North Pennines Hay Time

Hay meadow harvesting in North Pennines © R Barrett

Flower-rich bank in Upper Teesdale ® Ruth Starr-Keddle
County: Northumberland, Durham and Cumbria
Nearest town or settlement: Stanhope
Contact details
Contact name: Rebecca Barrett
Organisation: North Pennines AONB Partnership
Email: info@northpenninesaonb.org.uk
Tel: 01388 528801
Website: Hay Time project on the North Pennines AONB website
Natural England, farmers & landowners. Supported by the County Durham Environment Trust and The Heritage Lottery Fund
Project description

The meadows found in the North Pennines are a special type, characteristic of the harsh conditions typical of hilly and mountainous regions across Europe. These ‘upland’ or ‘mountain’ hay meadows are now a very rare habitat with little more than 900ha thought to remain in the UK. With 350ha of upland hay meadows, the North Pennines AONB is an important place for this special habitat.

Between 2006 and 2012, the North Pennines AONB Partnership worked closely with farmers and colleagues from Natural England to restore meadows that had lost their characteristic plant species. In the early summer, between May and July, the team carried out botanical surveys of meadows. These surveys helped to identify sites that were suitable for restoration or enhancement; sites where seed could be harvested from and sites where the project team could provide habitat management advice. Between 2006 and 2012 we surveyed 1,211 fields and visited more than 290 farms. Using special machinery, we then harvested either the seed-bearing top of the hay crop or the entire crop and spread it as ‘green hay’ on a nearby meadow. Not only does this approach enable the effective transfer of seeds, a process that would take decades to occur naturally, but it ensures that the unique genetic integrity of these meadows is maintained. During the seven years that the project ran, 236ha of hay meadow (93 meadows) received locally-harvested seed in this way.

Are the flowers coming back? To help answer this question, AONB Partnership staff, supported by a band of skilled volunteers, carried out monitoring surveys to assess the number of wild plants found in the meadows. Hay Time Project Officer, Ruth Starr-Keddle, analysed the data gathered up to 2009 which indicates that our approach to hay meadow restoration does work and that plant species typical of the special hay meadows found in the North Pennines can be reintroduced using the Hay Time approach. Plants that we have found to be very successful at establishing following seed addition include yellow rattle, common bent, eyebright, wood crane’s-bill, ragged robin and lesser trefoil.

Between 2009 and 2011 we supported our meadow restoration work with a comprehensive programme of community activities which included bumblebee identification events, guided walks, a hay meadow history roadshow for local community groups, a week-long exhibition, a hands-on education programme for 19 primary schools and the production of a book on the history of hay time.

Hay Time North Pennines won an award at the County Durham Environment Awards in 2011 and has been used as an example of best practice in the Defra toolkit – Engaging People in Biodiversity Issues .
The project led directly to the development of the AONB Partnership’s new project Nectarworks which is also listed in these Case Studies.

Further details of the project are given in Hay Time Highlights 2006 - 2012 and a range of downloads are available through the AONB Partnership’s website .

North Pennines AONB Partnership
October 2014

Page last modified on Saturday 11 of October, 2014 14:18:11 BST