Page last updated at 10:59 GMT, Monday, 4 May 2009 11:59 UK

Hay meadows require helping hands

Globeflowers planted in hay meadow
Hay meadows are home to plants such as globeflowers

Green-fingered volunteers are needed to help safeguard the future of a rare grassland habitat.

The North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is home to many of the UK's last upland hay meadows.

As part of a long-term preservation project, volunteers are being sought to collect seeds by hand, grow them on, and then transplant them.

Training will be given, but anyone wanting to help will need space to grow the plants, and "a lot of patience".

In the AONB, which spans Cumbria, Northumberland, County Durham and Teesdale, the meadows provide an important home for wildlife, as they can contain up to 100 different plant species in each field.

Harsh climate

Neil Diment, Hay Time community officer at the North Pennines AONB Partnership, said the project was looking for "some very special" people.

"As well as a general interest in conservation and some gardening experience, our seed collectors will need some basic botanical knowledge and space to grow on their seedlings," he said.

"They will also need to live within or very near to the AONB as their little seedlings will have to get use to the harsh climate and altitude in the meadows where we hope they will eventually be transplanted."

He added: "Above all they will need the time and patience.

"Experience has shown so far that it can take a couple of years or even more for some of the seeds to grow strong enough to be able to survive out in the hay meadows."

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