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.


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.

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 & please get in touch.

Hay Time a hit at Gardener’s World Live!

We’re back home today after taking our little piece of the Yorkshire Dales to Birmingham NEC for BBC Gardener’s World Live last week.

What a week! On Tuesday, before the show opened to the public, our Hay Time garden – with its wildflower hay meadow, natural woodland, dry stone wall and iconic field barn – was awarded a silver gilt medal.

Hay Time awarded Silver Gilt medal

Hay Time awarded Silver Gilt medal

We thought the Hay Time garden, designed and created by our friend Chris Myers, was a masterpiece. It turns out that hundreds of people we talked to during the week agreed. In fact Gardener’s World presenter Carol Klein declared it a travesty that we didn’t get a gold medal!

Chris Myers and BBC's Carol Klein in front of the Hay Time garden

Carol Klein said the Hay Time garden deserved gold!

The Hay Time garden was a tranquil haven amongst the busy and buzzing atmosphere of the exhibition. Standing at the gate of the garden you were instantly transported to a beautifully wild Dales meadow with ox-eye daisies gently waving in the breeze, ancient moss-clad dry stone walls, hay bales peeking out from the iconic Dales field barn. The back drop was natural broadleaf woodland, complete with woodland plants, foxgloves and nettles.

Many people said the garden looked like it had been there forever, and others that it took them back to their childhood.

 The Hay Time garden - a tranquil haven in the midst of buzzing Birmingham NEC

The Hay Time garden – a tranquil haven in the midst of buzzing Birmingham NEC

The garden also proved a hit with the local wildlife. Tanya (our bee expert) spotted six different species of bee within 10 minutes of arriving at the garden – including lots of red tailed bumble bees. The reason for this was the meadow, brimming with wildflowers and grasses typical of a species-rich upland meadow in the Yorkshire Dales. Among the 30+ species of meadow flora in the garden were ragged robin, wood crane’s bill, yellow rattle, bird’s-foot-trefoil and crested dog’s tail. … a perfect habitat for pollinators.

Bumblebee feeding on wood crane's-bill

Red tailed bumblebee feeding on wood crane’s-bill

Of course there was a serious message we were trying to get across by taking the Hay Time garden to Birmingham. The vibrant wildflower hay meadows that were the source of inspiration for the garden are also in grave danger of disappearing from our countryside. 97% of UK meadows have been lost since the 1940’s, making them one of the most threatened habitats in the UK and Europe.

To continue our work to protect the precious few meadows remaining and restore degraded meadows in the Yorkshire Dales we need the public to support our Hay Time appeal by making a donation, buying wildflower seed or simply by spreading the word about hay meadows.

So far locally-harvested wildflower seed has been added to more than 300 hectares and traditional low-intensity management has been reinstated to help bring back native wildflowers and provide a vital habitat for the many rare species of wildlife they support. It’s an important first step, but more still needs to be done to safeguard these beautiful places for future generations.

Species-rich hay meadows are at risk of disappearing in the UK a threat to the hundreds of species of wildlife they support

Species-rich hay meadows are at risk of disappearing in the UK – threatening the hundreds of species of wildlife they support

As YDMT’s Hay Time project manager Don Gamble put it:

Chris and the team have captured the essence of the Yorkshire Dales in this naturalistic garden, and I think it just goes to show that you don’t need to spend a fortune on exotic plants to achieve a beautiful display in your garden. A packet of native wildflower seeds can create stunning results, with the added bonus of being great for pollinators and other wildlife. I hope this garden encourages people to give wildflowers a go at home and to help us restore more meadows in the Dales.

Our Hay Time garden at BBC Gardeners' World Live

Our Hay Time garden at BBC Gardeners’ World Live

Please help save meadows in the Yorkshire Dales by donating to the Hay Time Appeal. Visit or call 015242 51002.  Native wildflower seeds sourced sustainably from meadows in the North of England are also available from the YDMT website at priced at £2.50 per pack including P&P.

170 miles for meadows!

In three weeks (and counting!) one brave YDMT trustee is taking to his bike for the epic 170-mile Way of the Roses cycle ride, to raise money for our Hay Time appeal.   

Team YDMT will be headed up by David Shaw, YDMT trustee and instigator of this fundraising madness challenge. David (who has been training hard for months to prepare for this test of endurance) will be joined by some of the YDMT team (who have not!) on the trip from Morecambe to Bridlington. We’ll also have support from friends and supporters who will be joining in en-route.   

David Shaw, YDMT trustee, trains for the Way of the Roses bike ride to raise money for the Hay Time appeal

David Shaw, YDMT trustee, trains for the Way of the Roses bike ride to raise money for the Hay Time appeal

Joining David for some, or all, of the route will be:

  • David Sharrod, YDMT Director, whose catch phrase “training is cheating” about sums it up!
  • Supporter Nita Tinn, whose ‘punishment’ of choice is normally running, has dusted off her bike in aid of YDMT and is determined to finish the whole route on two wheels.
  • Lindsay Wallace (me!), representing YDMT’s Fundraising team, and hoping to complete Day 2 – Burnsall to York, without getting lost!
  • Jo Boulter, Project Officer, who will be sensibly using a combination of pedal power, electricity and petrol to complete the 170 miles as she alternates between an electric bike, pedal bike and the Team’s Support Vehicle!

