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Dales children turn hay meadow historians

[Tuesday 17 November 2009]
Bainbridge School
Photos: hay meadow detectives with Tanya St. Pierre of the YDMT

Pupils at a Wensleydale primary school are becoming history detectives as part of a campaign to save one of the region’s most distinctive features, the hay meadows.

Until the advent of large-scale silage making, hay meadows – and the hay-making season – were part of the natural rhythm of Yorkshire Dales life, with itinerant farm workers from all over the country and even Ireland being hired to bring in the crop.

The meadows were also a vital environment for a wide range of wildlife, from insects, small mammals, wild flowers and rare birds like the yellow wagtail, which is now on the list of threatened species.

The arrival of large-scale silage making, however, meant that the hay meadow came close to disappearing from the landscape and the Yorkshire Dales National Park and other organisations have been campaigning for several years to restore their popularity with farmers.

One of those, the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust (YDMT) has commissioned a book of haymaking history which will have a forward by the one-time Country File presenter John Craven.

It will also have articles by academics and writers – but some of the research is being carried out by pupils of Bainbridge Primary School in Wensleydale.

Children from the school were asked to become hay time detectives, asking family members about their experiences of hay times past to include in the book.

The children were also taught about climate change and asked what they thought future hay meadows would be like. Some of their work will be published in the book, which is due out in May 2010.

Asked what he thought the Yorkshire Dales will be like in 2080, Thomas Reynolds aged 9 answered, “I think that hay meadows will be nearly extinct. I hope that the Yorkshire dales will be more eco friendly so we can save the hay meadows. If I could, I would show everyone in the world how beautiful the Yorkshire dales are - and keep hay meadows forever.”

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