Hay meadows to be restored

A PROJECT to restore traditional species rich hay meadows is being extended into Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) this summer after a successful project across some of the other Yorkshire Dales.

The Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust’s (YDMT) Hay Time Project has been working across the Yorkshire Dales since 2006 and has helped to restore over 160 hectares of hay meadows.

The extension of the project into the AONB will involve harvesting seed from existing species rich meadows and spreading it on to a site that needs restoring.

This can be done either by using a seed harvester and spreading the seed directly onto the restoration site or by cutting green hay from an existing site and spreading it onto the restoration site before it dries – then as the hay dries the seeds fall introducing new species to the site.

As well as looking extremely beautiful in mid summer traditional hay meadows are very special habitats. They can be botanically very rich, often with over 30 species of plant per square metre, and also provide an important habitat for a wide variety of wildlife including nesting birds. In addition they are an iconic part of our rural heritage.

Marian Wilby, AONB Farm Conservation Advisor said: “As well as improving habitats and being part of our heritage the restoration of species rich hay meadows also has benefits to the farmer. Many meadows can be restored under Environmental Stewardship Schemes receiving funding for restoration and annual payments of up to £270 per hectare. They can also be used to supply seed to other sites in the future for financial reward.”

Hay meadows were once a common sight across Nidderdale AONB but changes in farming practice, in particular ploughing, re-seeding, silage management and addition of inorganic fertilisers, have led to a severe decline in the number and diversity of species rich hay meadows.

Nidderdale AONB Volunteers will be surveying meadows this summer to identify our most valuable sites, sites suitable to harvest seed from and sites suitable to restore.

If you have a site that you think may be suitable for restoring or harvesting seed from, contact the AONB office on 01423 712950 or email nidderdaleaonb@harrogate.gov.uk.