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Hay meadows, Lower Winskill Copyright Paul Harris

High Nature Value Farming in the Yorkshire Dales National Park

The Yorkshire Dales National Park is one of the most important areas of the United Kingdom for rich and diverse wildlife heritage. We have the largest area of nationally and internationally important habitats of any National Park. This ranges from the wildflower rich hay meadows and pastures in the dale bottoms, through to the moorland fringe with its rush pastures so important for wading birds and the windswept uplands with their open heather moorland and blanket bog, to the unique limestone pavements.

Farmers across the Yorkshire Dales have played their part in creating and managing this landscape for many centuries. Management techniques have changed slowly during this time. They have helped produce important habitats such as species rich upland hay meadows, flower rich calcareous grassland and wet rush pasture.

What is High Nature Value farming?

This kind of traditional farming can be termed as High Nature Value (HNV). It is where methods of grazing and cropping support and encourage a diverse mix of habitats and species. In short, it is where farming works with the environment, the terrain and climate.

The concept of High Nature Value farming developed during the 1990s. There was a growing recognition that not all agriculture harms nature and that the conservation of biodiversity depends on the continuation of low-intensity farming systems across large areas.

High Nature Value farming in the Yorkshire Dales

Within the Yorkshire Dales National Park, the majority of farm holdings are of High Nature Value. Each farm will have areas of land that benefit certain species and/or habitats. Such areas can be small – such as hedgerows and small woodlands – or, in some cases, whole farms are of High Nature Value.

The highest value holdings are found predominantly at catchment heads where terrain, climate and a history of agri-environment schemes have resulted in the farms being managed less intensively. Within these areas the highest densities of breeding waders like Curlew, Redshank, Lapwing and Snipe can be found. They also contain the richest meadows, calcareous grasslands and the most diverse moorlands. These habitats support rare species such as Black Grouse, Globeflower, Yellow Wagtail, Northern Brown Argus butterfly and Red Squirrel.

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