© Kath Birkinshaw

Magical Meadows (2016-2019)

Enhancing, restoring and managing flower rich hay meadows within the scheme area, using traditional practices to increase plant diversity.

Hay meadows are crucial in so many ways; they can contain rare plants not found in any other environment, they are vital habitats for pollinating insects required for over 80% of agricultural crops, support other key wildlife and maintain the landscape to enable growth of other plants and food.

In addition to the environmental and wildlife benefits, hay meadows play an important cultural role by reinforcing an area’s heritage. To ensure heritage skills were not lost, we held scything training days to teach people how to manage their meadows in a traditional way.

Flower-rich hay meadows are rare in the scheme area, but the Magical Meadows project has focussed on changing this by working to restore several sites. As a result, their quality has been improved and they are now under correct management.

By involving local schools and the community in this project, and the overall restoration process, appreciation, enjoyment and understanding of hay meadows has been significantly increased.


  • A base line survey was carried out to establish a starting point for all restored meadows. The meadows will be reviewed at a later date to assess how wildlife has improved.
  • Through suitable restoration techniques, existing meadows in the area have been restored.
  • A number of hay meadow educational events have been held including Community Planting Days and Wildflower Workshops.
  • Five Scything Training Days were held and proved very popular, with people continuing to actively use this traditional skill.
  • Members of the community, apprentices, established volunteers and Cumbria Wildlife Trust have all contributed valuable time to support the project.

The project was led by Cumbria Wildlife Trust.

So far so good...

  • 6500 wildflower plugs plants planted by volunteers.
  • Wildflowers planted in groups of the same species in a ‘clock’ formation to aid cross pollination by bees and butterflies.
  • Over 13 ha of hay meadow have been restored.
  • 3 restoration projects delivered.
  • 3 successful community planting days.
  • 5 wildflower educational workshops held and well attended.
  • 5 very popular scything training days.
  • 57 volunteers supported the project

Did you know?

Yellow rattle is a semi-parasitic flower which feeds off nutrients in nearby grass roots. This helps restrict vigorous grasses, allowing more delicate wildflowers to emerge. Its 'rattle' is from tiny seeds in their pods.

Guidance notes for meadow planting can be downloaded below.

Project Lead

The Challenge

In the last 50 years flower-rich hay meadows have declined by 97%. Meadows are declining not just in quantity but also quality as their species richness is decreasing. Invertebrates, including important pollinating species such as hoverflies, bumble and honey bees, are also linked to flower-rich grasslands such as hay meadows. They have also seen significant reductions in diversity and population numbers. With over 80% of agricultural crops requiring insect pollination, the loss of such invertebrates poses a threat to food security and a loss of income to farmers.

Our Approach

The project focussed on enhancing, restoring and managing flower-rich hay meadows within the scheme area, using traditional practices to increase plant diversity. Offering events such as Planting Days and Wildflower Educational Workshops has helped to involve and educate the local community.

Working with two local schools, Penny bridge and Leven Valley, the children helped with plug planting and learnt how valuable the landscape is, how it came to be and why it should continue.

The project also tried to reintroduce traditional meadow management practices such as scything, and these have proved to be very popular.

© Rusland Horizons 2017 - 2024. All rights reserved.
Rusland Horizons was a Landscape Partnership funded by the National Heritage Lottery Fund until July 2019. It is now being delivered by The Rusland Horizons Trust Limited. Company No. 2133450; Charity No. 519410; Registered Office: Bleacott Farm, Witherslack, Grange-over-Sands, Cumbria LA11 6RZ.