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Suffolk County Wildlife Sites


Proposed Site Survey form

  • Current Location and contact details
  • CWS criteria
  • Site management information
  • Complete


Surveyor details

Landowner details

Tick to confirm that the landowner has granted permission for the survey and is aware that survey data will be submitted to SBIS and the CWS panel.

Give details of anyone else who will need to be notified if the site becomes a CWS e.g. a tenant.
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What are County Wildlife Sites?

County Wildlife Sites (CWS) are areas of county or regional importance for wildlife. The designation is non-statutory, but is a recognition of a site’s high value for biodiversity.

CWS have been identified throughout Suffolk and range from small meadows, green lanes, dykes and hedges through to much larger areas of ancient woodlands, heathland, greens, commons and marsh.

Why are County Wildlife Sites Important?

  • Outside of statutorily protected areas (such as Sites of Special Scientific Interest, Local and National Nature Reserves), CWS are the most important areas for wildlife in Suffolk
  • CWS support locally and nationally threatened wildlife species and habitats
  • Many sites support habitats and species that are priorities for conservation under the UK and Local Biodiversity Action Plans

CWS complement statutorily protected areas and nature reserves by helping to maintain habitat links between these sites. The importance of ecological networks for conservation is now widely recognised, better enabling wildlife to survive on reserves and in the wider the countryside. Linked habitats are also likely to be important in allowing wildlife to adapt to the effects of climate change.

Suffolk County Wildlife Site System – how does it work?

Suffolk Wildlife Trust, Suffolk County Council, Suffolk Biodiversity Information Service and Natural England manage the Suffolk County Wildlife Site system in partnership. This involves:

  • Maintaining an up-to-date database of CWS in Suffolk and sharing it with partners, local authorities and other conservation organisations.
  • Designating new CWS and modifying information held on existing sites when changes occur. The CWS panel meets to review sites which are notified in accordance with selection criteria.
  • Supplying information on the wildlife of CWS to landowners and others whose work may affect CWS.

The importance of CWSs is recognised by local authorities in Suffolk and they have all developed policies that give CWSs some protection in line with national planning policy. If a CWS is likely to be affected by a development the views of the CWS partners are normally sought as part of the consultation process.

Environmental Impact Assessments are required by Natural England when areas of uncultivated land are to undergo agricultural change, such as increases in stock density, cultivation, soil spreading and new drainage work.

CWS designation does not confer any new rights of access to the general public or conservation organisations.

Working with Landowners and Managers of CWS

The high wildlife value of CWS is due to land management practices that allowed wildlife to thrive, such as rotational coppicing of woodland, hay cutting or grazing of grasslands. Ensuring appropriate management continues is vital to maintaining the wildlife value of a site. Therefore good working relationships with landowners and managers is essential.

We appreciate the difficulties that conservation management of CWS can present and are therefore happy to offer advice on management and potential sources of funding.

Free Advice to CWS owners and managers includes

  • Information on the wildlife and nature conservation interest of the site.
  • Advice and site visits to establish the best management to maintain and enhance wildlife value. Suffolk Wildlife Trust is always happy to offer site visits.
  • Advice on suitable contractors, contacts for graziers and help and advice on applying for grant funding.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are landowner details & permission required for submission of survey data for assessment?

The Suffolk CWS Panel cannot make use of or assess survey data collected without landowner’s permission or is not recognised as being in the public domain. In line with the Data Protection Act, landowner details will not be divulged. Please note that an area of land open to the public does not imply permission to survey.

Why can’t survey data be emailed?

The site survey form is currently only available in pdf format as it needs to be printed off to be signed. See the SBIS website for further details. However photos related to a survey form can be uploaded to flickr and added to the SBIS - Suffolk Wildlife Photos group

How do I use the Suffolk CWS criteria?

The Suffolk CWS Panel need to know as much as possible about a site to assess it against the Suffolk CWS criteria e.g. inclusion on information relating to neighbouring habitats, presence of BAP habitats and species on the site. The CWS Panel will make the decision as to whether a site meets the CWS criteria.

Where can I find out about protected and BAP habitats/species?

For more information about Suffolk’s habitats and species see our knowledge hub 

For more information on Protected species see the JNCC website

What do I need to include in the species summary?

Relative abundance of species actually using the site is very important e.g. evidence of breeding or over-wintering/hibernating. Incidental records are of limited value to the Suffolk CWS assessment procedure.

What information should I include on the sketch map?

An accurate site boundary, north orientation, a 6 figure grid reference, different habitat units and surrounding habitats are all essential information. If you wish to request a map, on which to draw a more accurate boundary please contact SBIS.

When will I know the decision of the Suffolk CWS Panel?

There is no set timetable for CWS designation as it depends on several factors. Further survey information may be required or the CWS Panel may need to make a site visit which may mean waiting for the optimal survey season.

Panel Remit

The Suffolk County Wildlife Site (CWS) Panel comprises representatives from Natural England, Suffolk Biodiversity Information Service, Suffolk County Council and Suffolk Wildlife Trust.

The duties of the Panel are to:

  1. Maintain an up to date CWS Register for Suffolk and ensure that the information is distributed according to the CWS procedure below.
  2. Designate CWSs according to the CWS selection criteria, review existing sites in the light of new survey data and remove any that do not meet the criteria.
  3. Review and update the CWS selection criteria to reflect changes in wildlife legislation and policy.

The CWS Panel is impartial and therefore cannot comment on wider issues relating to CWS, such as planning applications and schemes of management (e.g. Forestry Commission and agri-environment applications). Its remit is purely restricted to the three duties outlined above.

Designation procedure

For a site to become a County Wildlife Site (CWS) it must be assessed by the CWS panel and meet the CWS criteria The procedure is set out below.

