GS9: Management of wet grassland for breeding waders

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

How much will be paid

£264 per hectare (ha).

Where to use this option

In Mid Tier this option can only be used with approval from Natural England.

Whole or part parcel

Only on permanent grassland that is one of the following:

  • coastal or floodplain grazing marsh identified as priority habitat
  • other grassland identified as habitat for breeding waders

For Mid Tier the land must be mapped on the Priority Habitat Inventory as coastal flood plain grazing marsh or purple moor grass and rush pasture or lowland meadow (see MAGIC).

The grassland must already support breeding waders or have high potential for being restored for them.

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 provide habitat in wet grassland for breeding wading birds. Fields will have wet areas and suitable sward conditions throughout the winter and spring and into the early summer. Waders will be able to nest and, in most years, successfully fledge their young.


  • provide the correct sward conditions for the target species by grazing, mainly with cattle, in accordance with the stocking calendar provided by Natural England
  • manage livestock during the breeding season to reduce the risk of them trampling nests
  • maintain 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

In Mid Tier, additional clauses may be included to refine the standard requirements. These will be discussed and agreed as part of the approval process.

Do not:

  • plough, cultivate or reseed the grassland, unless agreed in writing with Natural England
  • harrow or 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 the extent of scrub or bracken on any historic or archaeological features on the site (if present)
  • 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 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) containing wading birds
  • 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:

  • sites with botanical interest, where hydrological changes could damage plant communities
  • washlands and 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.