A new partnership has been helping to boost the flora and wildlife habitats across the North of England with funding from Defra's Rural Enterprise Scheme (RES).
The Rural Development Service, (RDS) in the North East, North West and East Midlands teamed up to award a 100 per cent RES grant to Flora locale, a national charity that promotes the supply and use of regionally sourced seed and plants for conservation projects.
The grant, worth more than #176,000 over three years, has helped fund the charity's North England Project, covering the North East, North West and East Midlands from Derbyshire up to the Scottish Borders.
And the project has now appointed a new Northern England Officer Bernadette Lobo, who previously worked for the Environment Agency where she was an ecologist in the Lune and Keer river valleys in Lancashire and Cumbria.
Bernadette's new role will see her working closely with land managers such as farmers, site wardens, community conservation groups and landscapers providing them with information and technical support, including training courses, for conservation projects.
These projects can include anything from creating a wildflower meadow or establishing wildflowers on a village green, to restoring or planting a new hedgerow, planting up a pond, lake or riverbank or using local origin trees to create or restore a woodland.
Liz Manley, Conservation and Development Manager for Flora locale, said:
"Defra and the RDS have been very generous in awarding us 100 per cent funding for this project, for which we're very grateful.
"Since its launch in 1997, Flora locale has helped train thousands of people involved in land management projects across the country in the skills they need to restore or create a variety of habitats, including woodlands, grasslands, wetlands and hay meadows.
"Bernadette is looking forward to taking on her new role, from 5th September, and will be getting out and about over the winter to meet people and discuss projects, training workshops and events for next summer.
"And we're continuing to work hard to find further funding to support other projects around the country."
Teesdale farmer Reuben Atkinson, of Rose Tree Farm, Forest-in-Teesdale, has used the support of Defra's Environmentally Sensitive Areas, (ESAs) Scheme to help enhance the flower-rich upland hay meadows on his land.
Mr Atkinson said:
"The flora and fauna found in upper Teesdale's meadows and pastures are an important asset to both farmers and conservationists. It is vital that this area continues to have funding and practical help, without this help hill farming will face an uncertain future.
"I welcome the news about Flora locale and I look forward to hearing about the support that they can offer the farmers in upper Teesdale."
Upland hay meadows are a national rarity and recent estimates indicate there are less than 1,000 hectares in northern England. Around 40 per cent of the remaining upland haymeadows in the North East lie within the North Pennines, which includes Teesside, where staff at the North Pennines Area of Outstanding National Beauty (AONB) hosted a demonstration last year to help promote the seeding of hay meadows.
The North Pennines AONB Staff Unit is now working with Flora locale, RDS, English Nature and other partners to develop a project to help extend the area of hay meadows to allow more people to find out about and enjoy these sites.
Martin Price, an adviser with the RDS in the North East, said:
"The Rural Development Service already works closely with farmers and other landowners and managers to help restore and create habitats through Defra's agri-environment schemes.
" In the last ten years, more than 1,100 Countryside Stewardship Scheme (CSS) agreements have been established across the region covering a massive 100,470 hectares of land - higher than any other region.
"We're aiming to build on this success through Environmental Stewardship (ES) the new agri-environment scheme, which offers farmers, landowners and managers the option of entering into Entry Level, Higher Level or Organic Entry Level agreements.
"By supporting the Flora locale project we're helping provide additional support to land managers and communities who are keen to learn more about how they can look after and enhance their local environment, using seeds, plants and trees from local sources."
The Northumberland National Park Authority is also undertaking a project "Seeding Change in Northumberland National Park" using native seeds to get more flowers in upland hay meadows and verges. They are working with Defra and RDS to enhance meadows that are being managed traditionally under CSS and ES. Seed is being collected from flower-rich meadows and spread onto less diverse fields to increase the numbers of species such as wood cranesbill, yellow rattle and eyebrights.
The project will also help local people to get involved, to collect seed and grow it into plants to improve their local verges and open spaces.