Meadows on More4!

Last summer Sarah Robinson, our Bowland Hay Time Officer, was filmed for a new TV programme, talking about species-rich hay meadows and the work we do to protect them. And this week we’ll get our first glimpse of her in action on More4’s Discovering Britain programme. Catch the meadows on More4 tonight, Wednesday 10th Feb, at 9pm!

Larry Lamb talks meadows with YDMT's Sarah Robinson for More4's Discovering Britain

Larry Lamb talks meadows with YDMT’s Sarah Robinson on More4’s Discovering Britain Wed 10th Feb 9pm

Discovering Britain is described as a celebration of Britain’s outdoors, its history, culture & tradition. So, what better place to be than a romantic, wildflower strewn hay meadow?

On a remarkably beautiful day last summer Sarah and I met with the film crew and presenter Larry Lamb (who you’ll recognise from EastEnders and Gavin & Stacey) and off we went in convoy to Bell Sykes Farm near Slaidburn. The ancient hay meadows here are designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) because of the wide variety of meadow species they contain. Major loss, fragmentation and deterioration of these habitats means that usually only small isolated areas remain. What makes Bell Sykes particularly special is that here it’s still possible to be entirely surrounded by one of the rarest habitats in England.

Sarah is obviously a regular at Bell Sykes, but like the rest of the party it was my first visit there. It will be fantastic to see the breath-taking site of these stunning meadows on TV. However you do need to visit a wildflower meadow yourself to get the full sensory experience – including the delicate wildflower scents and amazing surround-sound of humming insects. We’ve got some great meadow walk guides to help you.

Back to the business of making a TV programme! Larry Lamb was the complete professional, and seemed genuinely fascinated by the whole hay meadow experience. Sarah explained how the richest meadows, like the ones at Bell Sykes, are of international importance – as they can support hundreds of plant species and provide vital food and nesting sites for a wide range of invertebrates, mammals and birds. It turned out that Sarah was a natural in front of the camera too. So with the glorious weather, a great crew and presenter and our own media star, we’re expecting some great TV tonight!

The SSSI meadows at Bell Sykes Farm near Slaidburn

The SSSI meadows at Bell Sykes Farm – where you can be entirely surrounded by one of the rarest habitats in England.

We hope tonight’s programme will open some more eyes to the beauty of our species-rich meadows, and help people to understand why we need to protect and restore the few remaining meadows. You can find out more about how we’re helping to protect threatened hay meadow habitats through the Hay Time project.

Highlights of 2015

I’d like to say a big Thank You to the many individuals, businesses and partner organisations that have provided expertise, enthusiasm and financial support to help make our work possible over the last twelve months.

The landscape, environment and communities of the Yorkshire Dales are at the heart of our work, and I am delighted to say that we’ll be launching a new community grant fund in 2016 to support local people, organisations and initiatives, as well as continuing our existing work.

2015 saw the tenth anniversary of our ‘People and the DALES’ project, which provides life-changing opportunities for disadvantaged community groups. Over the last decade we have brought more than 7600 people to the Yorkshire Dales to experience the health and well-being benefits of spending time in the countryside, often for the first time.

10 yr cake 

More than 7400 people took part in our annual Flowers of the Dales Festival, which this year brought together 100+ events led by experts and enthusiasts across the region. Over 30,000 people have now taken part in fun and educational events inspired by nature and wildflowers since the first Festival in 2009, and I’d like to say a big thank you to players of People’s Postcode Lottery for supporting this project, and many others.


Children amongst buttercups, by Anne Challis

Photo courtesy of Anne Challis

Environmental conservation has been another key focus, and with support from landowners and partners including the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, Forestry Commission and The Fuelcard Company, we have continued to restore native broadleaf woodlands across the region. More than 1.2 million new trees have been planted to date, and we are looking forward to supporting other like-minded landowners with grants for tree planting in the coming year.

And 2016 looks set to be another exciting year here at the Trust, with the tenth anniversary of wildflower hay meadow restoration through the ‘Hay Time’ project on the horizon, and several ambitious new projects in the pipeline – we’ll look forward to sharing details in due course.

Thank you.