So, with our padded shorts and energy drinks at the ready, here’s the route we’ll be taking on:

Day 1: Morecambe to Burnsall – After dipping wheels in the Atlantic Ocean, Team YDMT hope to get through Lancashire by lunchtime. Some beautiful scenery to follow as the route passes through stunning parts of the Dales (and up some of its steepest roads!).

Day 2: Burnsall-York – passing through the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (including the notoriously steep and twisty section around Pateley Bridge), past Fountains Abbey and on to York.

Day 3: York-Bridlington – through the Vale of York before heading towards the east coast and the finish line where we may be taking a dip in the North Sea to celebrate!

There has to be a very good reason for taking on this extreme challenge! And there is. We’ll be raising money to support the Hay Time appeal, to enable YDMT to continue vital work to protect and restore wildflower hay meadows in the Dales, and to safeguard the rare wildlife species they support. Please help by sponsoring us

Thank you!


Chris Myers supports our campaign to save hay meadows

Last Wednesday YDMT, with the help of TV presenter and Garden Designer Chris Myers, launched the Hay Time appeal in a bid to save one of the most iconic and threatened habitats in Britain – wildflower hay meadows.

Channel 4's Chris Myers helps to launch the Hay Time appeal

Channel 4’s Chris Myers joins pupils from Christ Church Primary School to help us launch an appeal to save threatened hay meadows in the Dales.

You may have already heard about the work we’ve done to restore hay meadows in the Yorkshire Dales and other areas like the Forest of Bowland. With the help of local farmers we’ve made significant progress, adding locally harvested wildflower seeds to 300 hectares of degraded meadows.

Funding for this vital work will soon run out, and much more still needs to be done to protect the remaining species-rich hay meadows before it’s too late. 

The Hay Time appeal aims to raise £150,000 to fund a three year campaign to safeguard meadows in the Yorkshire Dales and the Forest of Bowland, to restore their botanical diversity and to raise awareness about the importance of this precious habitat.

Last Wednesday was our big launch. Garden Designer Chris Myers, who you may recognise from the Channel 4 series Wild Things, kindly lent his support for the appeal by speaking at the event, posing for countless photos, giving press interviews, and patiently following the direction of Dave our cameraman to achieve the perfect ‘piece to camera’! … THANK YOU Chris!

Help save our species-rich meadows before they disappear

YDMT’s Hay Time Project Manager Don Gamble chats to Chris Myers about the importance of hay meadows

Talking about his passion for hay meadows in the Dales, Chris said:

Having spent the last few years giving the nation a taste of Yorkshire through my exhibition show gardens, I came to realise how lucky I am to have inspirational wildflower hay meadows on my doorstep here in the Yorkshire Dales. Making a donation to the Hay Time Appeal will enable YDMT to protect and restore these beautiful and iconic meadows in the Dales which are home to rare species of flower like wood crane’s-bill and endangered animals like the moss carder bumblebee.

We’re also very grateful to the many supporters, business partners and members of the press who came to the event, and have supported the appeal. Not to mention pupils from Christ Church Primary School in Skipton, who enthusiastically demonstrated some of the educational activities we run through the project.

It costs as little as £1,000 to restore a meadow and protect the hundreds of species of wildlife it supports. Even a small donation to the Hay Time Appeal can make a big difference to the future of our meadows. Please donate now by visiting, or call us on 015242 51002.

Thank you

One hay meadow can support up to 120 species of plants, please help us save them

Wood crane’s bill – one of the many endangered species of wildflower found in hay meadows in the Dales.

Are you feeling murderous?

The Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust is holding a Murder Mystery Dinner to raise vital funds for a variety of projects that will benefit the landscape and communities of the Yorkshire Dales. Are you brave enough to come?

We’re inviting all wannabe sleuths to an evening at the The Devonshire Arms Country House Hotel at Bolton Abbey, where you can witness the evidence as an Agatha Christie-style parody unfolds before you. There will also be an opportunity for you to interrogate suspects in order to get to the bottom of the murderous crime that has occurred. After a hot buffet and some final detective work the evening will end with the killer being revealed and trophies awarded to the top sleuths.

We’ll also be holding a raffle, with prizes including an overnight stay at The Devonshire Arms County House Hotel, kindly donated free of charge by the hotel. The prize includes dinner in the Michelin-starred Burlington restaurant and a bottle of wine chosen by the Cellar Master to accompany the meal. In addition there will be the rare opportunity for guests to bid in a mini fundraising auction for one of only six places on an exclusive tour of the Duke of Devonshire’s Bolton Abbey Estate. Telephone bids for this special auction are also welcome in advance.

David Sharrod, YDMT Director says, “We’re very grateful to The Devonshire Arms and to the After Dark murder mystery company for making this event possible. This promises to be an unforgettable evening with delicious food, singing, dancing, an array of madcap suspects and a confounding crime to solve. So join us to see if you can solve the deadly mystery, and maybe even be crowned Super Sleuth! Places are limited, so please get in touch to book your tickets soon.”

The event will take place at The Devonshire Arms Country House Hotel, Bolton Abbey on Thursday 15th March, starting at 7pm.  Tables and individual tickets are available to book now. Tickets cost £25 per person including a hot buffet. For ticket sales, auction bids and more information please contact Sarah at Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust on 015242 51002 or email

All money raised will help YDMT to continue work such as restoring wildflower meadows, planting new native woodlands, supporting local businesses, education and outreach work, and providing training programmes for young local people to learn countryside management skills.