Saving England's most threatened species from extinction

Limestone’s Living Legacies

Restoring Cotswold limestone grassland

More than
of Cotswolds unimproved limestone grassland has been lost since the 1930s
The Marsh Fritillary breeds on only
site in Gloucestershire
More than
of England’s Jurassic unimproved limestone grassland is found in the Cotswolds

What is this habitat?

The almost magical beauty of the Cotswolds in spring and summer defies the term “unimproved grassland”. Growing on soil that is based on limestone, these grasslands can be brim-full of wild flowers, butterflies, bees and many more creatures. They are lost when they are “improved” for farming by reseeding and fertilising. Created long ago when humans cleared the forests, this is a fragile haven for species that could not survive without it.

Why is this habitat at risk?

In the 1930s, limestone grassland covered 40% of the Cotswolds area. Now it covers just 1.5% – which is over half of the UK’s total area of this habitat.  Limestone grasslands must be appropriately managed to maintain their special wildlife. They need the right livestock grazing to prevent them becoming overwhelmed by scrub and young woodland, and the fertility of the soil must remain low if the special plants are not to be out-competed and lost.

How we will bring back the Cotswolds limestone grassland

This Back from the Brink project, led by Butterfly Conservation, will work with landowners to restore and manage a network of grassland sites in the Cotswolds. We will provide specialist advice to landowners and train up volunteers to help us monitor the impacts of management on a host of species, including the Red-shanked Carder Bee, the Duke of Burgundy and Marsh Fritillary butterflies, Fly Orchid, Basil Thyme and the rare Greater Horseshoe Bats.

We will reintroduce threatened butterflies and engage with volunteers and local communities to connect them with this precious wild heritage.

What we’re aiming for

By the end of the project, we aim to ensure the recovery and long-term viability of this vulnerable habitat and the species that rely on it. We hope to have enabled communities in the area to understand and appreciate these wonderful grasslands.

How to get involved

Can you help us by getting involved with surveys, or with management for the Cotswolds limestone grasslands? Find out more at our talks, walks and events.

You can get the latest news, and find out about upcoming events, by following the links below.

Duke of Burgundy - Hamearis lucina_Leigh Prevost, Butterfly Conservation
Clustered Bellflower (Campanula glomerata), Rough Bank SSSI, a flower-rich limestone grassland reserve. Gloucestershire, July.
Marsh Fritillary Euphydryas aurinia
Large Blue_Keith Warmington, Butterfly Conservation
Cryptocephalus_primarius5 - 1024
Juniper (Juniperus communis), Painswick Beacon, Gloucestershire. July.


Habitat and survey work in Limestone’s Living Legacies has been targeted at a range of species that will benefit directly from the careful management and restoration of unimproved limestone grassland. These factsheets have been compiled by project staff and colleagues to provide information on their identification, life cycle, status and habitat requirements.

Back from the Brink Innovations Conference Presentation

Species Recovery and Management - Farmland and Bareground

Latest news

Get Involved

Bringing them Back From The Brink

We are working with some of the most endangered species in England. With your help we can do even more to save them.

Project lead

Delivery partners