GS11: Creation of wet grassland for breeding waders

Find out about eligibility and requirements for the creation of wet grassland for breeding waders option.

How much will be paid

£406 per hectare (ha).

How long this option lasts

This option lasts for 10 years, instead of the standard 5 years for the grant scheme.

Where to use this option

Available for Higher Tier

Whole or part parcel

Only on parcels that have been in arable, fallow or temporary grass in the last 5 years and have high potential for being restored to habitat for breeding waders.

It must also meet one of the following conditions:

  • a recommended fertiliser management system is currently being followed to plan nutrient inputs across the farm
  • a recommended fertiliser management system will be adopted within 18 months of the start of the agreement
  • the applicant qualifies as a low intensity farmer

Features that can be included in this option

The following features can be included if they are part of the land, even if they are ineligible for the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS):

  • ditches, dykes, drains, rivers or streams that are less than 4m wide for the majority of their length in the parcel
  • permanent water less than or equal to 0.1ha (larger areas may be eligible at the discretion of Natural England)
  • temporary water
  • natural unsurfaced roads, tracks, paths and bridleways (as long as the applicant is still able to carry out the requirements of the option)
  • small areas of other types of habitat, such as reedbeds and scrub, at the discretion of Natural England

How this option will benefit the environment

It will create wet grassland for breeding wading birds from arable or temporary grassland. Fields will have well-established swards, with wet areas throughout the winter and spring and into the early summer. Waders will be able to nest and, in most years, successfully fledge their young.


Agreement holders are likely to need to:

  • establish a suitable sward and manage it by grazing, mainly with cattle, in accordance with the stocking calendar agreed with Natural England
  • manage livestock during the breeding season to reduce the risk of them trampling nests
  • provide wet features (such as footdrains, gutters and scrapes) for waders to feed (these areas will need to be kept wet into the early summer, usually by holding high ditch water levels)
  • control and manage trees, scrub, hedges, rushes and undesirable species
  • use little or no manure, fertiliser, pesticide or supplementary feed

The agreement will set out what must not be done. It is likely agreement holders will not be allowed to:

  • plough, cultivate or reseed the grassland after successfully establishing it, unless agreed in writing with Natural England
  • harrow and roll on historic features
  • carry out activities that may disturb birds or damage nests

Keeping records

Agreement holders will need to keep the following records and supply them on request:

  • receipted invoices, consents or permissions connected with the work
  • field operations at the parcel level, including associated invoices
  • inputs used
  • any sites grazed will require a grazing activity record

On your annual claim you will be asked to declare that you haven’t carried out any activities prohibited by the option requirements.

You should also be aware that at the start of each claim year, a percentage of agreement holders will be asked to take and submit the following photographic records:

  • photographs of the management undertaken

Applicants will have to send the following with their application:

  • photographs showing any areas where sward enhancement will be carried out
  • a map of the existing drainage system
  • evidence that a recommended fertiliser management system is being followed or that the applicant qualifies as a low intensity farmer
  • stocking calendar

The detailed requirements for this option will be tailored to the Higher Tier site. Applicants should discuss and agree these requirements with their adviser.

The following options and supplements can be located on the same area as this option:

The following supplements may also be used with this option, but only in exceptional circumstances at the discretion of Natural England:

Advice and suggestions for how to carry out this option

The following section gives advice on carrying out this option successfully but does not form part of the requirements for this option

For best results:

  • use this option as part of a suite of wet grassland and target features options, over a wide area, potentially linking with other landowners
  • use this option within, next to or linking Special Protection Areas (SPAs) or Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) that have wading birds as interest features
  • use this option within, next to or linking non-designated areas with good wader populations
  • make sure this option does not conflict with Environment Agency, internal drainage board or local authority policies on flood storage, ditch and river management, water resources and fish migration
  • apply for land drainage consent if necessary
  • discuss the location of capital works with the Environment Agency, internal drainage boards and local authorities
  • discuss the location of capital works with the Historic Environment Service if historic and archaeological features are present

Sites which may be unsuitable for this option include:

  • washlands
  • other areas that flood during the wader breeding season

Further information

See the Higher Tier manual to find out more about the scheme and how to apply.

Published 2 April 2015
Last updated 10 March 2017 + show all updates
  1. Updated for 2017 applications.
  2. Information updated for applications in 2016.
  3. First published.