The North Pennines AONB Partnership’s Hay Time project was launched in 2006. A principal aim of the project is to restore upland hay meadows by harvesting seed from species-rich meadows and spreading it on meadows that have lost their special species.
Between 2006 and 2009 we spread seed-rich green hay on 35 meadows in the North Pennines. The plant communities in 30 of these meadows have been monitored either by AONB Partnership staff or experienced volunteer botanists since seed addition. There are a number of species which are particularly characteristic of upland hay meadows which we hope to see becoming established. We refer to these as positive indicator species. During meadow surveys, these species are given a score between one and four, the more special the species, the higher the score.
In 24 of the 30 meadows monitored (80%) there has been an increase in positive indicator species and in 9 of these meadows (30%) the positive indicator species score increased by more than 25. Positive indicator species scores remained the same in 2 meadows (7%) and declined in 4 meadows (13%).
Plants that we have found to be very successful at establishing following seed addition include yellow rattle, common bent, eyebright, wood crane’s-bill, ragged robin and lesser trefoil.
Monitoring all the sites where we have spread seed will remain a high priority during the final summer of the project after which we will produce detailed results of our findings. These interim results serve to give us confidence that the approach we are taking works and that over the coming years we can expect to see more and more plants establishing in meadows where seed has been spread.