Designation procedure chart

Review Procedure

Occasionally it is necessary to review whether all or part of a CWS still meets CWS criteria. The review procedure is set out below

Review procedure chart


Selection Criteria

1. Why Suffolk is Special?


Although a highly urban area, the Borough of Ipswich contains a number of important BAP habitats and species. Around the fringes of the town and in some of the parks there are several ancient woods and along the Belstead Brook there are small areas of Wet Woodland. The parks also contain former ancient Parkland and to the south of Bourne Park there is an area of reedbed. Ponds and lakes in the parks provide open water habitat which, together with the Gipping and the Orwell estuary, are used by otters as well as wetland birds.

Small areas of heathland have survived around the eastern fringes on golf courses and neglected parts of industrial estates. Although these areas still support BAP species such as silver-studded blue butterfly and adder, they are under increasing pressure both from development and disturbance from recreation.

Bats (mainly pipistrelle) are found in roof spaces throughout the town with some large roosts occurring in housing estates within reach of feeding habitat on the edges of town and in the parks.

The BAP species which is of greatest importance for Ipswich is the stag beetle. Suburban garden habitats can support very good numbers and there have been a few projects to provide suitable habitat piles in the parks.


Suffolk Coastal

Suffolk Coastal District is characterised by a diverse landscape composed of estuaries and grazing marshes, large arable fields, extensive areas of lowland heath and conifer plantations on the light soils of the Sandlings. Inland on the claylands the landscape consists mainly of a farmland landscape of arable fields interspersed with pasture and smaller hay meadows and woodland. Extensive areas of reedbeds, saline lagoons, vegetated shingle, intertidal mudflats and saltmarsh along the Suffolk coast are of international importance and as such are protected by European legislation (Habitats Directive). Starlet sea anemone (BAP species) is associated with the nationally significant resource of saline lagoon which is found on the Suffolk coast.

The Grazing Marshes associated with the river valleys support a network of ecologically valuable dykes and pockets of species-rich fen. These coastal marshes are noted for a range of BAP species including water vole, barn owl, black poplar, bittern, otter, water shrew and narrow-mouthed whorl snail.

The arable landscape further inland supports farmed BAP habitats such as cereal field margins and species-rich Hedges interspersed with grassland, including small fragments of herb-rich lowland hay meadow (BAP). Species associated with farmland which have been recorded in Suffolk Coastal District include Grey Partridge, Skylark, Brown Hare, Shepherd’s Needle and Red-tipped Cudweed. Ponds are abundant in the claylands although far less frequent in the Sandlings. Parishes which have a high density of ponds are also noted for significant populations of great crested newt.

The Sandlings area of Suffolk Coastal District holds a nationally important resource of heathland with significant populations of nightjar and woodlark (both BAP) species. Good numbers of adders (a character BAP) and silver-studded blue butterfly (BAP) are also found in the heathlands along the coast. Semi-natural woodland is rare on the light soils but there are important clusters of ancient woodland and wood pasture on the edge of the claylands, in particular at Glemham, Parham, Hacheston and Wantisden.


Waveney District Council Area has a significant stretch of coastline and several fairly large urban districts; Lowestoft, Beccles and Southwold. The coastal fringe contains two nationally important (BAP) habitats; saline lagoons at Benacre Broad, Covehithe and Easton and vegetated shingle habitat at Lowestoft Denes, Southwold Denes, Kessingland Beach and Benacre Broad. At Covehithe Broad, Southwold Common and Corton there are small areas of coastal heathland (a BAP habitat) mixed with lowland acid grassland (a BAP habitat). There are also remnants of heath inland in the north of the district at Herringfleet Hills, Somerleyton and the southern side of Fritton Lake, where there have been recent adder sightings (BAP species).

Waveney district has sizeable areas of grazing marsh and fen. Excellent examples of species-rich fen occur at Benacre, Barnby, Carlton and Oulton Broad; areas lying in the Waveney Valley. These fens provide habitat for several BAP species including three rare snails, bittern, barn owl, pipistrelle bat and also black poplar, a tree which usually occurs as isolated examples.

In large open water habitats such as the lakes at Lound Common, pillwort occurs. This is a BAP species and the only example in the county. Along the river Waveney good populations of otter are found and although declining, Water Vole is still present and at one key site, a large population of the depressed river mussel (BAP species).

The western and northern parts of the district are quite intensively farmed with large open fields. BAP habitats associated with farmland include ancient and species-rich hedgerows although not all of these are managed for conservation, cereal field margins, lowland species-rich hay meadows, of which there is a reasonable scattering of small fields in the west of the district and also farmland ponds (eutrophic open water). Waveney district has the highest density of farm ponds in Suffolk and consequently supports good populations of great crested newt. Other species particularly associated with farmland in Waveney include brown hare and arable wild plants such as small flowered catchfly and shepherd’s needle. Farmland bird populations are not as good as other parts of Suffolk due to lack of suitable habitat.

Woodland is not widespread in the district although small clusters of ancient woodland occur in parishes such as Wrentham and Redisham. Good examples of wood pasture and parkland are found at Benacre, Henham and Sotterley. Species such as spotted flycatcher, barn owl and pipistrelle bat are found here. On two roadside verges in the district the sandy stilt puffball fungus occurs, at Blyford and Reydon. This BAP species is nationally scarce.


Babergh District Council

A large proportion of Babergh District Council comprises an area of ancient pre 18th Century landscape (East Anglian Plain Natural Area) of arable fields and improved grassland that is interspersed with significant woodland. Clusters of ancient woodlands (many of which are designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)) can be found, particularly in the parishes of Milden, Hintlesham, Polstead and Bentley. The ecological value of these woodlands is further enhanced by a network of ancient species-rich hedgerows (also a BAP habitat) that link a number of woodlands. Recent surveys (SWT) have shown that dormouse (BAP species) not only occurs in a number of woodlands in the Babergh District (e.g. Bentley Woods) but also in a significant number of ancient species-rich hedges.

