Hill pasture or upland fields

These are characterised by being ‘rough’ pasture, often with exposed rocks and stones and on steeper slopes.  They may be difficult to plough and re-seed and tend to be rather acid. They are often set at higher altitudes and where there are harsher weather conditions this is often offset by beautiful views of distant hills and valleys.   They are not easy to take hay or silage from.

In agricultural terms they may appear in disadvantaged area classifications, signifying that agricultural productivity is low and therefore it’s harder to make a living from these fields.

Being at a higher altitude the growing season may be shorter.   Grass will grow very little wheen temperatures are below 5 deg C.  Soils may be thinner and nutrient poor in higher rainfall areas where nutrients have been ‘leeched’ out of soils which may be already eroded by heavy grazing.

Hill pastures often have interesting species mixes which will be dependant on the grazing regime rather than what has been sown because of the difficulty in cultivations – the determinants are the type of animal and number per acre.   Where drainage is poor less nutritious and digestible rushes may take over.

Of course uplands only remain as hill pasture while they are regularly grazed: if animals are removed or excluded bracken, bramble or trees will gradually replace the grass.   If bracken takes over then the first tree cover may be very slow to dominate.   Bracken is allopathic and in many ways is the ideal weed - it is very difficult to eradicate once established.

Hill pastures have been heavily overgrazed while headage grant payments were made (grants were paid according to the number of animals kept on the ground) as these were paid in the past to the detriment of the land and wildlife.  More recently the system has changed so that grants are paid by the area which is grazed but much damage has already been done through subsidised over-grazing.

Livestock on uplands need to be hardy to withstand harsher conditions and poorer grasses. Typical grazers are sheep (eg herdwick), cattle (such as highland cattle or belted Galloway), ponies (eg Shetland ponies), and fell ponies.

Associated trees will include be mountain ash, whitebeam (in alkaline soils), juniper and scrub oak.

Birds may include chough, various raptors, and kites.

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