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High time for Hay Time: £270,000 in grants awarded to help conserve North Pennines hay meadows

Source: Source:North Pennines AONB Geopark Published:Mar 30,2009

The North Pennines AONB Partnership has secured £270,000 of new grant aid to expand and extend the work of its Hay Time Project. The award comprises a £120,000 County Durham Environmental Trust CDENT PREMIER Award under the Landfill Communities Fund, £100,300 from Natural England's Countdown 2010 Biodiversity Action fund and £49,400 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

Upland hay meadows are one of the rarest grassland habitats in the country and are home to special plants like wood crane's-bill and melancholy thistle. In the North Pennines traditional farm management has retained meadows that elsewhere in the country have been lost through the addition of fertiliser or early cutting to make silage rather than hay. With up to100 different plant species per field, the meadows not only look wonderful but provide an important home for wildlife that is declining at an alarming rate elsewhere. There are now few better places to look for bumblebees than a traditionally managed hay meadow.

Improving wildlife value

In the North Pennines the AONB Partnership works with farmers to enhance and restore hay meadows across the AONB. staff survey the plants in farmers' meadows and can then advise on the best approach to improve their wildlife value. In many cases this involves the addition of seed harvested from a nearby species-rich meadow. Using specialist machinery and working closely with local contractors and Natural England, the AONB Partnership is able to coordinate this work and arrange funding for it.

Involving the community

As part of the expansion of the Hay Time project, the AONB Partnership has already appointed Neil Diment to the post of Community Officer. Over the next two years Neil will be developing a series of innovative approaches for involving schools, volunteers and the local community in conserving and celebrating our hay meadows.

Rich tradition

Neil said: "People have been making hay in the North Pennines for generations and a rich language and tradition has developed in connection with this. I am thrilled to now have the chance to share my enthusiasm about our meadows and to find ways of involving as many people as possible in the Hay Time project."

The AONB Partnership is currently recruiting two further project officers to work on the Hay Time project. They will be responsible for surveying the meadows, advising farmers, harvesting and spreading seed and the development of new elements of the project that will focus on invertebrates and birds.

Rebecca Barrett, Area Coordinator for the North Pennines AONB Partnership said: "Receiving this new funding is tremendous - not only will we be able to continue this important work until 2012 but will now be able to develop new approaches to ensure that our best hay meadows are well managed into the future."

Seal of approval on Hay Time work

She added: "This award is a seal of approval for the approach taken our Hay Time project to conserve an important wildlife habitat in the North Pennines. Our meadows survive thanks to the hard work and care of generations of farmers. Through Hay Time we will not only be working to conserve the meadows themselves but to recognise and celebrate the labours of the farming communities who have managed them over the generations."