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Yorkshire's Coronation Meadows
Muker meadows with field barn
It's official! The stunning wildflower hay meadows at Muker in Swaledale have been chosen as the official Coronation Meadows site in North Yorkshire, and now have been presented with a plaque to commemorate the honour.

The Coronation Meadows initiative was launched last year to mark the 60th anniversary of the Queen's coronation, and it forms part of a growing campaign to save Britain's wildflower grasslands.

With Britain having lost 97 per cent of its wildflower meadows since the 1930s, the scheme aims to identify a species-rich meadow in every county that will be used as a 'donor' site to provide seed to restore nearby degraded meadows in an effort to conserve the local characteristics of grasslands in each region and the wide range of wildlife they are able to support.

The traditionally managed hay meadows at Muker were chosen to represent North Yorkshire in the scheme, following nomination by Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust (YDMT), a charity involved in the protection and restoration of wildflower meadows across the Dales and the Forest of Bowland since 2006.

The Muker Coronation Meadows plaque is unveiled
The meadows are currently in full bloom, so YDMT's Hay Time project officer and wildflower expert Tanya St. Pierre took the opportunity to lead a guided walk through the Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Tanya said: "The Muker meadows are amongst the best upland hay meadows in the Yorkshire Dales. They support a wide range of wildflowers and grasses including wood crane's-bill, melancholy thistle, pignut, Lady's mantles, rough hawkbit, cat's-ear and sweet vernal grass, as well as a wide range of pollinating insects, birds and small mammals. The meadows are so transient - now is the perfect time to enjoy them before the flowers start to set seed in early July. These precious habitats are very fragile and are part of the farmers hay crop, so please do not pick any flowers and do not stray from the footpath."

The walk was attended by 30 people, all keen to learn more about the unique collection of native flora and fauna found in these special meadows, and the award-winning conservation work being undertaken by the Trust to help protect and restore this precious habitat. The unveiling of the new Coronation Meadow plaque was an added bonus.

Muker meadows are owned by William and Carole Raw, and Kathleen Raw and David Hill.

Kathleen Raw said: "These meadows are very special to us and we are committed to maintaining and protecting their special quality for future generations. Having the meadows nationally recognised for their importance through the Coronation Meadows initiative was wonderful, and we will be very proud to display the lovely new plaque."

The Coronation Meadows scheme was launched at Highgrove in 2013 by His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales.

Prince Charles said: "My Coronation Meadows idea came to me when I read Plantlife's 2012 report and fully appreciated just how many wildflower meadows had been lost over the past 60 years. ...Surely there is no better moment to end this destruction and to stimulate a new mood to protect our remaining meadows and to use them as springboards for the restoration of other sites and the creation of new meadows right across the UK."

Through YDMT's Hay Time project, wildflower seed has been added to more than 400 hectares of degraded meadows across the Yorkshire Dales and Forest of Bowland over the last eight years, using seed gathered from species-rich donor meadows like these ones in Muker. To support this work or find out more please visit www.ydmt.org/HayTimeAppeal or call 015242 51002.

Photos: L-R David Hill, Kathleen Raw, Carole Raw, William Raw
and L-R: YDMT Trustee Andrew Campbell, landowner William Raw
Yorkshire's Coronation Meadows, 30th June 2014, 11:13 AM