A generous gift from a trust set up by a man to remember his wife is helping to restore hay meadows on National Trust farms in the Lake District.
In 2017 conservation charity the National Trust, who own 92 farms in the Lake District, were awarded £35,000 by the trustees for a partnership meadow restoration project.
Since then, and in collaboration with Cumbria Wildlife Trust, the funding has been used to survey over 70 meadows on farm land and work to restore 23 of them has begun. In some instances, intervention is about the farmer adopting a low input management approach, and waiting for the soils to recover, in other cases the soils are ready for liming, green hay spreading or plug planting.
And this autumn volunteers ensured the last job of the year, digging in plug plants, was carried out well ahead of the frosts.
Chloe Lumsdon, the National Trust’s Assistant Wildlife Advisor, explained what’s been happening: “Because of this incredible bequest we have been able to work with our tenants to restore and create more species-rich meadows across the Lake District. This means the land we look after together will be beautiful and rich in wildlife for many years to come.
“Once a meadow is identified as being suitable, we give it a helping hand in several ways. That could be to reintroduce traditional hay meadow management or improve the soil health through adding lime, making the pH more suitable for wildflowers. Flowering plants are encouraged by techniques such as adding brush harvested seed, green hay spreading or plug planting directly into the meadow. Many hands are needed for this last task.
“It was great to have volunteers at Stonethwaite Farm, Troutbeck and Town Head Farm, Grasmere to plant out 3,500 small potted wildflowers. It means we can expect to see species such as red clover, meadow vetchling, sneezewort and greater bird’s-foot trefoil appearing next year, among many others.
All gardeners know autumn is a great time of year to be putting things into the ground to give them a head start in the spring,” added Chloe.
The National Trust say upland hay meadows can be home to plants such as great burnet, yellow rattle, eye-bright and wood crane’s-bill which in turn attract insects like the dark green fritillary butterfly and burnet moth. They provide plentiful insect food sources for birds like the swallow and the meadows make great habitats for barn owls, skylarks, curlews and lapwings.
Anyone wanting to find out how to support the work of the National Trust, with a gift, should visit https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/features/leave-a-gift-to-protect-the-lake-district