Wildflower Festival

Wildflowers flourish in the Yorkshire Dales because the area is home to an amazing variety of wildlife habitats, such as ancient woodlands, moors, traditionally-managed meadows and limestone pavement.

Our annual Flowers of the Dales Festival aims to showcase how this internationally-important landscape is managed and cared for through the efforts of farmers and conservation organisations.

The 2015 Festival is well underway, and is once again proving to be a great success with local people and visitors of all ages. In total 130 events are taking place, led by 23 different providers, all offering an opportunity to learn more about nature, wildflowers and the special Yorkshire Dales landscape.

Highlights so far have included guided walks, bumblebee identification, foraging and fudge making and scything courses, but there are still well over 80 events to tickle your fancy between now and November.

Examining a Bumblebee

Examining a Bumblebee

We’re particularly excited about our guided meadow walk through in Grassington on Tues 16 June (there’s still a few spaces left!), the mini bioblitz event taking place on Sat 20 June at Ingleborough National Nature Reserve and the Hay Time Festival run by our friends at Berry’s Farm Shop in Swinithwaite on 27-28 June in aid of YDMT.

There’s also a wide range of nature walks to choose from offering the opportunity to see bats flying, salmon jumping or other feats of nature!

If you’d prefer something more artistic, take a look at the art exhibitions, children’s craft sessions, and photography classes on offer.

Gargrave Art & Craft Exhibition

Gargrave Art & Craft Exhibition

There’s also a chance to spend an afternoon with Amanda Owen – wildflower enthusiast, star of ITV’s The Dales, and Yorkshirewoman of the year – and enjoy one of her famous cream teas at Ravenseat farm!

You can download the full programme of events on our website at www.ydmt.org/Festival2015 or call us on 015242 51002 to request a copy.

Advertisements

School help design show garden

Earlier this week we spent an exciting morning with some of the lovely pupils at Bainbridge Church of England Primary School and award-winning garden designer Chris Myers. The youngsters, aged 7-9, have very kindly agreed to help us plan and design a mini ‘Pocket Garden’ full of spring wildflowers native to the Yorkshire Dales to display at the Harrogate Spring Flower Show in April.

Together we aim to create a riot of colour and texture in a plot just one metre square. Despite the small scale, we are aiming big and hope to distil the essence of beautiful spring wildflower habitats into this miniature garden.

Tanya St. Pierre, Flowers of the Dales Project Officer at YDMT, taught the children about the incredible variety of common, not-so-common and rare wildflowers that can be found in the Dales in springtime in habitats ranging from ancient woodlands to species-rich hay meadows, and the insects and animals that depend on them.

The children were then set the task of choosing their nine favourite species which will form the basis of the Pocket Garden. Once the votes were in Chris Myers presented the ‘Plant Oscars’!

And the winner is ....!

And the winner is ….!

And the winner is…!
Leading by a country mile, the most popular plants as chosen by the pupils of Bainbridge Primary School were: Lily of the Valley, Lords and Ladies and Bluebell in the woodland habitat; White Deadnettle, Field Forget-me-not and Cuckoo flower from the grassland habitat; and Coltsfoot, Wild Strawberry and Bugle in the adaptable species category.

The children considered factors including colour, height and foliage when choosing their favourite species, with many also voting for species special to the Yorkshire Dales like Lily of the Valley.

More unusual reasons for voting included the gruesome insect-eating habit of Lords and Ladies, the tasty edible fruits produced by Wild Strawberries, the exotic look of White Deadnettle. The colour and texture of Coltsfoot made it a winner, reminding one child of a furry bumblebee and another of a lion’s mane!

Coltsfoot

Coltsfoot

Having selected the key plant species that will feature in the spring garden, the children received some expert tips on garden design from Chris Myers, and are now developing their own design ideas for the plot from which Chris will choose a final design.

Tanya said: “We’re really excited to be working with Chris and the teachers and pupils at Bainbridge Primary School on this project. As well as being beautiful to look at, wildflowers provide nectar and pollen for threatened bumblebees and other pollinators right through from spring to autumn, so they provide enormous wildlife benefits.”

David Moore, Assistant Headteacher at Bainbridge Primary School, commented: “This is a wonderful opportunity for the children to learn about the wildflowers that are around them and see their designs and ideas come to fruition for display at a highly prestigious public event.”

Chris Myers said: “We are so lucky to have the Dales as our backyard. The wildflowers found there constantly wow me and are such an important part of this stunning environment. I’m so pleased to be involved with the YDMT pocket garden, supporting the natural beauty we all love and helping the kids of Bainbridge School learn about and celebrate the flowers of the Dales.”

Chris Myers gives a garden design masterclass

Chris Myers gives a garden design masterclass

 

Dales Meadows are Buzzing with Life

Earlier this month I was invited to join Tanya St. Pierre – YDMT’s Flowers of the Dales Project Officer – and a group of bumblebee enthusiasts at the foot of Ingleborough for a Bumblebee Identification course.  I’m a keen gardener and allotment holder, and I get really excited when I see bees and other insects enjoying my plants as much as me, so I happily accepted the invitation…

This free event (part of the 2011 Flowers of the Dales Festival) was attended by eight people who were all keen to learn about the anatomy, life cycle, habitats and foraging habits of bumblebees, as well as how to identify the different species of bumblebee that are commonly encountered in the Dales.

After a classroom-based presentation by Tanya, including hints and tips of how to identify species ‘in the field’, we headed out into the wildflower hay meadows at Colt Park near Ribblehead equipped with bumblebee identification guides. This Natural England site (part of the Ingleborough Site of Special Scientific Interest) is an excellent place to see bumblebees foraging for nectar amongst the wide variety of native wildflowers growing in the traditionally managed hay meadows – a rare but crucial habitat for bumblebees.

