A group from the Romanian region of Transylvania will be seeing at first hand this month the flower-rich hay meadows of the North Pennines, meeting some of the people that manage them and finding out more about the work of the AONB Partnership’s Hay Time project.
Hay meadows at Low Cornriggs Farm
The group of scientists and rural development specialists is visiting the North Pennines as part of a UK study tour and is led by Gergely Rodics, the Executive Director of the Pogany-havas (or ‘Pagan Snow Cap’) Regional Association in Transylvania.
Mr Rodics said: “The mountain hay meadows in eastern Romania where we work are hot spots of biodiversity and traditional culture. They are recognised as ‘High Nature Value’ grasslands. We are looking at ways to ensure their health and survival by supporting small family farms to continue their brilliant work in a modern context. We run an annual hay making festival which helps raise the profile of these important communities and we hope to inspire other areas, like the North Pennines, to develop similar ideas.”
Accompanying Mr Rodics is Dr Barbara Knowles, an English biologist. “I fell in love with Transylvania on my first visit there in 2007,” she said. “While continuing to work part-time as senior science policy adviser for the UK’s Society of Biology, I’ve spent most of my time since then supporting, mentoring and working on all sorts of farming and conservation projects.” She even set up the Barbara Knowles Fund, to support projects that aim to research, understand and protect the natural treasures of Transylvania.
The party will visit farmers and smallholders who have worked with the AONB Partnership’s Hay Time project. Now in its sixth year of working with landowners large and small to restore their meadows, the project has been able to demonstrate success in reintroducing some of the typical plants of upland hay meadows which had disappeared in recent decades.
Rebecca Barrett of the North Pennines AONB Partnership said: “This is one of our rarest habitats; there are fewer than 900 hectares of upland hay meadows left in the UK and just under half are here in the North Pennines. We are not only hoping to share our experiences and lessons learnt with our friends and colleagues from Transylvania but to learn from them too.”
The party arrives in the North Pennines on May 16 and will be staying at Low Cornriggs Farm in Upper Weardale, a farm which itself supports a number of spectacular flower-rich meadows.
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