Situated on a species-rich hay meadow, Raisbeck was established to help identify sustainable nutrient input practices that would maintain and restore plant diversity.

Located in Cumbria, Raisbeck was twinned with lowland hay meadow sites at Pentwyn in South Wales. However, treatments were stopped at both sites in 2010. This is of particular significance as these sites represented the only paired, replicated experiment looking at the impacts of nutrient addition. 

Research on these sites has been fundamental to improving the management and restoration of upland and lowland meadows.

The unique species-rich upland hay meadow at Raisbeck is representative of a habitat of which it is estimated there are less than 1000ha remaining in northern England. 

Data has been retained by Rothamsted Research, with a large volume of the floristic data yet to be analysed. Given the success of key species in particular plots, data analysis may produce valuable information on the conservation and management of hay meadows for target species.


Prior to cessation in 2010, 19 treatments were applied to 35m2 plots in a randomised block design. This was replicated three times at each site. All plots were used for hay making and autumn grazing. 

Treatments were applied annually or triennially, and consisted of the application of varying concentrations of N, P, K, either as manure, or inorganic fertiliser, and control plots.

Fertilisers were applied as 6, 12 or 24 tonnes ha-1 of farmyard manure, or as inorganic fertiliser equivalent  to the 12 and 24 tonne NPK treatments. Lime was also applied either alone, or in combination with the 12 tonne treatments.  

Results show that knowledge of soil characteristics and historical fertiliser application rates is important when deciding the appropriate level of fertiliser application tolerable to species present and appropriate for the maintenance of species richness. 

Modest inputs can reduce the ecological value of sensitive vegetation in meadows with no recent history of such inputs, whereas moderate inputs on sites where there is a long history of inputs are likely to be ecologically sustainable.

We provide grants to students and researchers to undertake research at long-term experiments and post-treatment recovery experiments. We would welcome applications from individuals to undertake monitoring and research on this site. Click here to find out more about our grants scheme.