The arable landscape that occurs throughout the District supports a number of BAP species and habitats particularly associated with farmland. In addition to hedges, other BAP habitats include lowland hay meadows, farmland ponds (including eutrophic open water) and cereal field margins. Species such as grey partridge, spotted flycatcher, bullfinch, turtle dove and pipistrelle bat have also been recorded within the farmed environment.

The open landscape, particularly found on the airfields at Wattisham and Little Waldingfield, support good populations of skylark, brown hare, and in the case of Waldingfield, a significant population of spreading hedge parsley, a rare arable plant.

The numerous small river valleys that occur in the Babergh District, for example, the Rivers Glem, Brett, the Belstead Brook, Flowton Brook and the tributary of the River Stour at Stutton, retain small pockets of species-rich fen and lowland hay meadows. Recent surveys of wetland BAP species, notably otter, water vole and water shrew indicate that these species occur in watercourses and nearby grazing marshes.

Although it has experienced a significant decline in its ecological value (BTO, 2003) the Stour and Orwell Estuary is still of international importance, mainly for its populations of waders and wildfowl which are dependent on the intertidal mudflats and saltmarsh.

Urban development in the Babergh District is restricted to towns such as Sudbury and Hadleigh. Semi-natural urban habitat (BAP) which occurs in gardens, allotments and other open spaces supports significant populations of BAP species including song thrush, pipistrelle bat and stag beetle.

Mid-Suffolk District Council

Mid Suffolk District lies on the East Anglian Plain and the underlying boulder clay deposits give rise to heavy clay soils which have been improved for agriculture; largely arable habitats. Mid-Suffolk has an ancient agricultural landscape with many small farms although modern farming methods have given rise to large fields, typical of those elsewhere in Suffolk. Ancient and species-rich hedgerows (a BAP habitat) dissect the agricultural and wooded habitats but vary in their wildlife value; not all are favourably managed. Other BAP habitats associated with farmland are cereal field margins and farm ponds (eutrophic open water). These ponds often support populations of great crested newt. Species associated with farmland include grey partridge, spotted flycatcher, bullfinch, turtle dove, skylark, tree sparrow, brown hare and several important arable wild plant species such as shepherds needle and cornflower.

Pockets of species-rich grassland (a BAP habitat), in particular village commons and greens, churchyards and green lanes dot the landscape. There is also a good scattering of small species-rich hay meadows; Winston Green, Debenham Meadow and Burgate Great and Little Greens Mid Suffolk District has a reasonable percentage of woodland but it is largely scattered, though there are important clusters at Barking and Woolpit. Ancient woodlands occur, but are generally small in size. The Thornham and Shrubland Estates have a mixture of parkland (BAP habitat) and ancient woodland. Helmingham Estate has some fine parkland with many veteran trees. Parkland and ancient woodland provide a habitat for several important fungi and lichens and ancient trees with fissures and cracks provide excellent habitat for bats and birds. In the river valleys, chiefly the Waveney, Dove and Gipping pockets of woodland remain which are interspersed with a mosaic of (BAP habitat). Wet woodland is important for otter, bats, black poplar and woodland bird species.

Within the Gipping and Waveney Valleys several areas of valley fen occur. One of the best examples of a species-rich valley fen is Redgrave and Lopham Fen. Several areas of these valleys have been affected by gravel extraction. This has left areas of open water (where pits have been filled) and also some newly created reedbed habitat. Within the rivers themselves otter, water vole and water shrew are found, the latter two being rather scarce.


Forest Heath

Forest Heath is unusual in having such a high percentage of its area designated as SSSI. This reflects the nationally important breckland habitats that support a wide range of nationally rare and BAP species. The district is split into three Natural Areas:

  1. East Anglian chalk in the south around Newmarket where small areas of species-rich chalk grassland survive amongst the horse paddocks and gallops;
  2. The Fens to the north west – an intensively farmed, flat landscape with little room for wildlife outside of the dykes, drains and the narrow verges of the drove roads;
  3. Breckland in the centre and east with a mixture of farmed arable and conifer plantation with small areas of heath and the long lines of bent pines left from former wind breaks.

The Brecks support most of the important BAP species and habitats in the district. Species like stone curlew, nightjar and woodlark breed here in sufficient numbers for some areas to warrant international designation. The farmland also has good numbers of hares and grey partridge. In the forest plantations, there is a small, declining, population of red squirrel. There are significant areas of heathland and acid grassland (BAP habitats). The light sandy soils have led to much farmland going in and out of cultivation and these ‘breck’ fields support a unique flora of tiny annual plants such as fingered speedwell that are not found elsewhere in Britain. Other BAP species such as tower mustard and red-tipped cudweed are also adapted to these disturbed light soils.

There is relatively little open water in the district but the valleys of the Little Ouse, the Lark and the Eriswell Cut-off channel all have otters. Water voles can be found alongside many of the fenland drains. Restoration work at Lakenheath washes has provided an important area of reedbed which may support bitterns in the future. These inland reedbeds will become increasingly important as sea-level rise continues to threaten sites on the coast.

Where the Breckland and Fens join there are a few wetland sites that support an unusual range of flora and fauna, with species like the rare leaf beetle at Pashford Poors Fen and the greater water parsnip at Hurst Fen. These sites are drying out due to the lowering of the water table.

Most of the area is farmland but there is significant urban development around Thetford, Brandon and Newmarket as well as the military airbases at Mildenhall and Lakenheath.

There is very little ancient woodland in the area, just a few small sites on clayland in the southeast corner. Parkland is also scarce with Aspall Park at Mildenhall being the only example.

St Edmundsbury

St Edmundsbury covers a range of landscape types from the arable claylands in the south to the sandy brecks and valley fens in the north. Large areas are covered by intensive arable farming but within this there are significant pockets of ancient woodland and parkland. The majority of designated areas (County Wildlife Sites (CWS) and SSSI) in this district are ancient woodland sites. As well as the nationally important Bradfield Woods there are clusters of ancient woods around Saxham, Long Melford, Great Bradley and Boxted. These woods vary in character depending on the underlying soils and their management history. The old parklands at Ickworth, Euston and Livermere have retained many veteran trees as well as important features from 18th century landscaping.

