Friday, 25 May 2012

Summer Hay Meadows

The meadows at the upper end of Swaledale are looking glorious at the moment! Did you know that, in the last hundred years, Britain has lost over 90% of its hay meadows? The sight you see from Gunnerside and Muker today would have been a much more common sight across the whole country at one time. As a consequence, the meadows of Swaledale are now of international biological importance and are still farmed according to traditional methods. The fields are used for grazing livestock throughout the year until late spring when the stock are moved to other pasture to allow the flowers in the meadows to flourish. In July there is a single harvest when the grass is cut and left to dry before being stored in the nearest field barn ready for use as winter fodder. The many field barns scattered arcoss the landscape are a feature of the upper dales. 

Under this regime, each field can have over a 100 species present - small mammals, birds, invertibates and bats and, of course, many wild flowers. The most predominant flower is the buttercup but, in fact, the fields, when looked at closely, can be seen to be home for dozens of colourful varieties of plants. Due to the great biodiversity, these remote upland meadows in the Dales National Park have been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest. 

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