Upland fringe (Ffridd)
The upland fringe (or ffridd/coedcae as it is known in Wales) is the area between the enclosed more intensively managed lower fields and the unenclosed hill and moorland.
The upland fringe or ffridd is made up of a collection of diverse habitats including some or all of the following; scattered trees and small woodlands, bracken, heather and bilberry heath, wet and dry unimproved grassland, bog, scree and rock. It can be an incredibly diverse habitat, with the variety of vegetation communities and structural features making it very important to a wide range of wildlife.
The upland fringe is a very diverse habitat capable of supporting a wide range of wildlife species. It has a high structural and ecological diversity and helps to connect the uplands and the enclosed lower land.
Upland fringe habitats are very varied in nature. The different vegetation combinations and structure benefit many different wildlife species. For example, ring ouzels and twites use a mosaic of heather, bracken, rock outcrops and grass for nesting and foraging whereas birds such as yellowhammers prefer sites with a greater dominance of gorse and scrub. A mix of open canopy bracken and acid grassland is important for pearl-bordered and dark green fritillaries.
Areas of closely grazed open grassland provide foraging for birds such as chough and wheatear as well as excellent habitat for a number of fungi. Rocks and scattered trees support a large number of different lichen. Plant species vary geographically but can include globe flower, lesser butterfly orchid, wood bitter vetch and bog orchid.
Many wildlife-rich upland fringe habitats have been lost or degraded as a result of:
- A lack of grazing, in particular cattle grazing, which has led to hillsides becoming dominated by dense gorse and/or bracken. Over time these areas can then develop into woodland.
- Conversely a lack of regeneration of scattered trees and a decrease in heather and bilberry on more heavily grazed hillsides, producing monocultures of grass
- Conifer and deciduous woodland planting replacing valuable habitat mosaics
Management should aim to create or maintain a mosaic of habitats including scattered trees, scrub, grassland with differing swards heights, scattered bracken and wet areas. Upland fringe areas can vary considerably so it is sensible to carry out an assessment of what wildlife is already present before considering any change in management.
The upland fringe is a collection of habitats and more detailed information on how to manage individual elements is provided in separate advice notes or the links below. The aim should be to maintain or create range of habitat and vegetation structure while not allowing one habitat to dominate to the detriment of others.
Grazing is the primary management tool for maintaining upland fringe areas. The timing, number and stock type will vary depending on the different habitats occurring and its particular wildlife interests.
Grazing should be managed to maintain open areas of grassland of various sward heights and to control encroaching bracken or scrub. Cutting of scrub and bracken may be required where grazing regimes are unable to keep these habitats at a desired level. Areas of marshy grassland should also be maintained by grazing and where possible natural drainage should be restored by blocking drains.
Carrying out an assessment of how livestock use an area will help to guide whether shepherding, electric fencing or feed blocks could be used to encourage stock to concentrate in a particular part of the land. In general, heavier stock such as cattle or ponies tend to provide more diversity in sward structure and can help manage more vigorous plants such as bracken, scrub or rushes where these are a problem.
Scrub management should aim to create and maintain a range of native species, ages and structure. This can be achieved through periodic rotational cutting or grazing. New areas of scrub can be created or existing areas extended through natural regeneration by temporarily removing grazing (approximately five years).
Cutting most species of scrub encourages re-growth. Cutting scattered small patches will help create a range of scrub height and density. Selective cutting within large blocks of scrub should aim to create sheltered areas, rides and scalloped edges, providing important habitat for invertebrates and reptiles. Cutting programmes should take account existing interests and constraints (archaeology, landscape and species) to create the desired amount, density and location of scrub across the area.
Further advice on scrub management is provided in our Scrub advice note.
Bracken management may be required where bracken is becoming dense and encroaching on other habitats. Bracken can be managed through cutting or rolling and maintained by grazing, preferably with cattle. Spraying may need to be considered on large steep slopes covered in dense bracken which is inaccessible to machinery. Where using cutting or rolling to manage bracken, this should take place twice a year mid July to August inclusive.
Tree management should aim to maintain a scattering of trees at a low density:
- Reducing or removing grazing for a five year period will help tree cover increase through natural regeneration
- Where there are only a few trees and/or there is little or no regeneration then planting may be considered. Native species such as rowan, birch, hawthorn and other berry bearing trees should be planted at a low density scattered over the hillside, taking care to avoid planting on other important wildlife habitats
- Existing native woodlands provide important wildlife habitats and should be maintained. However if new tree and scrub growth is expanding rapidly across a hillside, for example due to a lack of grazing, it may be necessary to cut/fell some areas
- Standing or lying deadwood is important for fungi, invertebrates and birds. Leave dead trees or shrubs standing or retain small stacks of cut wood in shady areas.
Here are some useful case studies and articles about how farmers are putting Farm Wildlife into practice on their farms
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