There are relatively few river valleys and although there is little wetland habitat around the upper reaches of the Stour, the Lark, Little Ouse and Black Bourn have retained some rich water meadows. To the north-east a few valley fens have remained at Thelnetham, Hopton and Market Weston. On farmland, the heavier clays in this area provide suitable ponds for great crested newts. Along the rivers both otters and water vole are found with better numbers here than in the rest of Suffolk. There are black poplars scattered throughout the district.

In the north-west the lighter, chalky soils and pine plantations show the start of the brecks with important heathy open habitats at Lackford, West Stow and Barnham and areas of chalk grassland in the open rides of the Kings Forest at Wordwell.

The Lark valley has important areas of open water attracting many wildfowl at sites like the lakes at Lackford and Livermere.

The arable landscape which occurs throughout the District supports a number of BAP species and habitats particularly associated with farmland. In some areas the network of woods, small fields and hedges has survived, but in much of the district intensive farming has resulted in the removal of hedges creating vast open fields. Other BAP habitats include farmland ponds (including eutrophic open water BAP) and cereal field margins. Species such as grey partridge, spotted flycatcher, bullfinch, turtle dove and pipistrelle bat are found within the farmed environment.

Although the vast majority of the area is rural there are urban habitats in Bury and Haverhill. Semi-natural urban habitat (BAP) which occurs in gardens, can support populations of BAP species such as song thrush and pipistrelle bat whilst allotments and other open spaces may harbour important populations of reptiles and amphibians.

2. Procedure for Site Selection

A CWS panel that includes technical expertise from Natural England, Suffolk Wildlife Trust, Suffolk Biodiversity Information Service and Suffolk County Council carries out the selection of County Wildlife Sites (CWS) in Suffolk. The panel evaluates the proposed CWS against agreed selection criteria to ensure that the site meets the threshold for selection. The panel meets twice a year to assess potential CWS and amendments to existing sites as appropriate.

Site selection criteria have been drawn up In accordance with recommendations in the Wildlife Sites Handbook.

Sites are assessed against the primary and secondary habitat criteria set out in section 3 and then specific habitat criteria set out in section 4.

Occasionally it may be appropriate to designate a CWS for the presence of particular species in their own right.

3. Habitat Criteria

The habitat criteria are based on Radcliffe’s habitat attributes that evaluate sites on the basis of their biological interest being of substantive nature conservation value. These criteria may favour or count against a site’s selection as a CWS.

Meeting just one of the Habitat Primary Criteria can be sufficient to warrant designation as a CWS

3.1 Primary criteria

Size – The importance and value of a site usually increases with size. Larger sites are more able to resist change and therefore remain as a viable unit. While a site’s size may affect its sustainability this does not preclude the selection of small sites of high quality

Diversity – Sites that have a variety of habitats are often of high wildlife value, particularly where they include a range of successional stages and/or ecological gradients. Individually, none of the habitats may meet the selection criteria for CWS status, but their combined value may be high enough for selection

Naturalness – It is generally considered that the more natural a site is, the higher its value. However, in Suffolk, as with most of the UK, very few sites with the exception of dynamic coastal habitats are truly natural and the most important habitats are either semi-natural e.g. hay meadows and ancient woods, or even man-made e.g. urban sites. In many cases, this attribute, therefore, relates to a site’s state under traditional management

Rarity – All habitats that are nationally/internationally rare should be considered. Suffolk is a stronghold for some habitats e.g. vegetated shingle, and these habitats may be locally frequent, but their wider importance should not be overlooked. Other habitats may be rare in Suffolk e.g. chalk grassland and should be considered in the context of their local significance

Fragility – Some sites may be very susceptible to damage by interference e.g. urban sites where the development of surrounding land may isolate or encroach on the site. Other sites may be fragile due to rapid succession e.g. waste ground that rapidly scrubs up. The first is really an assessment of threat and would not be used as a sole selection criterion. The second suggests that the value of a site may be short-lived. While both factors may affect the selection, sites should be generally be designated according to their current wildlife value

Typicalness – some habitats are intrinsically species-poor but are locally distinctive e.g. windblown coastal scrub, nutrient rich flushes associated with red crag and dry grassland associated with sands and gravels. These habitats are characteristic of the county’s natural areas and are therefore included in the CWS system

3.2 Secondary criteria

These criteria should only be considered once the primary criteria have been applied. They can provide additional information on the value of sites but will not be used for selection in their own right.

Recorded history – The value of a site can be more accurately assessed if there has been a history of biological recording and evidence of site continuity

Position in ecological unit – Sites that are linked to or near other wildlife areas are generally more valuable and can play an important role in creating wildlife corridors and buffers

Potential value – the use of potential value as a criterion for site selection can cause problems, as it can be argued that with appropriate management any site potentially has high wildlife value. However, in some cases it may be useful, especially where there is an opportunity to enhance existing semi-natural habitats

Intrinsic appeal – Some sites may have high-perceived intrinsic appeal and /or recreational value. In addition sites may have a high education value. While the importance of these values should not be underestimated they should always be considered as supplementary to the sites nature conservation value

4. Specific Habitat Criteria

Following assessment of sites against primary and secondary habitat criteria (section 3), sites are considered against appropriate specific habitat criteria. Qualifying sites will have at least one of the attributes.

N.B. The numbering of the attributes is for identification purposes only and is not a reflection of the relative importance of attributes.

See appendices for details on rare, scarce and Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) species and definitions of BAP habitats.

