[T]he National Trust in the Lake District will be doing its bit to raise awareness of the importance of hay meadows this month (July).
National Trust places across the county will be joining Cumbrian and UK-wide partners to celebrate National Meadows Day on Saturday 1 July.
Once the very essence of a carefree English summer, hay meadows have declined to such an extent that swift action is needed to stem their complete loss from the UK’s countryside.
The Trust has been working with its tenant farmers to restore hay meadows for some time, and invites visitors to come along and see them at the places below:
At Langdale, every Wednesday in July (2pm-4pm), there will be the chance to join a guided wildflower walk taking in short strolls around some of the area’s best meadows, which also includes tea and cake at the end.
On Saturday 1 July, 10am, Sticklebarn at Langdale will host a ‘Life of a Wildflower Meadow’ event complete with scything demos reminiscent of the bygone days of traditional farming. Little ones can also take part in minibeast hunts to see how many bugs they can find living in the meadow before enjoying more games in the Sticklebarn pub.
On Saturday 1 July at Hill Top, visitors can join guided walks at 11am, 12noon, 2pm and 3pm to the very hay meadows where Beatrix Potter herself once worked. Drop in to the gazebo in the orchard to find out more about the work being done in Hill Top Farm’s four key hay fields and get up close to the sights, sounds and smells of a traditional Cumbrian hay meadow.
In the North Lakes, visitors can meet a farmer who has found the right balance between conservation and farming. Tom Lorrains runs one of the highest altitude National Trust farms in the Lakes at High Snab Farm at Newlands, Keswick. From 2pm on Saturday 1 July, as part of a guided walk with a glorious backdrop of Skiddaw and Blencathra, visitors can hear more from Tom about how traditional farming methods keep the hay meadow thriving. At such a height, it has been no easy feat to transform the meadow, but years of care and attention have paid off and there are now more than 20 original species of wildflower in the flourishing nature-friendly meadow.
Just down the valley at High Nook Farm, Loweswater, there is an ongoing project to restore the health of the hay meadows that border the lake. From 10am on Saturday 1 July, visitors on a guided walk will have the opportunity to see different methods of conservation in action across three fields; from a more established hay meadow packed full of wildflowers like red clover and eye bright, to two fields that are still in their infancy and developing over time.
Further south at Fell Foot on the banks of Windermere, a Meadow Open Day on Sunday 2 July will see meadow flower ID workshops and butterfly survey walks showcasing the wealth of nature and wildlife that can be found in a flourishing meadow. Visitors can also follow guided walks around the meadow.
Hay meadows are vital habitats for wildlife with an area of five acres typically being home to more than a tonne of insect life. The long grassland also provides valuable cover for nesting birds like the endangered curlew as well as mammals including brown hares.
Graham Jackson-Pitt, Conservation Officer at Cumbria Wildlife Trust who has worked in partnership with the National Trust on Cumbria’s Hay meadow project, said: “Cumbria has some of the country’s best meadows and we’re continuing to work with the National Trust and other organisations across the county to restore and promote what is not just a valuable habitat but also part of our farming heritage. National Meadows Day is a great way to spread the message of why these meadows are so important and help ensure they maintain their place in our landscape.”
National Meadows Day began in 2015 to celebrate the UK’s wildflower meadows and their wildlife, and aims to encourage more people to explore their local meadows.
For more information on National Meadows Day, visit http://www.magnificentmeadows.org.uk. For more information on the National Trust in the Lake District, visit https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/thelakes #lookingafterthelakes