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meadow and steelworks NPT Local Nature Partnership

Semi-Natural Grassland

Mesotrophic grasslands, restored coal waste, amenity grassland and levels

The State of Nature in Semi-Natural Grassland in Neath Port Talbot

Semi-improved, mesotrophic grassland supports almost one fifth of NPT's priority species and is one of the county’s most important biodiversity resources. Unfortunately, it is also the habitat that has suffered the greatest decreases in extent, condition and connectivity. This is particularly true for species-rich hay meadows which are scarce, disconnected and often badly managed or neglected. Broken connectivity in these habitats has had a significant negative effect on the distribution of priority species such as Narrow-bordered Bee Hawk-moth and numerous priority plant species such as Meadow Thistle, Wood Bitter-vetch, Petty Whin and Dyer’s Greenweed.


In view of this we have assessed the resilience and state of nature in semi-improved grasslands in NPT as poor.


Semi-improved grasslands in NPT provide habitats for a fifth of the county’s priority species. Most of these habitats are neutral, mesotrophic grasslands such as hay meadows, roadside verges/roundabouts, alluvial meadows, levels and restored grassland on coal spoil. If marshy grassland (which is included in the Heathland and Moorland category) is added, then the proportion of priority species is greater than one quarter, which is very significant. Traditionally managed hay meadows are rare in NPT, but the biodiverse Hafod Wennol SSSI meadows (and neighbouring areas) north of Pontardawe are exemplary with key indicator/priority species such as Large-flowered Eyebright, Greater Butterfly-orchid, and Greater Burnet.


The inventory of biodiverse neutral grassland in NPT is augmented to some extent by an extensive network of roadside verges and roundabouts, some of which support diverse, colourful mesotrophic grassland communities. Good examples are found along Fabian Way (A465) near Jersey Marine, along Central Avenue near Baglan Energy Park, on the Saltings Roundabout near Neath and on Harbour Way in Port Talbot (near the steelworks) where colonies of Small Blue Butterfly can be found.


Large amounts of restored grassland on coal spoil occur in the county. Good examples can be seen on Bryn Tip, the restored Selar opencast grasslands near Blaengwrach and restored grasslands in the upper Dulais Valley. Some of these sites have complex habitat mosaics and a rich diversity of grassland species, often with key indicator species such as Bee Orchid, Common Spotted-orchid, Carline Thistle, Pignut and Rough Hawkbit.

The plight of species-rich grasslands in NPT is a major concern. Land use changes, development, agricultural improvement and neglect have all played a role in the disappearance of these habitats in the county over the last 70 years. Reversing this trend will require a step change in attitudes, recognition of their intrinsic value and changes in management practices. Sympathetic stewardship, habitat creation, roadside verge management and restoration can all play a part in this.

Semi natural grassland habitats in NPT Local Nature Partnership
meadow and steelworks NPT LNP Nature

Actions for the recovery of
Semi-Natural Grassland habitats in NPT

Responsibility for these actions lie with all of us and as such, we have not sought to assign actions to particular organisations or groups. Instead, it is our hope that this document will provide the guidance and inspiration for anybody, or any group or organisation, to undertake the actions that are within their capability to deliver. The Secretariat of NPT LNP (NPT Council) are providing a facilitation role to support, collate and monitor work towards these actions. If you would like to discuss your potential involvement in delivery of these actions, please get in touch with

Greater Burnet NPT Local Nature Partnership
Roesel's Bush Cricket Crymlyn Parc NPT LNP
Greater Butterfly Orchid Charles Hipkin NPT LNP Meadow

© Charles Hipkin


Greater Burnet is a species of mesotrophic grasslands, particularly on flood plains, but it is also found in roadside verges and dune grasslands. It is quite tall and very conspicuous when it is in flower with its almost black, wind-pollinated flowerheads. It is widely distributed in the Neath and upper Tawe Valleys where it is an important indicator of semi-improved, mesotrophic grassland. Its scattered distribution in the upper Neath Valley between Resolven and Glyn Neath suggest that the bottom-lands here were predominantly alluvial grasslands before they were drained and improved for grazing.


This attractive cricket is a relatively new addition to the NPT fauna. It was reported by a member of the public in 2019 from the Skewen area. A medium sized cricket they are brown to yellow with a green shade with three pale spots on the thorax and a cream-coloured margin around the sides of the pronotum. Females are identified by their large ovipositor (which looks like a sting but is totally harmless). The males have a very distinct song (striadulation) which is continuous and very high pitched. The species is currently expanding its range from south-east England north and west, possibly due to climate change as they do best in hot summers.


This large, striking orchid is a key indicator of traditionally managed, neutral, mesotrophic grassland in south Wales. It is currently known from only two grassland sites in NPT, both in the northern sector of the county. The number of individuals that appear varies greatly from year to year, which is fairly typical of hay meadow orchids. The flowers emit a heavy scent, particularly at night when they attract the attention of large moths, such as hawkmoths, which feed on the nectar contained in the flower’s deep spur. The survival of this priority species in NPT is completely dependent on the continued management of the grasslands in which it is found as hay meadows.

Semi-Natural Grassland Projects in NPT


NPT Bee Friendly

In recent years, the loss of wildflower grassland habitat and the pollinating insects they support has become an issue of public concern. NPT Council has a responsibility to address nature and climate emergencies such as this and is also committed to protect, conserve and enhance our natural environment under the terms of the Corporate Plan, Biodiversity Duty Plan, NPT Nature Recovery Action Plan and The Action Plan for Pollinators in Wales.

A new approach to managing the verges and grasslands of NPT has been approved by the County Council’s Regeneration and Sustainable Development Cabinet Board on 30th July 2021 and is being progressively implemented by NPT Council as resources allow. The aim of this scheme is to increase the area and extent of wildflower grassland (i.e. roadside verges and larger meadow areas which are managed to encourage wildflowers and pollinating insects) in NPT County Borough.

Traditionally, local authority-managed roadside verges in NPT are all cut every 2-3 weeks during the growing season i.e. late March to end September and the arisings are mulched and dropped on top of the grass. This fertilises the soil, encouraging further grass growth. As of 2021, at certain locations with the Streetcare Services Section, NPT Council will be changing this management and instead encouraging the growth of wildflowers and reducing the frequency of required cuts through the use of ‘cut and collect’ machines.

Road verges such as Harbour Way, Fabian Way and Saltings Roundabout are included in this scheme, along with many new areas around the county.

Read more here.

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