4.1 Woodland

  1. Ancient woodland with predominantly native broadleaf trees. All woods indicated in English Nature’s Suffolk Ancient Woodland Inventory or from historical records qualify even where they have been replanted with conifers. Many remnants of ancient woodland are less than 2ha and were not included in the original Ancient Woodland Inventory. They will be added to the register as part of the AWI update process and may also be considered for designation as CWS.
  2. A herb layer of native plants typical of semi-natural broadleaf woodland covers the greater part of the site (see appendix).
  3. Presence of rare or scarce species and/or significant populations of Suffolk BAP species (see appendix).
  4. Diverse physical and age structures, and other typical woodland features associated with ancient woodlands. 
    Presence of understorey, glades, rides and perimeter shrubs. Presence of seedlings, saplings, mature and over-mature specimens. Presence of ponds, watercourses, earthworks especially associated with boundaries, pollards. High proportion of dead wood both standing and fallen. Evidence of historical traditional management (coppicing). Active traditional management.
  5. Woodland includes or is entirely a good example of a Suffolk BAP habitat. e.g. wet woodland (see appendix).
  6. Woodland type typical of a Natural area or that is locally distinctive.

4.2 Grassland – Neutral, Calcareous, Acid and Breckland

  1. Unimproved/semi-improved, dry acid grassland, or dry but non-acid grassland associated with red crag/sand and gravels in Suffolk (see appendix).
  2. Unimproved/semi-improved, neutral grassland (see appendix).
  3. Unimproved/semi-improved, calcareous grassland (see appendix).
  4. Unimproved/semi-improved grassland typical of Breckland (see appendix).
  5. Unimproved appropriately species-rich wet grassland, marsh or mire, including coastal grazing marsh (see appendix).
  6. Presence of rare or scarce species and/or significant populations of Suffolk BAP species (see appendix).
  7. A good example of a Suffolk BAP habitat e.g. lowland acid grassland, or lowland hay meadow (see appendix).
  8. Semi-improved relatively species-poor grassland that is important as habitat for other species e.g. breeding waders on grazing marshes.

4.3 Wood Pasture and Parkland

  1. Ancient native trees in permanent grass where there is survey evidence of rare/scarce/BAP species associated with ancient trees (see appendix).
  2. Presence of rare or scarce species and/or significant populations of Suffolk BAP species (see appendix).
  3. A good example of Suffolk BAP habitat (see appendix).

4.4 Open, Standing Water (ponds, lakes, pits, dykes and ditches)

  1. Species-rich marginal vegetation.
  2. Species-rich aquatic vegetation.
  3. Presence of rare or scarce species and/or significant populations of Suffolk BAP species (see appendix).
  4. A good example of Suffolk BAP habitat (see appendix).

4.5 Running Open Water

These criteria incorporate Environment Agency CWS criteria.

  1. Appropriately species-rich emergent /aquatic flora.
  2. Presence of rare or scarce species and/or significant populations of Suffolk BAP species  (see appendix).
  3. Fish (from electro-fishing surveys) based on the presence of rare native species, lack of influence from stocking, consistency of recording and self-sustaining populations.
  4. Presence of rare invertebrates species and/or sections of the river where there is a high invertebrate diversity.
  5. Records of water vole, water shrew and /or the status of otters are noted in the summary of conservation interest of each river.
  6. A good example of a Suffolk BAP habitat (see appendix).

4.6 Reedbed and Fen (e.g. Tall and herb-rich fen, swamp and fen meadow)

  1. A good example of a reed and/or sedge bed.
  2. A good example of a tall fen with a typical wetland.
  3. Presence of rare or scarce species and/or significant populations of Suffolk BAP species (see appendix).
  4. A good example of a fen habitat including a fen meadow.
  5. A good example of a Suffolk BAP habitat (see appendix).

4.7 Heathland

  1. A significant area of heathland vegetation communities such as shrub heath, acid grassland, lichen heath and mosaics thereof
  2. Presence of rare or scarce species and/or significant populations of Suffolk BAP species (see appendix).
  3. A good example of a Suffolk BAP habitat (see appendix).

4.8 Coastal Habitats

  1. Significant examples of semi-natural vegetation communities associated with the coast e.g. shingle, saline lagoons, saltmarsh, sand dunes and cliffs.
  2. Presence of rare or scarce species and/or significant populations of Suffolk BAP species (see appendix).
  3. Coastal habitat that is borderline CWS quality, but provides valuable buffering or connections with high-quality habitat.
  4. A good example of a Suffolk BAP habitat (see appendix).

4.9 Scrub

There are occasions when scrub is of CWS status in its own right (as opposed to being part of a mosaic) e.g. coastal scrub providing feeding stations for winter migrant birds. In such instances, scrub will be considered on a case-by-case basis, with its individual merits determining whether it be assigned CWS status.

4.10 Bog and Flush

The majority of bogs and flushes occur within other wet-grassland/fen/woodland habitats and are therefore covered by relevant habitat criteria. However, there are occasional cases where a bog or flush (e.g. a red crag issue) may occur within otherwise degraded habitat e.g. improved grassland and may support significant flora or fauna. In these instances the bog or flush may be designated as CWS.

4.11 Arable Habitats

Sites may be designated if they support populations of rare, scarce and/or significant populations of BAP species associated with arable habitats. Designation of some arable sites is inappropriate due to their transitory nature e.g. set-aside fields which have a significant but temporary value for farmland birds.

4.12 Hedgerows including Pollards

Hedgerows may be designated if they support significant populations of rare, scarce and/or significant populations of BAP species. They may also be designated for their role in connecting habitats e.g. between woodlands with Dormice. Exceptional examples of Suffolk BAP habitat may also qualify.

4.13 Habitat Mosaics

Few sites consist solely of one discreet habitat type e.g. heathlands are usually made up of a mix of dwarf shrubs and acid grassland. Although the majority of CWS can be classified under one major habitat heading, there are many sites where the value is due to an intricate mosaic of several types.

