Hay Time is an ambitious project that aims to save our disappearing species-rich hay meadows, grasslands and the wildlife they support.
The Forest of Bowland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) lies to the west of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. It is internationally important for its heather moorland, blanket bog and rare birds and also contains a significant number of hay meadows. It also has many meadows that can be restored.
Meadow restoration in the Forest of Bowland
Working with the Forest of Bowland AONB we launched the Bowland Hay Time project in May 2012. The initial phase of work involved meadow restoration work on 50.2 hectares of degraded meadow and was supported by Natural England, Lancashire Wildlife Trust, RSPB and others, and funded by the Lancashire Environmental Fund, the Forest of Bowland AONB and YDMT. Up to the end of 2016 we had restored an impressive 100 hectares of degraded meadow, setting the meadows off on the road to recovery.
The Coronation Meadows project, initiated by HRH Prince Charles, has listed 60 meadow sites across each county in Britain as outstanding examples of our remaining meadows. These flagship meadows are rich in a wealth of flowers, accessible to the public and are able to be used as source or ‘donor’ meadows to provide seed for the creation of new meadows.
In 2013 Bell Sykes Meadows in Slaidburn was named the Coronation Meadow for Lancashire. Bell Sykes Meadows is one of the last unimproved flower-rich grasslands in this part of Lancashire, and one of the few remaining places where it’s possible to be entirely surrounded by one of the rarest habitats in England. Bell Sykes has four Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) designated meadows covering a total of 12 hectares, a network of footpaths across the farms and downloadable meadow walk guide which were developed as part of the Hay Time Project.
Bell Sykes Coronation Meadows, Slaidburn
Networks for Nectar
In 2014 a new partnership project, Networks for Nectar, was launched to continue the good work of Bowland Hay Time. Networks for Nectar worked with individuals, community groups, businesses, landowners and schools to conserve small areas of species-rich grasslands creating a network of nectar-rich habitats. Road verges, school grounds, village greens and farmland became ‘stepping stones’ in the nectar network allowing pollinating insects to move from one area to another, and effectively joining up some of the existing larger wildflower areas.
Networks for Nectar bug hotel
The project also continued the work of Bowland Hay Time working with farmers and land owners to restore 35 hectares of wildflower hay meadows in 2014 and 2015.
Wildflowers for the Meadows
From 2016 work to create a sustainable future for our wildflowers in the Forest of Bowland continued through the Wildflowers for the Meadows project. Working with community groups and volunteers in the Forest of Bowland the project provided inspiration, training and resources to enable more people to look after meadows and increase their botanical diversity. Seed was collected from hay meadows and verges and grown on into hundreds of wildflower plug plants, that were then planted back out into the edges of restored meadow sites. This has helped to establish characteristic meadow species that are often missing in a restored meadow - like knapweed and meadow vetchling.
Today vital work to restore the network of species-rich meadows across the Forest of Bowlandis continues through the Haytime Rescue project – providing new homes for bees, butterflies and other pollinators and helping to safeguard some of our most rare native wildflowers.
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