Project bringing back Nidderdale’s wildflower meadows and bees

Brexit presents an opportunity to 'fix' farming policy so that it works for farming and the environment, conservation groups said.
Brexit presents an opportunity to 'fix' farming policy so that it works for farming and the environment, conservation groups said.
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An area equivalent to 212 Olympic sized swimming pools will soon be filled with wildflowers, bees and butterflies, thanks to a project to re-pollinate parts of Nidderdale.

The major project, from the Friends of Nidderdale AONB, aims to help wildflowers return to rich grassland by supporting farmers to source wildflower seed.

In recent years species rich grassland has declined, with wildflowers lost through increased fertiliser applications, earlier cutting dates and the predominance of silage cutting over the traditional hay cut.

Once the wildflowers in a field have been lost it is difficult for them to recover on their own, experts say, so the Pollinator Pathways Project helps farmers who want to see wildflowers return to their fields.

Now, one year in and half-way through, they have made a productive start restoring 26.5ha of their 43.5 ha target.

“We are delighted to have had such a successful start to the Pollinator Pathways Project,” said Dr Kelly Harmar, biodiversity project officer for the Nidderdale AONB, thanking the farmers who have taken part in the project.

““This continues work we’ve been doing for quite a few years, restoring fields across the AONB where farmers would let us. We’ve tweaked ideas along the way.

“This current project is to focus on an area with good species-rich meadows already. They are irreplaceable really. It’s really important to look after them.”

The project, funded by Biffa Awards, uses seed collected from species-rich meadows, either collected using a brush harvester and dried out before use, or straight from one field to the next as green hay using a forage harvester and ruck spreader.

This, say the Friends, is a very cost effective way of sourcing seed and also ensures that plants will be suited to local weather and soil conditions.

“We have had a fantastic start to the project, achieving more than half our target in one year,” said Heather Garnett, chair of Friends of Nidderdale AONB.

“We look forward to watching the meadow flowers develop and to seeing the pollinators return.”