These habitat mosaics can have a very high value for wildlife, providing a diversity of vegetation structure that supports a wide range of flora and fauna some of which may be rare, scarce or BAP. They may include gradients between wet and dry, light and shade, open and sheltered habitats. Mosaics can include examples of improved/semi-improved grassland, mature trees, woodland (ancient and secondary), scrub, hedge, marshy grassland/swamp and open water (standing or running). CWS status of mosaics will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. In some cases a priority site may be buffered by other semi-natural habitats which might not qualify for designation in their own right, but add significantly to the value of the core

4.14 Orchards

An orchard is understood to be a group of top fruit (and nut trees) that’s purpose is or has been domestic or commercial fruit production. A significant number of trees will be veteran e.g. large size for their species, decay, dead wood, sap runs, epiphytes and saprophytes.

  1. Features commonly characteristic of an orchard. A site would be expected to have one or more of the following ‘orchard’ features: Pond/moat, association with traditional farmstead, hedges containing nut or fruit trees e.g Myrobalan, evidence of previous occupation/horticultural use e.g walled garden remains, old and established populations of planted spring bulbs such as aconite, daffodil, star of Bethlehem and snowdrop.
  2. The presence of a rare/scarce and /or significant populations of BAP species.
  3. Significant assemblages of epiphytes/saprophytes associated with living and dead wood and appropriate orchard species are present.
  4. The presence of a herb-rich ground flora


Appendix 1: Habitats

Cereal Field Margins

For the purposes of this Action Plan the term ‘cereal field margin’ refers to strips of land lying between cereal crops and the field boundary and which may extend for a limited distance into the crop, which are deliberately managed to create conditions which benefit key farmland species. They can take a variety of forms, the principal types being:

  1. A ‘Wildlife Strip’ 6m wide adjacent to a cereal crop, together with a 1m ‘Sterile Strip’ between the wildlife strip and the crop. The wildlife strip is cultivated once a year but not cropped; the Sterile Strip is maintained so as to prevent aggressive arable weeds spreading into the adjacent cereal crop.
  2. A ‘Conservation Headland’ between 6m and 12m wide forming the outer margin of the crop which may be separated from an adjacent field boundary or other vegetation by a 1m Sterile Strip. The Conservation Headland is cropped with cereals but is managed with reduced inputs of pesticides so as to favour wild arable plants and invertebrates.
  3. A combined Wildlife Strip and Conservation Headland, separated by a Sterile Strip and managed as described above.
  4. Game crops, stubble or grassland fallows lying between annually cropped land and the field boundary.

The focus on cereal rather than arable field margins in this action plan reflects the dominance of cereals among arable crops.

Rare arable flowers found in cereal margins in Suffolk include Ground-pine Ajuga chamaepitys, Cornflower Centaurea cyanus, Corn Parsley Petroselinum segetum, Corn Buttercup Ranunculus arvensis, Shepherd’s-needle Scandix pecten-veneris and Narrow-fruited Cornsalad Valerianella dentata. Arable wild flowers are of conservation concern because of enormous national declines in their distribution and abundance. Nationally, some 300 species of plants can occur in arable fields.

Ancient/Species-rich hedgerows

Ancient hedgerows, which support a greater diversity of plants and animals than subsequent hedges, may be defined as those, which were in existence before the Enclosure Acts, passed mainly between 1720 and 1840. By the time of the Parliamentary enclosures, most of the East Anglian Plain was already enclosed and well hedged, but large numbers of common pastures and greens were enclosed in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Large areas of Breckland and the Suffolk Coast and Heaths were enclosed at this time. These hedges were planted as single species, (usually Hawthorn).

Species-rich hedgerows contain five or more native woody species on average in a thirty-metre length. Hedges, which contain fewer woody species but a rich basal flora, should also be included. The Hedgerow Regulations 1997 define ‘important’ hedgerows as those with seven woody species, or six woody species plus other defined features; a stricter guideline than the five woody species in the National Biodiversity Action Plan.

Key National Biodiversity Action Plan species in Suffolk which use hedges (including associated features such as grassy verges) are Brown hare, Skylark, Grey partridge, Song thrush, Linnet, Turtle Dove, Corn bunting, Tree sparrow, Bullfinch, and Pippistrelle bat. Other fauna using hedges include small mammals, including Dormice in the south of the county, hibernating reptiles and amphibians, and invertebrates beneficial for crop pest management.

Coastal and flood plain grazing marsh

Grazing marsh is defined as periodically inundated pasture, or meadow with ditches which maintain the water levels, containing standing brackish or fresh water. Almost all areas are grazed and some cut for hay or silage. Sites may contain seasonal water-filled hollows and permanent ponds with emergent swamp communities, but not extensive areas of tall fen species like reeds; although they may merge with fen and reed swamp communities.

Lowland heathland

In Suffolk, many heaths have a mix of dwarf shrubs interwoven with acid grassland. In Breckland the habitat is very complex as the mix of chalky and sandy soils is reflected in a diverse range of heath and dry grassland communities unique in Britain.


Fens are peatlands that receive water from the ground as well as from rainwater and river flooding. They fall into two types based on water movement and two other categories depending on where the water is derived from or has travelled through: base-rich or poor rocks. Habitats covered by this Plan include rushy pastures and fen meadows. All sites with substantial fen interest should be regarded as eligible for inclusion in this Action Plan. Overlap may be particularly marked with the following habitats: grazing marsh; reedbeds; lowland heath; mesotrophic lakes and aquifer fed naturally fluctuating water bodies; and wet woodland.


Reedbeds are characterised by a dominance of Reeds Phragmites australis and occur in a wide range of permanently and periodically waterlogged habitats. Stands occur around lakes and ponds, in estuaries and on saltmarsh, and along dykes and canals. Other communities not dominated by reed are included in the fen action plan.

Saline Lagoons

Lagoons are essentially bodies of saline water, natural or artificial, partially separated from the adjacent sea. They retain a proportion of their sea water at low tide and may develop as brackish, full saline or hyper-saline water bodies.

