What we do

Hay meadows and grasslands

Hay meadows and species-rich grasslands

The North Pennines AONB Partnership’s Hay Time project focused on species-rich upland hay meadows, of which the AONB has 40% of the total UK resource. Through Hay Time, AONB Partnership staff surveyed over 1000 hay meadows on over 100 upland farms; we worked with farmers and specialist contractors to identify donor and recipient meadows for the harvesting and spreading of species rich green hay. This work has resulted the restoration of 237ha of species rich upland hay meadow, an effective doubling of the resource in the North Pennines, supporting up to a 20% increase in the UK total.

Our successor project, Nectarworks, focused on flower-rich banks and verges, and on the conservation and importance of pollinators, especially bumblebees. AONB staff surveyed over 120 flower-rich banks, created 110 management agreements and restored over 150ha of this valuable habitat, whilst engaging over 1000 schoolchildren in educational programmes and training 270 volunteers.

Our species-rich upland hay meadows, banks and verges have undergone a long term decline. They are hugely important for biodiversity – for flora, invertebrates and a suite of upland birds in particular – and they are also highly culturally significant locally. Working with our High Nature Value farmers, the North Pennines AONB Partnership staff team has set out to better understand the extent and condition of these vital grasslands, to raise awareness of their importance and to take real practical action for their conservation.

The outstanding outcomes of the Haytime and Nectarworks projects were made possible by our collaborations with our High Nature Value Farmers and some innovative local contractors. We also benefited from an enthusiastic group of volunteer botanical surveyors, many trained by the AONB Partnership staff team. The volunteers gave up their time to help us increase our collective understanding our special upland grasslands. These skills live on in the local community and bring benefit to nature long after time-limited projects come to an end. Together, these two initiatives ran for 11 years and enabled an investment of over £1m in hay meadow conservation and the engagement of local farmers, contractors, volunteers and young people. The work was supported by the National Lottery, Northumbrian Water and Defra (through countryside stewardship)

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