Project breathes new life into Yorkshire Dales meadows

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A CHARITY is offering a green alternative to traditional flowers on Mother’s Day, with a chance for proud children to instead dedicate a slice of living hay meadow in the Yorkshire Dales.

The Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust has launched the Living Bouquet gift as an ethical alternative to cut flowers.

It will help restore vibrant habitats in upland areas with native wildflowers including wood cranesbill, lady’s mantle, Melancholy Thistle and globeflower.

The fragile ecosystems teem with up to 120 species of wild flowers and grasses per field.

They are also home to a wide range of other wildlife including mammals such as the endangered brown hare, as well as birds, bats and insects such as hoverflies, butterflies and rare species including the moss carder bumblebee.

Traditionally-managed upland hay meadows are an iconic part of the British countryside but only a small proportion of the habitats now survive, making them among the most threatened in the country.

David Sharrod, director of the trust, said: “The Yorkshire Dales contain about a sixth of the UK’s remaining upland hay meadows, providing a haven for our native wildlife species.

“Every Living Bouquet gift that is purchased will directly support our vital conservation work in and around the Yorkshire Dales, enabling us to restore more degraded hay meadows to their former flowery glory and help support our native wildlife for future generations.”

Wildflower seed has been added to almost 400 hectares of degraded meadows so far through a partnership with local landowners and farmers, bringing a significant increase in richness and diversity of species and meadow composition.

The trust has been working with landowners, farmers and contractors across Dales and the Forest of Bowland to encourage diversity by reinstating traditional, low-intensity farming techniques.

Ripe seeds are harvested, with landowners paid for allowing trust volunteers to take up to a third of a wild flower meadow at harvest time.

Pieces of land which have lost their botanical diversity are identified near to the harvested site so that new meadows can be created.

Some of the sites are off the beaten track and not accessible by public footpaths.

A spokeswoman for the trust said 84 landowners had been involved in the wild meadow project since it was launched in 2006.

Recent wild meadow projects have been successful near Hetton and at Winterburn, Grassington, Buckden, Bolton Abbey, Stalling Busk, Coverdale and at Wharfe, a village near Austwick.

Harvesting is normally done using a combine harvester but occasionally schools or community groups are invited to collect the seeds by hand, before they are planted to create brand new meadows.

“Owners of the donor meadows are given a price for the crop and we take up to one third of any meadow. Donor meadows will recover and landowners harvest the rest of the crop as a hay crop,” added a spokesman for the charity which has so far delivered more than 1,300 projects worth around £25 million in the Dales.

The Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust says that by purchasing a gift of wildflower meadow, people can play a key role in helping to ensure the habitat can be enjoyed by future generations.

A Living Bouquet pack, which can also be an alternative wedding, birthday or other special occasion gift, costs £25.

It includes a personalised certificate and gift card, a pack of wildflower seeds sustainably sourced from northern England to help people create their own wildflower garden, a guide to one of the best wildflower meadow walks in the Dales.

To order, call the charity on 01524 251002 or visit www.ydmt.org/LivingBouquet.