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Volunteers help save our precious meadows

Cumbria Wildlife Trust runs training events to help species-rich meadows

Volunteers receiving training on meadow plant ID skills at a Westmorland Dales Landscape Partnership course in Orton

Over 30 enthusiastic volunteers have taken part in recent training events to learn how to survey the county’s hay meadows. Run by Cumbria Wildlife Trust, in collaboration with partner organisations, the events are all part of Meadow Life, a project which aims to restore Cumbria’s fantastic hay meadows.

A group of 12 volunteers on the Westmorland Dales Landscape Partnership (a Heritage Lottery-funded project) braved some inclement weather in Orton to refresh their meadow plant ID skills. The course, led by Stuart Hedley, a lifelong field botanist, will enable them to monitor the county’s hay meadows.

Volunteers updating their plant ID skills at the County Wildlife Sites Survey Training Course at Newbiggin-on-Lune

A visit to the Smardale Nature Reserve County Wildlife Site at Newbiggin-on-Lune gave another group of volunteers the chance to update their plant identification skills in the species-rich grassland found here. Cumbria Wildlife Trust is monitoring a number of grassland County Wildlife Sites within the Yorkshire Dales National Park and the group was able to learn about the Local Site System in Cumbria, thanks to funding from the Wildflower Society and the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust (Westmorland Dales Hay Time project).

From left, trainees Annie Warwick and Jade Allen identifying grasses near Kendal, at a course run by Meadow Life

In the south of the county, at a Meadow Life training event held at Plumgarths near Kendal, former Director of Cumbria Wildlife Trust and experienced botanist Peter Bullard brought to life the differences between the main families of grasses. One of the volunteers enthused afterwards: “I really enjoyed it. Peter is a fantastic teacher – he explains things really well and covers enough to give a great overview, but not too much to make my brain hurt.”

Christa Nelson, Grassland Conservation Officer at Cumbria Wildlife Trust explained why events like this are so important: “Fields of gently waving grasses splashed with purple, yellow and white flowers evoke sleepy summer images. However, across Britain 97% of hay meadows were lost between the 1930s and the mid-1980s. We’re working closely with farmers in Cumbria and partner organisations to try and reverse this damage and offering training and awareness-raising is an important part of our work.”

Christa continued: “Saving our hay meadows is important as they can provide habitats for many different and much-loved animal species including the brown hare, insects such as the great yellow bumble bee, and birds such as skylark, curlew and lapwing.”

Find out more about how to get involved with monitoring and recording species, and other volunteering opportunities, at www.cumbriawildlifetrust.org.uk or contact 01539 816300.

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