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Overseas group studies North Pennines meadows

Other posts by  |  Steve Smith on Google+ |  May 8, 2012 | 0 Comments
Hay meadow at Low Cornriggs Farm, Weardale

Hay meadow at Low Cornriggs Farm, Weardale, by NPAP Rebecca Barrett

North Pennines hay meadows visit

People from the Romanian region of Transylvania will see up-close the flower-rich hay meadows of the North Pennines next week.

They will spend time with some of the people who look after the meadows and will find out more work done by AONB Partnership’s Hay Time project.

The group is made up of scientists and rural development specialists. They are coming to the North of England as part of a UK study tour. The group is led by Gergely Rodics, the Executive Director of the Pogany-havas (or ‘Pagan Snow Cap’) Regional Association in Transylvania.

Mr Rodics said that the mountain hay meadows in eastern Romania where they work are hot spots of biodiversity and traditional culture.

“They are recognised as ‘High Nature Value’ grasslands,” he explained. “We are looking at ways to ensure their health and survival by supporting small family farms to continue their brilliant work in a modern context.

“We run an annual hay making festival which helps raise the profile of these important communities and we hope to inspire other areas, like the North Pennines, to develop similar ideas.”

Accompanied by conservation specialist

With Mr Rodics is Dr Barbara Knowles, an English biologist. She said that she fell in love with Transylvania on her first visit in 2007.  “While continuing to work part-time as senior science policy adviser for the UK’s Society of Biology, I’ve spent most of my time since then supporting, mentoring and working on all sorts of farming and conservation projects.”

Dr Knowles set up the Barbara Knowles Fund, which supports projects aiming to research, understand and protect the natural treasures of Transylvania.

The party will visit farmers and smallholders who have worked with the AONB Partnership’s Hay Time project. The project has demonstrated success at the reintroduction of some of the typical plants of upland hay meadows which had disappeared in recent decades. It is now in its sixth year of working with landowners large and small to restore their meadows.

North Pennines – rare habitat

Rebecca Barrett of the North Pennines AONB Partnership said: “This is one of our rarest habitats; there are fewer than 900 hectares of upland hay meadows left in the UK and just under half are here in the North Pennines. We are not only hoping to share our experiences and lessons learnt with our friends and colleagues from Transylvania but to learn from them too.”

The party arrives in the North Pennines on May 16 and will be staying at Low Cornriggs Farm in Upper Weardale, a farm which itself supports a number of spectacular flower-rich meadows.

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