Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Restoring Hay Meadows to Former Glory; Memories of Yesteryear's Hay Harvest in the North East Are Being Archived for Future Generations as Efforts Are Stepped Up to Restore Some of the Region's Meadows to Their Former Glory. Karen Dent Discovers More about the Hay Time Project

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Restoring Hay Meadows to Former Glory; Memories of Yesteryear's Hay Harvest in the North East Are Being Archived for Future Generations as Efforts Are Stepped Up to Restore Some of the Region's Meadows to Their Former Glory. Karen Dent Discovers More about the Hay Time Project

Article excerpt

AN estimated 90% of Britain's hay meadows have been lost to progress and modern farming methods. Today's machinery and increased silage production means that plants once common in traditional meadows are less likely to survive because they are cut before they have time to seed.

Now work is under way to re-seed meadows in parts of the North East and the memories of the "bloody hard work" that went into the hay harvest in days gone by are being recorded for posterity. The Hay Time project, run by the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Partnership, is behind the initiative, which will archive retired farmers' hay harvest memories at Beamish Museum. There are also plans to stage an exhibition in Allendale next year.

On a practical level, the scheme is working with volunteers and sympathetic farmers to re-seed hay meadows with traditional plants, which provide valuable habitats for wildlife.

Neil Diment, Hay Time community officer, said: "Increased mechanisation led to the deterioration of the hay meadow. Three or four years ago, the Hay Time project was set up. There is a sister project in the Yorkshire Dales, restoring and enhancing those hay meadows that have survived.

"It is very much a project working with sympathetic farmers within agri-environment schemes to mechanically harvest with specialist equipment that contractors have developed.

"We take seeds from the 'good' meadows and spread them on the 'receptor' meadows.

"We plant them in the meadows of sympathetic and understanding farmers.

We have identified a meadow each in Teesdale, Weardale and Allendale to plant the seeds."

Many of the meadows that are still rich in traditional flora only made it into the post-war years because their owners rankled at being told what to do with their land.

Mr Diment said: "Why some of the hay meadows have survived is because of the independent mindedness of some farmers. It's the old cliche - you want to make hay while the sun shines.

"People don't like being told they can't cut their hay until a certain date. But if you cut early, which you do with silage making, the seeds are not ready. But many meadows survived because farmers didn't listen to that advice."

Most of the meadows that are being restored belong to farmers in Environmental Stewardship Schemes and the project wants to encourage more supportive tenants and landowners to move into Higher Level Stewardship Schemes. "An increasing number of people, smallholders with small fields or a few acres of meadow, are making up a significant proportion of the hay meadows," said Mr Diment.

"A lot of the best floras survived in the roadside banks and verges where our volunteers are collecting the seeds.

"Since the mechanical harvest, we have successfully reintroduced some of the annuals but the perennials are harder. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.