When we hear about the threat to some of our precious and important habitats, our minds often turn to the polar ice cap or the rainforests of the Amazon. But one of our most threatened natural environments is right here in the UK and that is the traditional upland hay meadow - fields packed with grasses and wild flowers, alive with bird song and the buzz of bees. Sadly these meadows have almost disappeared from our landscape. There are less than 4 square miles of this habitat left in the UK and around 40% of that is in the North Pennines. A lot of hard work is currently being undertaken to protect and preserve what we have left. For this week's Open Country Helen Mark travels across the north of England, meeting and chatting with some of the people who are working to preserve these precious habitats. Rebecca Barrett of the North Pennines AONB tells Helen about the work they are doing with farmers such as Karen Scott from Low Way Farm in Middleton-in-Teesdale to save the hay meadows. This work involves harvesting seed from a donor field to sow elsewhere in the hope that the hay meadows of the future will begin to grow. Vet, Neville Turner, shows Helen his former beat where he has travelled over a million miles in 30 years in his work , always accompanied by his trusty camera which captured a year in the life of an upland hay meadow. These photographs now accompany a touring play 'Sward! Story of A Meadow' and Helen catches up with the Blaize Theatre Company and its artistic director, Mike Bettison, in the Yorkshire village of Reeth as they prepare for their afternoon performance. And Helen meets hay meadow expert Professor John Rodwell, who tells Helen about his concern over the decline in our upland hay meadows.......after all, who needs a hay meadow museum?
Presenter: Helen Mark
Producer: Helen Chetwynd.