nature Reserve, and its SSSI designation. Acid grassland supports a sensitive community of flora and fauna species, including wildflowers, birds and invertebrates, all specialized for flourishing on poor soil conditions.

Our role in this habitat is four-fold. Large areas of grassland are being lost to encroachment by bracken, so we undertake bracken control, allowing grassland species to recover. Working with the horses has proved the most effective method of the many that have been trialled in the park. It also helps limit compaction of the sensitive soils, and impact on rare flora. While working, we have found we are able to be responsive in avoiding late-nesting birds, and the many historic anthills that date back hundreds of years.
Grassland management Richmond Park

Areas of the park were historically improved for agricultural grazing with fertilizers. These areas are cut for hay in the late summer, to help reduce soil fertility, and allow acid grassland to return. We work alongside tractor contractors with a horse-drawn hay-cutter, with the baled hay used as extra fodder for the horses, or as compost, as part of a sustainable system. This hay-cutting is also being applied in wildflower meadows in other nearby locations, including Barnes Wetland Centre, and Ham Avenues. We currently remove hay by hand on a flat-bed dray, but are exploring horse-powered hay turners, rowers and balers that work from ground-driven Power Take Offs (mechanisms that allows horse power to make a machine rotate or turn).

Mowing grass verges in Richmond Park
Mowing grass verges in Richmond Park

In winter, we return to these hay-cut areas, where we harrow, helping aerate the ground and loosen dead vegetation.

In Richmond Park, we also undertake amenity estate work, mowing the grass verges throughout the spring and summer with gang mowers. For larger areas we work with teams of horses and, for harder to access places, a single horse and mower are used. Partly aesthetic, this mowing also helps to discourage wildlife away from road edges, particularly Red and Fallow Deer fawns.

Operation Centaur, Holly Lodge, Richmond Park, Richmond, Surrey TW10 5HS
Contact Operation Centaur
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In partnership with The Royal Parks, Historic Royal Palaces and  Shire Horse Society