Once in the meadows, we kept attempted to catch any passing bumblebees in special nets and then hold them briefly(!) in glass jars so we could examine the size, shape and colour to identify the species before releasing them. 

Examining a Bumblebee

Examining a Bumblebee

We successfully identified examples of three of the ‘Big Six’ (the most common) species by the end of the day – the common carder bee (Bombus pascuorum), the white-tailed bumblebee (Bombus lucorum), and the garden bumblebee (Bombus hortorum).

Download your free bumblebee identification guide here.

Tony King, one of the poeple on the course, commented “I now love bees!” while his wife Margaret added “I hope that events like this and the Flowers of the Dales Festival will continue. I think it is superb that organisations have come together with the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust to provide a single comprehensive and user-friendly guide to all the events taking place in the Dales.”

We also learnt how these hard-working and dependable pollinators have been struggling in recent years due to a loss of suitable habitats such as hedgerows and hay meadows. If this loss of habitat continues, bees will also decline as the nectar sources available to them diminish. With fewer bees in the countryside, less pollination of wild plants will occur, further reducing the amount of bee-friendly habitat remaining.

YDMT is working hard to stop this vicious circle through our Hay Time project which is working to help restore meadows in and around the Yorkshire Dales National Park that have lost some of their botanical diversity as a result of being managed intensively. It works by harvesting seed from species-rich ‘donor’ meadows and spreading it on nearby ‘receptor’ meadows. By the end of the summer over 200 hectares of degraded meadow will have had seed added to them and their management improved through the project.

Bumblebee

Bumblebee

Tanya finished off the day by giving advice about how everyone could make difference to the future of bumblebees by growing garden plants that provide a ready supply of nectar throughout the seasons. In general, traditional native cottage garden plants provide an excellent source of nectar, species including foxglove, bluebell, aquilegia, lupin and lavender as well as many herbs. I bought a new lavendar plant this weekend and it has been covered in bees since!

Tanya is delighted with the on-going success of the Festival. She says, “In uncertain economic times hopefully the Festival is doing its bit to promote local events and organisations and to provide enjoyable activities that are accessible to everyone. With more than 40 events still to take place between now and October, there’s hopefully something for everyone to enjoy.”

I can highly recommend the Festival events – they provide an excellent day out and the opportunity to explore something new.

Bumblebee enthusiasts learn with Tanya St. Pierre

Bumblebee enthusiasts learn with Tanya St. Pierre

The events are run by a wide range of organisations and individuals, each an expert in their field, and offer a great insight into wildflower habitats. The Clapham–based charity Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust is co-ordinating the Festival to bring together this series of fun and informative events designed to encourage people to explore and enjoy the Dales landscape.

The full Festival programme is available online now. Or to receive a copy by post please send an A5 stamped self-addressed envelope (36p postage) to Flowers of the Dales Festival, YDMT, Old Post Office, Main Street, Clapham LA2 8DP. A free copy of the programme is also available from all visitor centres in the area.

YDMT on TV!

We had a very exciting day yesterday when we met up with BBC’s Countryfile team who were filming in the Yorkshire Dales for a piece to appear on the programme on Sunday 24th July.  We even got to spend the day with BBC presenter and plant enthusiast James WongWatch our 7 minutes of fame here.

The camerman getting some lovely Meadowsweet shots

The camerman getting some lovely Meadowsweet shots

The focus of the day was species-rich hay meadows, and we headed to Colt Park – a Natural England site which forms part of the Ingleborough Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).  It is one of the best places to see a whole range of meadow habitats and species which are strongly influenced by the underlying geology.

The morning was spent with an enthusiastic and knowledgeable group of ten-year-olds from Bainbridge Primary School who were at Colt Park to learn more about the meadows and the wildlife they support user the expert tuition of  YDMT’s Tanya St. Pierre.  The camera crew filmed proceedings as the children got stuck in identifying and counting the plant species to carry out a mini meadow survey.

Identifying Flower Species

Identifying Flower Species

Traditionally managed meadows such as the ones at Colt Park can support up to 150 different plant species which in turn provide important nesting sites and food sources for a diverse range of invertebrates, bats, mammals and birds.

Over the last fifty years or so, around 98% of meadows in the UK have been lost, largely due to modern, intensive farming methods.  The Yorkshire Dales still have some of the best hay meadows in the UK, but they need a helping hand to restablish a strong-hold.  That’s why in 2006 YDMT set up the pioneering Hay Time project which works to protect and restore these magnificent flowery hay meadows of the Dales.  It works by harvesting seed from species-rich ‘donor’ meadows and spreading it on nearby ‘receptor’ meadows.

We had hoped to demonstrate seed collection using a vacuum technique, but unfortunately the wet weather meant that this wasn’t possible (the vacuum machines don’t work well in the rain, and the seed was all wet and stuck together).

However, despite the rain we had suprisingly good results with the sweep net, which we brushed through the plants to collect all kinds of insects which could be identified and then returned to the meadow.

YDMT's Tanya St. Pierre with BBC presenter James Wong, inspecting the sweep net haul

YDMT's Tanya St. Pierre with BBC presenter James Wong, inspecting the sweep net haul

We then headed to the farm of Nick Townley near Ingleton.  Nick has worked with us on the Hay Time project in previous years, receiving seed collected by YDMT from donor meadows which was spread onto his prepared land.  We took the BBC crew to meet Nick and to see how his improved meadows are coming along.

James Wong meets farmer Nick Townley

James Wong meets farmer Nick Townley

If you didn’t manage to tune in to Countryfile on Sunday 24th July, you can watch our seven minutes of fame here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/i/b012xyfh/?t=16m26s