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Meadow Links celebrations

St Alkelda’s meadow, Giggleswick – The group had spent the day raking up the hay that had been previously cut and scythed. Photo by Wendy Carroll

[P]eople and wildlife across the Yorkshire Dales are flourishing, thanks to the efforts of green-fingered volunteers who have been learning new skills and working together to transform ten community spaces into flower-rich havens.

It’s part of the Meadow Links project, led by local charity Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust (YDMT), which is helping community groups in and around the Yorkshire Dales to create and restore publically accessible wildflower hay meadows along ‘nature recovery networks’, to create fantastic habitats for pollinating insects, enabling them and other wildlife to move across our countryside.

During the course of this 18-month project, the charity provided ten community groups with support and advice, as well as local sustainably sourced wildflower seed, plug plants, tools, a site assessment, bespoke 10 year management plan, and training in seed collecting, propagating, scything and other traditional skills.

Tanya and Rob plug planting in Clapham meadow

Tanya St. Pierre, Meadow Links Project Officer at YDMT, said: “Since 2006 we’ve been working with farmers to enhance the botanical diversity of more than 700 hectares of degraded hay meadows. Over the last 18 months, it’s been an enormous privilege to have also worked with some really fantastic and dedicated community groups. What they’ve achieved has proven that many of the principles can be successfully scaled-down to create smaller meadows that can be easily accessed and enjoyed by the community, with outcomes that are equally important to wildlife.

“It is hoped that, once established, these community meadows can be used as a source of seed to facilitate more meadow restoration projects in the future. Especially as we now have the desire to develop this idea further, to support other groups and individuals to take action for our native wildlife species and together make positive changes that support our natural environment.”

Meadow Links celebration event at Broadrake

The Meadow Links project recently came to an end, marked by a celebration event held at Broadrake in Chapel-le-Dale which was attended by many of the volunteers involved. It was a chance to share experiences and celebrate achievements so far.

At the event, Tony Carroll gave a short presentation sharing some of the challenges and successes encountered by the Giggleswick Gardening Group as they worked with YDMT to create a new community meadow in the grounds of St Alkelda’s Church. Thanks to the help and support of local residents, school children and church goers, the new meadow is already being enjoyed by the local community and visitors, as well as wildlife.

Tony said: “This has been an excellent project, efficiently and enthusiastically guided by Tanya. There has already been a notable increase in bees and pollinating insects in the first year, and we look forward to the development of the wildflower areas at St Alkelda’s in the years to come.”

At another site in Bank Newton near Gargrave, the project has helped members of the Craven Conservation Group to create a meadow in partnership with the Canal & Rivers Trust, which has become a haven for wildlife and a natural resource for the community. Local school children can now visit the site to observe wildlife, with frogs, birds, bees and moths already having being spotted. Melanie Fryer said: “We have a sense of satisfaction at what we have achieved and hope that this delightful area will inspire and encourage others to give an area over to wildlife.”

There are similar hopes for a new meadow which has been created in the car par in Clapham, thanks to a partnership between local residents and Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA).

Rob Ashford, Area Ranger Malhamdale, Ribblesdale & Lancashire, at YDNPA said: “If this meadow proves to be a success, it could set the trend for replacing other grassed amenity areas with hay meadows across the Yorkshire Dales, which will reduce the amount of grass needing to be cut across all YDNPA properties.”

Through the project, meadows have also been created and enhanced in partnership with Reeth Community Orchard, Bainbridge Quaker Meeting House, Cedar House School in Low Bentham, Richmond Community Orchard, Langcliffe Community Garden, St Oswald’s Church in Horton-in-Ribblesdale and the Richmond Landscape Trust.

Although the Meadow Links project has now officially come to an end, YDMT is confident that this is just the beginning. The meadows created through the project will be managed and maintained by community groups, guided by bespoke 10 year management plans produced by YDMT, and it is hoped that they may become a source of seed for future restoration projects.

Meadow Links is delivered by YDMT in partnership with the YDNPA ‘Parish Wildlife Project’, Buglife’s national ‘B-Lines’ project and Natural England. It is supported by funding from D’Oyley Carte, Banister Charitable Trust and John Spedan Lewis Foundation.