Celebrating hay meadows in Langdale

Wildflower meadows in Langdale Cumbria

Once the very essence of a carefree English summer, hay meadows are in decline. That's why we're working hard with our tenant farmers to restore hay meadows in the Lake District, providing vital habitats for wildlife. We'd love you to join our celebrations this summer, starting on National Meadows Day, 1 July.

This summer in Langdale visitors will see certain patches of the Langdale valley floor awash with colour as the wildflower meadows come in to bloom. It’s a striking sight and one that brings with it a multitude of benefits for nature.

National Meadows Day, Saturday 1 July

In Langdale we are hosting a whole day of activities to celebrate the meadows and all that lives within including mini-beast hunts, plant surveys and traditional grass-cutting using a scythe. There will be a guided walk focusing on the management of meadows, what to see, and how to create your own at home. All rounded off with wildflower-themed games at our pub, Sticklebarn.

Meadows are making a come back

The history of wildflower meadows stretches several hundred years, once the colourful staple of our countryside, 97% of meadows have been lost since the 1930s from more than 3 million hectares to less than just 12,000 remaining today.Fortunately wildflower hay meadows have seen a resurgence in recent years.

Meadows are a type of traditional grassland management where the grass crop is allowed to grow through spring and summer before being mown and turned into dried hay. This is in contrast to `pastures` which are grazed but not mown.

In Langdale we have been working with our tenant farmer Mike Toms since 2011 to restore three wildflower meadows in the valley. The meadows have been planted with wildflower seed including Yellow Rattle which parasites the competitive grasses and helps return the area to a wildflower meadow.

Ox-eye daisy is particularly eye-catching from July-September and even appears to “glow” at night.
Ox-eye daisy is particularly eye-catching from July-September and even appears to “glow” at night.
Ox-eye daisy is particularly eye-catching from July-September and even appears to “glow” at night.

Why do we care?

Every year the meadows in Langdale show more signs of improvement as sensitive management enables more wildflower species to gain a foothold.

Established wildflower haymeadows can support a staggering 50 plants per square metre – providing a huge food and nectar source for wildlife. It is the variety and abundance of grasses and flowers which make traditionally managed meadows so valuable for wildlife, providing a plentiful supply of nectar and pollen for bees, butterflies, moths and other invertebrates. These in turn attract insect eating birds such as swallows and martins, with bats hunting over them in the evening.

The long summer grassland also provides valuable cover for nesting birds like curlew and mammals such as voles, shrews and brown hares. This biological richness is reflected in the soils beneath which support an amazing array of fungi, bacteria and invertebrates keeping the soil living.

What can you do to help the cause?

Come along to our free National Meadows Day celebration in Langdale on Saturday 1 July. Or join one of our guided walks on Wednesdays in July at 2pm. Tickets are £5, including free tea and cake at Sticklebarn.

Just by being a member of the National Trust, visiting our places, cafes and carparks you are already supporting our work to restore traditional hay meadows, every penny you spend with us helps us to look after the Lake District. So, thank you very much.