The North Pennines AONB Partnership has won the Natural Environment and Countryside Improvement section of the County Durham Environment Awards 2011 for its Hay Time project.
The project sees the North Pennines AONB improve the area’s special upland hay meadows – and encouraged local volunteers and schoolchildren to learn about and look after them.
The Hay Time project was launched in 2006 to conserve, enhance and celebrate the special upland hay meadows found in the North Pennines.
It is supported by the County Durham Environment Trust (CDENT) and the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). Action to restore meadows that have lost their characteristic plant species has focused on harvesting species-rich seed from flower-rich meadows and then spreading it on nearby fields. To date, 193 hectares of meadows have received seed in this way.
A hard-working team of volunteer botanists have been working with partnership staff to monitor the impact of this work and their surveys have shown that the process is effective in returning important plants to the meadows.
Community and education work over the past three years has enabled 577 children from 19 local primary schools to engage in a wide range of activities including hay meadow visits, drama workshops and even hay rope making.
Nine-year-old Maria Barrett from St John’s Chapel Primary School in Weardale attended the awards ceremony to represent all the children who have been involved in the work of the project.
Rebecca Barrett, Project Development Officer for the AONB Partnership and Hay Time Project Manager, said: “We are passionate about the work we are doing to both conserve and raise the profile of these treasures in our landscape, and we’re delighted to receive this award.”