Many of the upland hay meadows that surround the village of Muker are species-rich or undergoing hay meadow restoration. The meadows are actively farmed, privately owned and some of them are protected as part of the Muker Meadows Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and the Northern Pennine Dales Meadows Special Area of Conservation (SAC). The Muker area provides one of the best places to see upland hay meadows from public rights of way in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, as some of the public footpaths take you right through the middle of these stunning habitats.
Hay meadows are at their best for a very short time after grazing animals have been excluded and before the hay is ready to be cut. Therefore, the best time to see the Muker meadows and other similar meadows such as those in Langstrothdale, Swaledale, Dentdale and Wharfedale is between late May and early July. At this time of year you may see many wild flowers typical of this habitat, such as the commonly seen meadow buttercup, selfheal, pignut and red clover; the less common bistort, eyebright, yellow-rattle and betony and even some of the specialist plants of upland hay meadows such as the globeflower, lady’s-mantle, wood crane’s-bill and melancholy thistle. These wild flowers are accompanied by hay meadow grasses such as sweet vernal grass, common bent and crested dog’s-tail. It is this assemblage of plant species that is indicative of the nationally scarce upland hay meadow habitat. The Hay Time project aims to restore species-rich hay meadows within the Yorkshire Dales National Park, as well as promote a greater understanding and enjoyment of these special grasslands.
When harvested, hay is an important fodder crop for the farmer’s livestock. Therefore, please keep to the public footpaths, walk in single file where the paths cross a hay meadow, take care not to trample the growing hay and follow the Countryside Code. Please keep dogs under close control, preferably on a lead, and please clean up after them. There is a whole network of paths around the village of Muker.