Our hay meadows

Northumberland National Park has some of the best upland hay meadows in Europe.

A blaze of yellows and purples in June and July, they are astonishing havens for wildlife. Our hay meadows contain beautiful flowers such as wood cranesbill and yellow rattle.

The Haymeadow Story

The story of a hay meadow in Northumberland National Park.

Plants to look out for

in our hay meadows

Melancholy Thistle

This large, showy thistle is a welcome sight in July. Its large clumps of purple flowers droop, giving the plant its name. It has no prickles on its stem. Its leaves are white underneath, hence the alternative name of ‘fish belly’. You can see it on roadside verges. Cutting hay meadows later in the year allows it to survive there too.

Mel thistle

Wood cranesbill

Cranesbills are part of the geranium family. Once it sheds its attractive purple flowers, the flower head looks like the head and beak of a crane. Although it usually flowers in woodlands some of the best hay meadows have it too.


Yellow Rattle

Yellow Rattle helps recreate flower-rich hay meadows. Its roots fix to grass roots to receive nutrients. This weakens the grass growth and allows other flowers to become established in the field.

In late summer, its dry seed pods rattle loudly. This was taken as a sign that it was time to harvest the hay, hence its other name ‘hay rattle’.

Positive actions for Hay Meadows

Encouraging farmers to cut hay meadows after the middle of July means more flowers in hay fields in the future. Delaying cutting gives wild flowers a chance to grow, flower and set seed so they will re-grow the next year.

We have surveyed hay meadows to find the best remaining ones. We work with farmers to help them manage these fields in a traditional way. So instead of inorganic fertiliser which encourages grass growth, farmyard manure is used which helps the flowers too. Also farmers are planting native seed from remaining species-rich fields to increase the number of flowers.