David Sharrod
Director, Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust

Getting Hygge in the Woods

A day in the life of a Rural Trainee…and if you fancy following in their footsteps please check out our Rural Trainee opportunities Work for Us


We recently spent a day in the woods with our Rural Trainees. As well as learning about the serious side of event planning and management – the risk assessments, landowner permissions, and health & safety – we also had lots of fun and indulged in some foodie treats, taking inspiration from all over the globe!

Sweden first, as the trainee’s chainsaw skills were put to good use to create a pair of Swedish log candles – tall logs with deep crosses cut into the top using a chainsaw, which can then be lit in the centre using wood shavings. Despite their name, apparently they may originate from Germany (from the German word “Schwedenfeuer”, meaning “Swedish fire”). Either way, these attractive centrepieces proved to be perfect for cooking and providing long-lasting warmth during our woodland adventures in the Dales.

DSC_0109 Swedish Log Candle

Swedish log candle

We had quite a competitive start to the day, as the girls and boys went head to head in the den building challenge. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the boys went all out to create the biggest and most practical and weather-proof den, whilst the girls focussed more on design and the finishing touches of their tepee-style den, including a soft bracken carpet!


Back at our ‘camp’ we cooked up a feast of sausages and baked potatoes for lunch, finished off with hot chocolate and s’mores (the traditional American campfire treat, consisting of a fire roasted marshmallow and a layer of chocolate sandwiched between two biscuits).

DSC_0106 Lunch

Baking potatoes

Then back to business, and Gail Smith, Community Worker at YDMT, showed everyone how to whittle, leading to an interesting discussion about how the activity could be tailored to meet the needs and abilities of different groups, to ensure the activity is safe and rewarding for all age groups.


The group also touched on an unexpected new Scandi skill – Hygge: a heart-warming lesson from Denmark. Pronounced “hoo-ga”, it is usually translated into English as “cosiness”. I think we all need to work a bit harder on this though, as apparently it is an entire attitude to life, but we certainly felt happy, cosy, content and at one with nature in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales 😉


Read more about this story here in our official roundup of the day.


Teaching skills on the hills

Take seven amazing women, one son, two YDMT members of staff and one Instructor, put them in a hut in Selside with maps and compasses and you have all the ingredients for a fantastic weekend of fun and learning!

Hill Skills training in the Yorkshire Dales

Hill Skills training in the Yorkshire Dales

People and the DALES ran another successful two days of Hill Skills training last weekend, when an all-female group from predominantly black and minority ethnic backgrounds came to the Yorkshire Dales to learn how to map read.

Fun & laughter!

Map reading madness! 

These women all work alongside disadvantaged community groups in Bradford and Leeds and have previously enjoyed visits to the Dales through our People and the DALES outreach project. The weekend was a chance for them to learn how to plan walks, navigate and understand the equipment needed to safely enjoy a day in the hills.

Map reading & navigation.

Everyone went away with a Mountain Training England qualification and lots of memories of a weekend filled with laughter and enjoyment – not to mention the skills and confidence to enjoy the countryside safely and independently in the future.

Building the confidence & skills to use maps to access and enjoy the countryside independently.

Building the confidence & skills to use maps to access and enjoy the countryside independently.

Happy Birthday!

Hip hip hurrah! People’s Postcode Lottery has just celebrated ten fantastic years of players raising funds for charities and good causes like YDMT!

Players have now raised more than £80 million, supporting over 1,500 national and local grassroots projects. In fact over 95% of postcodes across Britain have a benefitting charity in their region.

£80m+ raised for charities so far

More than £80 Million raised for charities so far

The charity lottery is based around players’ postcodes, allowing entire communities to win together whilst raising money for worthy causes, with 27.5% awarded to charities and good causes from every £2 ticket.

PPL winners party

Winners party

Here at YDMT we are very fortunate to have received support from the charity lottery over the last six and a half years. Thanks to a recent £50,000 boost, our total amount received now stands at £651,332 – thank you!

This incredible sum of money plays a vital role in enabling us to continue working with partners to deliver a wide range of inspiring projects that help to care for all aspects of life in the Yorkshire Dales, from habitat conservation to education and outreach, and rural apprenticeship schemes for young local people.

We’d like to say a huge thank you to all players of People’s Postcode Lottery for their ongoing support.

How to restore a meadow – creating vital habitat for pollinators.

