Putting The Buzz Back Into Bowland’s Wildflower Meadows
Bell Sykes, Meadow in Slaidburn
Nearly 40 hectares of hay meadows were regenerated in the Forest of Bowland last year thanks to Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust through the Meadow Makers project led by Plantlife.
This nation-wide project helped to increase biodiversity and provide a vital food resource for pollinators and other insects and saw 14 landowners come together to plant 11,000 plug plants in the Forest of Bowland alone.
It takes the area of hay meadow restoration work in the Forest of Bowland to more than 200 hectares over the last ten years, through numerous meadow restoration projects.
YDMT’s Meadow Makers Project officer Carol Edmondson said:
"The traditionally managed hay meadows in the UK have suffered a well-documented decline over the last 75 years. We have been working hard to replenish the wildflowers in the Forest of Bowland landscape to help reverse this trend.
“These meadows support countless species of invertebrates including Bumblebees, solitary bees, butterflies and spiders, with some species being mutually dependant such as globe flower and the Chiastocheta flies.
“In turn these invertebrates feed many of our native and visiting mammals and birds which rely on our diverse meadows habitat, making them an internationally important habitat. In addition, studies now show that the deeper-rooted flowering meadow plants help slow the movement of water through the soil and sequester more carbon.”
The hill farms of the Forest of Bowland are some of the last bastions of traditional wildflower meadows in England.
These havens of biodiversity have gradually disappeared in recent years as increasingly intensive agricultural methods consume the landscape, but in parts of Bowland, more traditional techniques still prevail.
The AONB contains a significant number of the UK’s remaining upland hay meadows and as such it is an important area for this stunning habitat.
“The wildflower-rich Coronation Meadows at Bell Sykes Farm near Slaidburn are a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) – some of the last unimproved flower-rich grasslands in this part of Lancashire.
“These very special meadows are home to iconic northern upland species including meadow crane’s-bill, globe flower and melancholy thistle along with a colourful mix of yellow rattle, eyebrights, pignut, buttercups, clovers, vetches and knapweed; and our beautiful native orchids.
“In modern farming methods, the first cut of grass often happens in May for use as cattle fodder. By managing the meadows as traditional hay meadows and delaying cutting until later in the year – usually July or August – allowing these native species to flower and set seed, the project works with the farmers to collect a sustainable portion of the seed and distribute it to recipient meadows elsewhere across county.”
The project also worked with schools, guides, scouts, landowners, farmers and community groups to teach them how to collect seed, grow plugs, scythe, manage meadows for pollinators and create mini-meadows. The team has also worked with the Millennium Seed Bank at Kew Gardens and even helped a local artisan distiller make a Hay Time Gin!
“In 2021, thanks to funding from DEFRA's Green Recovery Challenge Fund and support from Plantlife, the Meadow Makers project restored nearly 40 hectares of hay meadows at 14 sites across the Forest of Bowland, including Hermitage Field at the Crook of Lune and Gathering Fields at Over Wyresdale.
“We worked with more than 1500 volunteers and event participants planting more than 11,000 plug plants and distributed over 450kg of hay meadow seed from nine donor sites.
“Nationwide the Meadow Makers project restored 395 hectares of species-rich grassland on 100 sites and included a nationwide engagement programme connecting over 7000 people in local and wider communities to grassland heritage, improving their experiences and wellbeing.”
This project was funded by Defra’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund. The National Lottery Heritage Fund deliver the fund in partnership with Natural England, the Environment Agency and the Forestry Commission.