In Suffolk there are four types of brackish lagoon: firstly, small rivers that have been ponded back by shingle bars, over which the sea occasionally transgresses (for example Benacre, Easton and Covehithe Broads); secondly pools enclosed and isolated within a shingle beach (such as at Shingle Street); thirdly, shallow pools on clay (often former grazing marshes) trapped behind ridges of shingle e.g. behind the Walberswick/Dunwich shingle ridge; and fourthly, brackish bodies of water behind sea walls fed by percolation, sea spray or sluices (e.g. lagoons on Havergate Island). Both the latter formations are fed by rain water through the shingle and tend to be very saline.

There are 26 species of flora and fauna that are indicative of brackish lagoons. Of these 14 are present or have been recorded, in the brackish lagoons of Suffolk. Of particular note are the Starlet Sea Anemone Nemastosella vectensis, which occurs in very high densities (up to 10,000 individuals per m2), the snails Hydrobia ventrosa and H. neglecta, the lagoon cockle, Cerastoderma glaucum and the crustacean Gammarus insensibilis.

Eelgrass beds

Three species of Eelgrass (Zostera) occur in the UK. These are: Z. noltii, the Dwarf Eelgrass, which is found highest on the shore; Z. angustifolia, the Narrow-leaved Eelgrass, which is found on the lower shore and Z. marina, Eelgrass, which is predominantly sub littoral. All three species are considered to be scarce. Preferred habitats are intertidal or shallow subtidal sands/muds which are sheltered from significant wave action.

Wet Woodlands

Wet woodlands can be found in a variety of situations where a high water table results from poorly drained or seasonally wet soils. Wet woodland habitats may be identified as containing a range of National Vegetation Classification (NVC) stand types. In Suffolk, the following are likely to occur:

  • Grey willow – common marsh-bedstraw woodland
    Salix cinereaGalium palustre woodland (W1)
  • Grey willow – downy birch – common reed woodland
    Salix cinereaBetula pubescensPhragmites australis woodland (W2)
  • Downy birch – purple moor-grass woodland Sphagnum sub-community
    Betula pubescens Molinia caerulea woodland, Sphagnum sub-community (W4c)
  • Alder – greater tussock sedge woodland
    Alnus glutinosa Carex paniculata woodland (W5)
  • Alder – common nettle woodland
    Alnus glutinosaUrtica dioica woodland (W6)

These stands are found on flood plains as successional habitats on fens and mires, along rivers and streams, by flushes and in peaty hollows. The wet woodlands on the boulder clay in Suffolk tend to be considered as part of the ash – field maple – dog’s mercury woodland Fraxinus excelsiorAcer campestre Mercurialis perennis woodlands (W8 in the NVC) and are excluded from this habitat plan. These will form part of the wood pasture/parkland and mixed woodland plans.

The habitat supports a number of important BAP species in Suffolk. It is believed to be of primary importance for the weevil Melanapion minimum and a jumping weevil Rhynchaenus testaceus. It is of subsidiary importance for two birds (spotted flycatcher Muscicapa striatus and the song thrush Turdus philomenos) and the lesser horseshoe bat Rhinolophus hipposideros. Wet woodlands are believed to be used by a number of other BAP species that include a leaf-rolling weevil Byctiscus populi, the liverwort veilwort Pallavicinia lyelli and the otter Lutra lutra.

Lowland Wood pastures and parkland

In Suffolk there are both the remnants and the active practice of a tradition of using the same land to grow trees and graze animals. Today this land is defined as wood-pasture (Silva pastillis).

In many cases, today’s parklands have evolved through a complex series of changes starting with the medieval deer park. Consequently, much of the parkland we see today is quite different to its medieval origins. New species of trees and shrubs have been introduced into this country and there have been fashions for designed landscapes. This rich variety of historic landscapes has created a wealth of habitats and niches for wildlife.

Lowland woodland-pasture and parkland habitats may be identified as containing a range of National Vegetation

Classification (NVC) stand types. In Suffolk, the following are likely to occur:

  • Oak – Bracken – Bramble woodland
    Quercus robur – Pteridium aquilinum – Rubus fruticosus woodland (W10)
  • Oak – Birch – Wavy hair-grass woodland
    Quercus robur – Betula spp. – Deschampsia flexuosa woodland (W16)
  • Ash – Field Maple – Dog’s Mercury woodland
    Fraxinus excelsior – Acer campestre – Mercurialis perennis woodland (W8)

It should be recognised that lowland wood-pasture and parkland are habitats in their own right. This ecosystem is likely to be of interest for invertebrates (especially the saproxylics), epiphytes, bryophytes, fungi, bats and woodland birds.

Lowland Hay meadows

This plan incorporates a number of unimproved grassland types in Suffolk. Of particular ecological value are the typical species-rich hay meadows associated with Boulder Clay soils of the county. Often termed ‘Old Meadow’, these grasslands are characterised by a long history of traditional management i.e. lack of disturbance by ploughing or the use of agricultural chemicals. The plan, however, is not restricted to grasslands cut for hay, but also takes into account unimproved neutral pasture where livestock grazing is the main land use.

Lowland dry acid grassland

This plan includes all the acid grassland which occurs in Suffolk as an integral part of the Sandlings and Breckland heathland landscape. Smaller areas of acid grassland can also be found on stretches of vegetated shingle along the coast.

Acid grassland is characterised by a species-poor plant community dominated by sheep’s fescue, sheep’s sorrel and common bent. Other species which are often present in the sward include sand sedge, wavy hair grass, tormentil, and heath bedstraw. The summer-parched soils in Suffolk often support stands of acid grassland which are rich in both mosses and lichens. In addition, acid grassland in Suffolk is noted for a number of rare and nationally scarce spring annual plants. These include several clovers e.g. clustered and suffocated, mossy stonecrop and in the Breckland area, a number of early flowering plants such as spring and breckland speedwells. Birds of conservation concern which are associated with acid grassland include woodlark, stone curlew and nightjar. Many of the invertebrates occurring in acid grassland are species which do not occur elsewhere. Ground-dwelling and burrowing invertebrates particularly favour the open acid grassland swards which typically contain bare sandy areas.

