A GROUP of farmers helping to pilot a new type of agri-environment scheme were on their knees in a "five-star" meadow in a national park this week.

The farmers took part in a two-hour training session at Thornton Rust run by the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA) farm team on Tuesday, June 12.

Sheena Pratt and her son, James, of Dale View Farm, hosted the event, during which farmers were shown how to ‘score’ a meadow and therefore work out how much payment would be due on it.

The farmers were handed maps of the two meadow fields, as well as a three-page scorecard, which contained a list of 34 “positive plant species” and eight “negative plant species”. An orchid, for instance, scored a maximum four points, while nettle, as a negative species, scored minus two.

During the two-year pilot, farmers are being paid for producing either species-rich meadows or good habitat for breeding waders. The more species-rich the meadow, the higher the payment.

The YDNPA is currently awaiting a decision from the Government on whether the pilot can be extended and expanded.

YDNPA chairman Carl Lis said: “The Wensleydale farm payment pilot is one of the most important pieces of work the authority is involved in at the moment – and central government has recognised how well the scheme has been working.

“Hay meadows are the jewel in the crown of the farmed landscape that is the Yorkshire Dales National Park. But truly species-rich meadows have become rare even here.

"We must find a long-term, simple and effective way of incentivising and rewarding farmers to produce what is no doubt a public good.”

For more information, visit yorkshiredales.org.uk.