SOME of the leading conservationists in Europe have gone home with a lot to think about after attending a conference in the Yorkshire Dales designed to bring hill farming back to the future.
Project Officer Louise Williams with traditional breed
The event was hosted by the Limestone Country Project (LCP), a scheme run by the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA) and English Nature that was voted number one in the Eurosite Awards 2005 in September last year.
Delegates from around the UK and from nine other European countries met for a three-day workshop to discuss management of Europe's limestone landscapes. The Yorkshire Dales National Park has one of the biggest areas of limestone pavement in the country.
The five-year Limestone Country Project - partly financed by £550,000 from EU LIFE (Nature) funds - aims to reintroduce traditional breeds of cattle into the Dales to help to save the flora and fauna on the pavements.
Sheep graze close to the roots of grass and eat flowers and other plant life. They also prefer sweet grass, leaving the tougher coarse grass to grow unchecked.
The Project encourages farmers to swap sheep for herds of traditional types of cattle like Blue Greys and Beef Shorthorns that can survive the harsh winters living off the rough grasses, giving plants time to recover.
It is being run on internationally-important wildlife sites in the limestone area of the Dales including the Ingleborough National Nature Reserve (NNR) and the limestone pastures between Malham and Wharfedale.
The purpose of the conference was to raise awareness generally about the management of limestone habitats...
Phil Eckersley - English Nature
The YDNPA's LCP Officer, Louise Williams, said: "The conference was the first of its kind in the Yorkshire Dales and gave all the delegates a chance to meet and swap ideas and information about management of these very important limestone sites."
Phil Eckersley, English Nature Conservation Officer for Craven, said: "It was really successful - we had a wide range of people from all over Europe.
"The purpose of the conference was to raise awareness generally about the management of limestone habitats and to get ideas from around Europe to help us develop our management in the future.
"It achieved its purpose really well in the short time available and we are hoping to set up an information network so we can continue where the conference left off."
The event was held at High Trenhouse on Malham Moor. Delegates also visited local farms and areas like the National Trust National Nature Reserve at Malham Tarn.