Send us your pictures, video, news and views by texting DST to 80360 or email us
Seed of idea grows into a wild way to harvest
A FATHER-and-son team of agricultural contractors have invented a machine to harvest wild flower seeds to restore precious hay meadows.
The flower rich meadows within the North Pennines Area of Oustanding Natural Beauty (AONB) are often on steep banks which makes gathering their seed a difficult task.
But now Niels and Tom Kristensen of Whitley Chapel, near Hexham, have designed and built what is believed to be a unique machine that harvests and removes vegetation from the flower-rich banks – including the flower seeds – which it then spreads on hay meadows where flowers are to be re-introduced.
The AONB Partnership has worked closely with the Kristensens to harvest and spread hay meadow seed since 2007.
However, in all this time only flat, easy-to-access meadows have been worked on.
Harvesting seed from steep banks has offered a new challenge but also a great opportunity as these places support an abundance of plants like wood crane’s-bill, knapweed and devil’s-bit scabious.
Ruth Starr-Keddle, the AONB Partnership’s Nectarworks Project Officer, spent several weeks surveying the banks this summer.
“They are wonderful places, packed with fantastic plants like melancholy thistle and globeflower,” she said, “If we can help to spread species like these back into the meadows not only will they look great but they’ll provide a wonderful source of food for bumblebees and other nectar-feeders.
“We will only be able to use seed from these special banks to enhance other places if the farmers and smallholders who own and manage them are willing to work with us.
“One of my priorities over the coming months and years is to talk to farmers about how they manage their banks now and how they were managed in the past. So far I have received a warm welcome which is wonderful as the future of these important places very much lies in their hands.”
Tom Kristensen, who designed and built the special equipment, said: “It has been a challenge to build a machine that would cut the vegetation and still be stable in these awkward places. I’m not aware of any other machine like this one so it’s a case of a rare machine working to conserve a rare habitat!”
The AONB Partnership’s Nectarworks project has begun harvesting the seed following support from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Flower-rich grassland has declined by 98pc over the past 70 years and as the flowers have disappeared so have many of the creatures that depend on them, particularly bumblebees and other nectarfeeders.
Through Nectarworks, the AONB Partnership aims to restore and expand the best examples of rare flower-rich grassland. The three year project, which is harvesting seed from seven sites this month, has received funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Comments are closed on this article.