Right now it’s Hay Time in the Yorkshire Dales & Forest of Bowland. It’s a busy time for the Hay Time team at YDMT, and the farmers and contractors involved in meadow restoration schemes this summer. It’s also the start of another cycle of hay meadow creation – which is vital for our pollinators and other wildlife.

How to mow a meadow?

The process of meadow restoration can sound like a cross between a surgical procedure and a military operation! So we asked our Hay Time officers Tanya and Sarah to give us a step-by-step guide to green hay transfer – which is a common method used to harvest and spread seed.

Step 1 First off we start with a ‘Donor’ meadow and a ‘Receptor’ meadow  

A species-rich donor meadow

Donor Meadow A species-rich, traditionally managed meadow, where seed can be harvested from  

Receptor meadow, where species numbers have declined

Receptor meadow A more intensively managed meadow where species numbers have declined

Step 2 The receptor meadow is cut, cleared and harrowed.

Step 3 Shortly afterwards a specified area of the donor meadow is cut and the green hay is loaded onto a trailer to be taken to the receptor site.

Collecting green hay from the donor meadow

Step 2: Green hay is cut from the donor meadow

Spreading green hay

Step 3: Green hay is spread on the receptor meadow

Step 4 The green hay is loaded onto a spreader and spread on the receptor meadow.

Green hay is the preferred method of restoration as it collects a large quantity of seed from the widest range of plants, and is least affected by wet weather – a crucial factor in our part of the world! Other methods of harvesting and spreading are also used depending on the location and nature of the donor and receptor meadows.

Step 5 Next summer the restored (receptor) meadows will be surveyed, where we hope to see new species like yellow rattle, eyebright, red clover and meadow vetchling have been introduced, which are often the first colonisers.

Step 6 With time and traditional management treated meadows show significant increases in species richness, diversity and composition – great news for bumblebees and other pollinators, as well as a host of other wildlife species.

Hay meadows, a haven for wildlife

Step 5: In time treated meadows will become a vital habitat for pollinators and other wildlife 

School children explain why hay meadows are so important   

As well as the practical meadow restoration work, this year we’ve helped over 300 school children to visit and learn about the importance of hay meadows. In this great video find out why hay meadows are so important from the children and TV’s Chris Myers.


Save our precious meadows

The Hay Time project is made possible thanks to players of the People’s Postcode Lottery and everyone who supports our Hay Time Appeal. Thank you.

Find out how you can help save our precious meadows.

People and the DALES turns 10!

People and the DALES rocks!

People and the DALES rocks!

People and the DALES stands for Diversity, Access, Learning, Education and Sustainability. We think that about sums up what we do – to enable people from diverse backgrounds to access, understand and benefit from the Yorkshire Dales – but it doesn’t tell the whole story.

To us at YDMT the project also has an alternative strapline ‘People and the DALES – It makes people cry’. That’s because we’re regularly reduced to tears when Judy or Gail – our dedicated community workers – recount the heart-warming, inspirational and uplifting stories of the people they meet.

It’s getting to know the people and hearing their stories that make us realise just why this project is so important. Like the new mums who live with the day-to-day stresses of being a refugee or asylum seeker in Leeds. For them a day out in the countryside can be a life-changing experience. It helps them leave their troubles behind, compare life in the English countryside with life back home, and smile. It gives them hope that life can be better.

Mums and toddlers from Choto Moni childrens centre at Malham Cove

Mums and toddlers from Choto Moni childrens centre at Malham Cove

In the last 10 years People and the DALES has benefited 7,000 disadvantaged children and adults, many of whom had never visited the countryside before.

This year we’re delivering 30 days out in the Dales. Visit the People and the DALES Facebook page and you’ll see the variety of things we do and the diversity of people who are involved. Recently we brought together a Refugee Women’s Choir from Leeds and a local choir in Settle for some walking and singing in the rain. School children from Bradford have helped a Dales farmer with lambing and sheep shearing. A weekend of activities brought together refugees from City of Sanctuary Leeds with the community in Malhamdale

Through this work we hope to inspire people to spend more time in the countryside and give them the confidence to come back. But it’s much more than that, it’s about giving people the opportunity to get away from it all and have fun, meet new people, get some exercise, try something new and often remember something from their past.

A day out with People and the DALES is a hugely positive experience and one that helps people feel like they belong. In the words of one young asylum seeker, “It’s been the best time of my life…I want to stay here forever”.

Choto Moni at Malham Cove