Save Malvern's Skylarks - A call on the Malvern Hills Trust to reduce grazing intensity

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Sadly we lost our last skylarks on the high Malverns in 2015.

In 1988 there were 54 pairs of skylarks filling the summer skies above Malvern with their song as they have throughout human history. Now all are gone from the hills and in 2018 there are only 8 territories on the surrounding commons.

Minimising disturbance from people and dogs is always going to help but busy commons still have skylarks – though only where the grass is long enough to provide the habitat they need. The problem is that the high hills and some of the commons are too tightly grazed by Malvern Hills Trust. A new grazing contract costing £541,000 over 10 year for the last high hills skylark stronghold covering the Northern Hills specifies grass cut  too short for skylarks.

Meanwhile a project at two sites in Bredon Hill only 15 miles away running since 2005 has increased their skylark numbers from 17 to 44 pairs by reducing grazing at the same time as we have been losing ours by intensifying grazing.
Other busy sites such as Ashton Court in Bristol have successfully encouraged skylarks to return by letting the grass grow longer - why not on the Malvern Hills?

The change is for the Trust to reduce the intensity of grazing in skylark territories, benefiting other species too. The new grazing regime needs to be evidence driven and to state how it benefits different species on the high hills, slopes and commons.

This would also give the high hills their rugged natural feel back again with 30 cm or so of fine wavy grass flowing in the breeze rather than what we have now – short tight grazed sward with little insect life and no chance for skylarks. On the commons it means better timed and more lenient grazing/mowing in existing and potential skylark territories.