Eutrophic open water

The national action plan covers natural and man-made still waters such as gravel pits, reservoirs and lakes but it excludes small pools, field ponds and brackish waters. There are no accurate estimates of the amount of this habitat in the UK but it is likely to be around 1785 sq. km.

As an addition to the national action plan, this Local BAP includes small ponds as well as large areas of open water. Actions with respect to ponds cannot strictly be reported as part of the process of the HAP. Eutrophic standing waters are important for certain priority BAP species e.g. Great crested newt, otter, water vole and rare snails as well as local character species e.g. water shrew.


Suffolk is not generally thought of as an urban county. However, there are many built-up areas that contain a variety of valuable urban wildlife sites. These include SSSIs, Local Nature Reserves and County Wildlife Sites.

However, nature conservation in towns and cities is not only about providing for wildlife. Wildlife can also play an important part in people’s lives and therefore should not be restricted to nature reserves and the countryside. As 54% of people in Suffolk live in towns (with populations over 10,000) the need for a healthy environment in urban areas is particularly important. Parks, cemeteries, canals, allotments, ‘derelict’ land and gardens can support a huge range of animals and plants and play a crucial role in maintaining the wildlife resource of towns and cities. These places are accessible to all age groups and cultures and can provide ideal places to learn about biodiversity. The character of urban areas is continually altering, through landscape improvements, development and the changing demands on land. If we are to retain the wildlife in urban areas, it must be recognised, valued, protected and managed as a vital component of the townscape.

Lowland mixed deciduous woodland

Ancient semi-natural woodland contains some of the most important assemblages of wildlife in any habitat. A large proportion of the lowland mixed deciduous woodland in the county falls into this category.

Not all ancient woodland sites support mixed deciduous woodland, this woodland type is also found on recent sites and in secondary woodlands. Some recent woodland sites may be of significant conservation importance.

  • Ancient Woodland – Land that has had continuous woodland cover since at least 1600 and may be:
    • Ancient Semi-natural Woodland – Ancient Semi-natural Sites that have retained the original native tree and shrub cover that has not been planted, although it may have been managed by coppicing or felling and allowed to regenerate naturally.
    • Ancient Replanted Woodland – Ancient woodland sites where the original tree cover has been felled and replaced by planting, usually with conifers and usually last century.

This Habitat Action Plan covers woodland growing on the full range of soil conditions, from acidic to base-rich, and includes most of the semi-natural Ancient Woodland Sites in Suffolk. Most woodlands were traditionally coppice with standards, particularly those on moderately acid to base-rich soils. Coppicing ceased gradually with the discovery of coal as a fuel source. Quercus robur is by far the commoner oak (although Quercus petraea may be abundant locally in a few sites) and may occur with virtually all combinations of other locally native tree species. Most sites are relatively small and have clearer vegetational boundaries compared with some of the recent planted woodlands.

Lowland mixed broadleaf woodland is characterised by the following National Vegetation Classification (NVC) codes, (Rodwell 1991); these plant communities are characterised by W8 Fraxinus excelsior – Acer campestre – Mercurialis perennis woodland W10 Quercus robur – Pteridium aquilinum – Rubus fruticosus woodland and lesser amounts of W16 Quercus spp. – Betula spp. – Deschampsia flexuosa woodland (mainly sub-community a. Quercus robur). Locally, it may form a mosaic with other types, including patches of beech woodland, and small areas of wet woodland. Rides and edges may grade into grassland and scrub types.

Coastal vegetated shingle

Coastal shingle can occur in a number of geomorphological forms. In Suffolk two main types are found – embayment beach ridge plains represented by Thorpeness and Kessingland where a series of relict storm beach ridges and an active shore system partly or wholly infills a former embayment; and barrier spits where a single spit made up of relict storm ridges and a shore system lies parallel to the open coast, partially blocking a harbour and estuary, such as at Orford Ness. Loosely barriers can be categorised as having a landward sloping, backshore component and beaches with an absence of rear landward slopes.

Shingle deposits are principally made up of coarse clastic sediments and can be defined (Udden-Wentworth) as sediment with particle sizes in the range of 2 to 200 mm, i.e. between that of boulders and sand. All shingle beaches consist of a mixture of these particle sizes, some being well sorted, some poorly sorted. In terms of particle size, shingle beaches can be classified into three types – those composed entirely of gravel (Orford Ness); those with the upper foreshore composed of gravel and the lower foreshore of sand separated with a marked break of slope (Thorpeness); and those where there is no clear spatial separation between gravel and sand (Sizewell, Dunwich).

Shingle beaches form on wave-dominated shorelines where suitably sized material is available and where there is an occurrence of a high wave energy environment. However, most of these beaches are within reach of storm waves so vegetation is restricted to temporary and strandline communities. Of the classic communities which develop out of reach of the normal tide there are only between 4000 ha and 5000 ha in Britain. Over half of this occurs on two sites – Orford Ness and Dungeness.

The colonisation of shingle is dependent on three main factors – degree of disturbance and mobility of shingle due to factors such as wave action; presence or absence of fines in the shingle matrix; and the availability of moisture.


Appendix 2: Species lists

Bap Priority Species

Plant lists


Appendix 3: Habitat related species

Coastlands and maritime

Main species

Scarce species

Cultivated/disturbed ground

Main species

Scarce species


Main species

Scarce species

Tall herb & fern

Main species

Scarce species


Main species

Scarce species


Main species

Scarce species

Open water

Main species

Scarce species

Swamp, marginal and waterside

Main species

Scarce species


Main species

Scarce species

Grassland and marsh

Main species

Scarce species

Chalk Grassland

Main species

Scarce species

Boulder Clay grassland


Main species

Scarce species

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