Hay Meadows

Many of the valleys in Cumbria would have once contained flower-rich hay meadows, grown to produce winter feed for sheep and cattle. Sadly, hay meadows have suffered a catastrophic decline since the Second World War. Many were ploughed up during the war to improve production and grow more food to feed the country. The intensification of agricultural practices after the war converted most flower-rich ‘herb meadows’ and pastures to more productive ‘improved’ grasslands. The overall result is that since the 1930s we have lost a staggering 97% of our wildflower-rich meadows.

Over the last few years Cumbria Wildlife Trust has been involved with a nationwide project to restore hay meadows and the colour and vibrancy they bring to the rural landscape.

Piper Hole, Ravenstonedale: Upper Eden’s Coronation Meadow

In June 2013 HRH The Prince of Wales crowned Piper Hole in Ravenstonedale, Upper Eden, a ‘Coronation Meadow’.

There will be a Coronation hay meadow in every county across the UK to mark the 60th anniversary of HM The Queen’s Coronation and embody the often distinct character of each county’s grassland heritage. Through the early summer months they give an unrivalled display of brilliance and beauty, bursting with life before they are cut for hay and grazed to secure the following years’ display.

Walking through Piper Hole is like stepping back in time. Wandering through the meadow in summer you will come across yellow rattle, pignut and sweet vernal grass and, if you are lucky, spot wood crane’s-bill. Herbs, such as great burnet are especially abundant, earning it the local name ‘herbie meadow’.

Over the last 12 months, Piper Hole has played a vital role in breathing new life into meadows across Cumbria. It is a ‘donor’ meadow which provides seed for the creation of new meadows at ‘recipient’ sites in Cumbria, so new Coronation Meadows will created. This will give much needed homes for bees, butterflies and other pollinators and will secure our wildflower heritage for the future.

Find out more at:

http://www.cumbriawildlifetrust.org.uk/what-we-do/conservation-projects/hay-meadows

and hear Cumbrian people’s memories of hay meadows and hay making at:

http://www.highfell.org.uk/index.php?option=com_zoo&task=item&item_id=91&category_id=5&Itemid=83