Meadow Restoration

Since April 2013 we have been restoring our meadows at Hudswell Woods, increasing the number and types of wildflowers to benefit insects, bumblebees, moths, and the enjoyment of our visitors.

Since April 2013 we have been restoring our meadows at Hudswell Woods, increasing the number and types of wildflower to benefit insects, bumblebees, moths and the enjoyment of our visitors.

With only intermittent grazing the wildflowers in our meadows at Hudswell Woods were slowly being overtaken by tussock forming coarse grasses. To halt this decline the National Trust worked in partnership with the charity Buglife, with initial funding from the SITA Trust. The restoration was started under Buglife’s B-Lines initiative that aims to link wildflower rich meadows that have become fragmented and allow meadow species to once again move through the landscape. The meadows at Hudswell Woods are an important link to the internationally important hay meadows in Upper Swaledale.

Volunteers help us get started

Volunteers and staff sorting seed collected from neighbouring flower rich meadows
Volunteers help us get started

Initial work at Hudswell Woods involved small-scale cutting and removal of grass, spreading of seed-rich green hay collected from neighbouring wildflower meadows, and planting several thousand plug plants with the help of volunteers and local school children. These important first steps set the stage for the longer-term plan of reintroducing regular winter grazing on the riverside meadows and reducing the application of manure to our top field that adjoins Hudswell Lane.

The meadows

Wild flower seed collected from neighbouring flower rich meadows
Meadow Seed

Flower rich meadows are low nutrient environments; with too much fertiliser coarse grasses quickly outcompete any wild flowers and fine meadow grasses. In traditionally managed hay meadows nutrient levels are kept low as grass is taken off every year as a hay crop and the aftermath is grazed off by livestock. However at Hudswell Woods it’s not possible to cut, bale and remove hay with machinery from our meadows on the riverside and behind Round Howe. In these areas we have decided to use winter grazing from October to April to keep the sward short, remove some nutrients and most importantly disturb the ground so that flower seed can germinate.

Grazing Helpers

Winter grazing with tough Shetland ponies has already started to improve the grassland
Shetland ponies at Hudswell Woods

On a site with so much public access, we started by using Shetland ponies for our conservation grazing. It was not however without problems and there were several unfortunate incidents where out-of-control dogs chased and attacked the ponies. We are moving now towards using hardy breed cattle with a docile temperament. We are constantly working to ensure that our grazing livestock and dog walkers respect each other and we do ask that dog walkers keep dogs under close control at all times and read and follow instructions on the signs that are posted when the site is being grazed.

The encouraging news is that our management is working and meadow restoration is well underway. Yellow rattle, cowslip and wood cranesbill are but three of the species that have been successfully reintroduced to the site, other species such as great burnet have expanded their distribution considerably. Year on year we are seeing more positive results, both for people and for wildlife.