Getting to Grips with Grassland Monitoring

Anne Porter Heart of Durham, Heart of Durham Blog, News

Durham Wildlife Trust’s Heart of Durham Project works in partnership with Northumbrian Water who own many varied grassland sites around reservoirs and water treatment plants. Some of these sites are managed, by  Heart of Durham volunteers, with the aim of increasing biodiversity. Encouraging wildflower species and creating natural havens for insects, butterflies and moths helps to provide a valuable food source for species higher up the food chain such as birds, small rodents and bats. To ascertain whether this management is effective it is necessary to monitor the sites to see if the flower species are increasing or remaining at a favourable level.

On Thursday 25th May, Northumbrian Water’s Conservation department organised a Grassland Monitoring workshop to help train a number of Durham Wildlife Trust’s volunteers on the key principles of grassland monitoring and field methodologies used to record species of flowers and grasses on its sites. The workshop was led by John O’Reilly of Ptyxis Ecology.

Many of the volunteers, as well as volunteering with conservation tasks, are members of the very successful Durham Wildlife Trust Botany Group. Their knowledge on grasses and flowering plants is extensive and expanding season by season so who better to take on this challenge.

2017 will be a pilot year, the principles and methodologies learnt on the workshop will be put into practice on two very different Northumbrian Water sites; fields at Millshield on the Derwent reservoir and a small meadow at Witton Gilbert sewage treatment works will be the first areas to be surveyed.

Setting up the 10m by 10m quadrate for the habitat structure survey


Discussing positive and negative habitat features of the site, in particular, the the prevalence of invasive species such as creeping thistle.

Canes divide the 1m by 1m quadrate into 25 cells, once a plant species has been identified, the number of cells it occupies is noted.


Its knees on the ground to count the species in the 25 cells of the quadrate


A book is always helpful in checking off the Latin name against the species list,

If you would like to learn more about wildflowers and grasses then please do get in touch with the Durham Wildlife Trust Botany Group. You do not need to be an expert to join as the members are all keen volunteers who willingly share their knowledge and expertise and who are themselves learning all the time.

Thank you to Northumbrian Water for funding the workshop and thank you to the volunteers who attended and who will be helping the Heart of Durham Project doing grassland monitoring surveys this summer.

Anne Porter

Anne Porter initially joined the Heart of Durham project as a volunteer, helping to carry out adder surveys on an 8-week placement as part of a post-graduate degree in Environmental Management. Anne’s dedication and enthusiasm for her work continues to inspire people of all ages to get involved nature conservation.