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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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 www.ydmt.org/haytimeappeal or call 015242 51002.  Native wildflower seeds sourced sustainably from meadows in the North of England are also available from the YDMT website at www.ydmt.org/shop priced at £2.50 per pack including P&P.