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.

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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.

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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.

Volunteers help keep meadows blooming

Last weekend a team of volunteers from Dales Holiday Cottages donned their boots and donated their time (even the birthday girl Caroline!) to help us with the important task of restoring wildflower hay meadows in the Dales and the Forest of Bowland.

The volunteers helped to collect ripe seeds from a variety of wildflowers to propagate seedlings for nearby meadows that have lost some of their botanical diversity and wildlife value.

Catherine Smith from Dales Holiday Cottages hand collects seed that will be used to restore native wildflower species to degraded meadows

Hand collecting seed, which will be used to help re-establish certain species of wildflowers in degraded meadows

Sarah Robinson, our ‘Bowland Hay Time’ project officer said: “It was wonderful to receive a helping hand from the enthusiastic volunteers from Dales Holiday Cottages and their families when it came to collecting seed from areas unsuitable for machine harvesting. We are very grateful to Dales Holiday Cottages for their financial support which allows us to continue vital work like this to protect and enhance the countryside for people and wildlife.”

Dales Holiday Cottages, part of Wyndham Vacation Rentals UK, has been a business partner of ours since 2006 and has given a total of £12,400 to date to support our work, as well as volunteering to help with projects like hay time and woodland restoration.

Managing director of Wyndham Vacation Rentals UK, Geoff Cowley, said: “As a business we have strong roots in the Dales – it’s where we live and work, and every day we promote the area to others, so it’s important to protect the natural environment around us. The YDMT is carrying out vital conservation activities and the work they do in the area is invaluable.”

Seed Spotters: The dedicated team from Dales Holiday Cottages

Seed Spotters: The dedicated team from Dales Holiday Cottages

Locally sourced wildflower seed has already been added to more than 300 hectares of degraded meadows to reintroduce wildflower species and restore this important wildlife habitat.

Support from businesses is essential for projects like hay meadow restoration to continue. If you are interested in getting involved please read our website for more information www.ydmt.org/business-supporters & please get in touch.