Hay Time is an ambitious project that aims to save our disappearing species-rich hay meadows, grasslands and the wildlife they support.
A lush wildflower meadow, bursting with colour and scents and alive with the gentle hum of insects is an intrinsic part of the Yorkshire Dales landscape.
Yet in the last seventy years we've seen a staggering 97% of these meadows lost, making them one of the UK’s most threatened habitats and putting hundreds of species of native wildflowers and plants, bees, birds and other wildlife at risk.
Species-rich meadows at Askrigg in Wensleydale
Hay Time was set up in 2006 to change that, working alongside farmers and partners 717 hectares (that's 2.8 square miles!) of degraded meadows across the Yorkshire Dales and Forest of Bowland are now on the road to being restored, helping to bring this precious habitat back from the brink.
Meadows for wildlife
Species-rich hay meadows are of high nature conservation value, supporting more priority wildlife and plant species than any other habitat type. A traditionally managed meadow can support up to 120 different species of wildflowers and other plants, as well as invertebrates, bats, mammals and birds. Hay meadows are a vital habitat for many species of bumblebee – some of which are in decline or have already become extinct.
Carder bee on meadow cranesbill
It’s also becoming clear that traditionally managed meadows play a part in tackling climate change as they store more carbon than species-poor meadows and retain rainwater and nitrates better, so helping to reduce flood risk and water pollution. Their importance for wildlife will grow as climate change impacts on other habitats.
Meadows for people
Created over hundreds of years by generations of rural communities, hay meadows are quite literally a living link to the past. Often pre-dating the oldest building in a settlement they reveal the history and culture of the people who farmed these landscapes. To lose a hay meadow is to lose a historical place as much as a wildlife habitat and landscape feature.
Species-rich meadows develop as a result of traditional farming practices.
People are the future of our meadows. Farmers, with their intimate knowledge and experience of upland farming, play a central role in hay meadow restoration. We also rely on support and donations from numerous organisations and individuals, without whom our Hay Time work simply would not be possible. And perhaps the most important way to secure the future of our meadows is to ensure everyone has the opportunity to enjoy, understand and play a part in protecting them. Find out more here
The future of our meadows
The loss of species-rich meadows and grasslands is unparalleled in the history of nature conservation in the UK. When the Hay Time project first started in 2006 only 1000 hectares - less than 4 square miles – of species-rich hay meadow habitat remained in the whole of the UK. Today, just over a decade later, our work has helped secure the future of 717 hectares of ‘degraded’ meadow in the Yorkshire Dales and Forest of Bowland and thousands of people have enjoyed, learnt about and contributed to their conservation.
So why are we still making meadows? Even in the Yorkshire Dales, one of the few strongholds for our remaining meadows, the fragmented nature of these precious habitats makes them vulnerable. Much more needs to be done to consolidate and expand this precious resource and reverse the dramatic loss of biodiversity.
Save our precious meadows
Our work to restore species-rich hay meadows is possible because of donations and support from people like you. Together we can save these precious and complex habitats and protect the wildflowers, plants, pollinators and other wildlife that depend on them. Your support will make the world of difference to the future of our precious meadows.