Hay meadow restoration

Hay meadows at Eycott Hill Nature Reserve 

If you’ve been to Eycott Hill Nature Reserve recently you might have noticed our lovely hay meadow.

Restoration work started on this part of the site last year, under the Coronation Meadows Project supported by generous funding from Biffa Award.  Part of the field was power harrowed and spread with green hay taken from Cumbria’s Coronation Meadow donor site at Piper Hole, in Ravenstonedale near Kirkby Stephen, to reintroduce traditional Cumbrian hay meadow flowers and grasses. We’ll be doing this in an adjacent area in mid August, so don’t be alarmed if the ground looks exposed and churned up for a while!

We’ll be monitoring the site to see how it is doing and the first survey has just been completed by Sue Thurley, the reserve manager, and some lovely volunteers. I went along to help for a day and to improve my id skills.

We set out a quadrat (a square metal frame divided into nine smaller squares) at regular intervals and settled down to see which species we could find (or not in some cases!).

We were really pleased to see lots of yellow-rattle, both in flower and the seed pods. This interesting little plant is semi-parasitic, attaching itself to nearby grasses and feeding off the nutrients in their roots. This is excellent for more delicate wildflower species as it gives them a fighting chance against more vigorously growing grasses. We also found red clover, self-heal, daisy, eye-bright, common mouse ear, rough hawkbit, and yarrow along with lots of grass species such as Yorkshire fog, sweet vernal-grass, and crested dog’s-tail. This is great news considering the meadow is just becoming established.

The next step is plug planting to introduce other traditional later flowering species such as knapweed and greater burnet. We have 3,000 plugs to plant so all volunteers are very welcome! The plug planting work parties will be taking place on:

Friday 4th September 2015 (10.00am - 3.30pm)
Wednesday 9th September 2015 (10.00am - 3.30pm)
Tuesday 15th September 2015 (10.00am - 3.30pm)

You don’t need to have volunteered before or have any previous experience as we’ll provide full training. Please book in advance so we know how many tools and plants to bring, call 01539 816300 or email mail@cumbriawildlifetrust.org.uk if you'd like to join us.