Sowing the Seeds

The aim of Sowing the Seeds was to collaborate with partners in the UK or Europe in areas with remnants of upland hay meadows. To share experience and expertise on protecting and restoring traditional hay meadows and using them as an educational and tourism resource.

Sward! The Story of a meadow

In 2011 we worked with the North Pennines AONB Partnership, Blaize Theatre Company and Highlights rural touring scheme to develop a meadow themed musical play, Sward! The Story of a meadow. The play was described as “a magical tale; a love story, with roots in ancient myth, oral records and modern science. Through its telling, the complex web of life and history woven into the very fabric (the sward) of an upland hay meadow is revealed, along with its extremely fragile nature.” The play and its songs were written by award-winning playwright Simon Corble. The play delivered clear messages about the importance of hay meadows.

Sward! toured village halls in the north of England in 2011. The Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust organised and promoted nine shows in the Yorkshire Dales, attended by 371 people. We also produced a DVD of a live show – which you can order from our shop.


Alongside the Sward! production YDMT’s Into the Meadows Project Officer, Tanya St. Pierre was hard at work, delivering meadow-themed educational activities and hay meadow visits for 382 children from local primary schools. Children were given an introduction to hay meadows, learnt about the different flora and fauna and found out how silage fields are different to hay meadows.

Through role-play and drama the children explored issues relating to the use of hay meadows by different groups of people. The activities helped children to see how meadows have changed over time and the effect this has had on biodiversity.

The success of these activities led to the development of the educational side of our Into the Meadows project.


In 2012, the final year of Sowing the Seeds project, we focused on scything and the possibility of staging a scything festival and competition in the Dales in future years.

Don attended a two day scything course in Upper Teesdale, organised by the North Pennines AONB, followed by the 1st Northern scything competition. We also worked with the Forest of Bowland AONB to deliver a scything taster day, where 20 people learnt about scything skills, cutting hay and sharpening scythes.


In August 2012, Sarah Robinson, our Bowland Hay Time Officer, travelled to Transylvania to take part in the fourth Annual International Hay Making Festival. Hosted by a local farmer, the festival aims to show visitors the traditions and customs which support the upland hay meadows of the area. Participants spent the week scything in the mountains and raking hay into stacks. The festival was a great opportunity to talk with the other participants about their hay making experiences and to share our experience of meadow restoration.                    

The funding for this project was made available through the Rural Development Programme for England, which is jointly funded by Defra and the European Union.

Click here to find out more about European Funding.