Every year Piper Hole Farm in Ravenstonedale opens its meadows to the public in early July to celebrate National Meadows Day and raise awareness of the importance of meadow conservation of this fast-disappearing habitat.

This year 50 people took part in guided walks through the meadows and in the run up to the event 90 children and adults from Biggins Nursery in Ravenstonesdale, Shining Stars Nursery in Kirkby Stephen, Great Asby Primary School and Crosby Ravensworth Primary School took part in the Magical Meadows Education program with The Westmorland Dales Landscape Partnership Scheme and Cumbria Wildlife Trust.

The weather was perfect for exploring meadows and the flowers were at their peak before hay time. The children learnt all about the wildflowers and insects that make these breathtaking magnificent meadows their home. They also dressed up as bees and butterflies and learnt about pollination and met the goats which are milked twice a day to make soap, yoghurt, kefir and fudge. 

Piper Hole is one of the most outstanding examples of upland Hay Meadow in Cumbria and is particularly important for its high plant diversity. It is a traditional family run hill farm which has been “holistically” managed for several generations with no artificial inputs and has been left undamaged by agricultural intensification. However, the national state of our meadows is much more bleak. Without direct intervention species-rich grasslands would all but disappear within the next few decades.

In the last 50 years species-rich grasslands such as hay meadows have declined by 97%. Despite measures to reverse this trend, losses have continued in recent years in England. Recent estimates indicate that there are less than 1000 ha in northern England and Scotland is believed to have less than 100 ha. 

Surveys by Cumbria Biodiversity Partnership and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology between 2007 and 2010 emphasise this threat showing continued habitat loss, fragmentation and isolation since the 1980s. They also show there is been a deterioration in quality of the remaining habitat.  The Conserving Species-Rich Grassland project led by Cumbria Wildlife Trust will help to reverse this trend. The project will conserve and restore species-rich grassland in the Westmorland Dales and raise awareness of this unique habitat.  Hay will be harvested from sites such as Piper Hole and seed collected by hand to restore other species rich grasslands within the area. Volunteers have also been taking part in grassland and bee surveys and scything days. 

Contact Frank Hunter to find out more about other educational opportunities at Piper Hole: [email protected]

View more pictures from the day in our Facebook gallery...