A project that set out to restore 200ha (490 acres) of traditional hay meadows in the Yorkshire Dales National Park over five years has successfully increased species richness, species diversity and meadow composition in 141 fields since 2006 by introducing locally harvested wildflower and grass seed.

Hay Time

Species-rich hay meadows are an important part of England’s rural and cultural heritage.

Traditional hay meadows can support over 30 species/sq metre and up to 120 species per field. They are of high habitat value for wildlife, providing feeding areas for invertebrates, bats and mammals and feeding and nesting sites for birds.

Species-rich meadows also store more carbon than species-poor ones and retain rainwater and nutrients better – so can play a part in reducing the adverse effects of climate change, flood risk and water pollution.

Managed by the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust in partnership with the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority and supported by Natural England and others, the ‘Hay Time’ team worked with local farmers, using their knowledge and expertise to co-ordinate the collection and spreading of seed, and the management of donor and receptor meadows.

Overwhelming interest from the Public
A secondary aim of the project was to increase public awareness, enjoyment and understanding of the meadows. From this was born ‘Flowers of the Dales Festivals’ running 120 events a year. More than 10,000 people took part in the 2009-2011 events with numbers growing each year.

A beautiful book ‘Hay Time in the Yorkshire Dales’ has been published and a theatre production called ‘Sward – the story of meadows’ has been showcased at several schools.

Thousands of people have taken part in meadow-themed events and activities which will have left them valuing this precious rural resource, which previously they probably hardly noticed.

Well done to all involved.

While the Yorkshire Dales project has now ended, the expertise and enthusiasm is being transferred to similar schemes in adjoining regions including the Forest of Bowland and Nidderdale Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

More info on Hay Time at www.ydmt.org – go to the shop page to see all the wonderful publications available.

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