MENTION traditional hay-making to many people, and they will think of Thomas Hardy novels - or perhaps Ross Poldark stripped to the waist, carrying out some scything in the popular BBC series, which returned to our screens for another run last weekend. A new festival aimed at exploring the beauty of the Dales upland meadows will take place this summer, Lesley Tate reports.

A NEW festival is being launched in the Yorkshire Dales this summer aimed at bringing people together to enjoy and to learn about the upland hay meadows.

Set at Lower Winskill Farm, near Settle, the Meadow Connections Festival will run over the weekend beginning Friday, July 7.

During the three days, there will be a range of activities giving people the chance to learn new skills and crafts.

There will be scything, drawing, pottery and bee keeping, and also a traditional ceilidh and feast night.

And the weekend will be rounded off with this year's Northern Scythe Championships, which will see competitors from across the region demonstrating their skills as they compete for the title.

There will also be a chance to actually take part in some traditional hay making as part of national open farm day on the Sunday.

The event will kick off on the Friday with a two-day 'learn to scythe’ course covering how to mow with, sharpen and maintain a scythe safely and effectively.

It will be led by internationally recognised scything expert Steve Tomlin.

Various half-day workshops will take place on the Saturday, including natural bee keeping with John Vendy, and learning how to identify flora and fauna with the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust’s wildflower expert Tanya St. Pierre.

There will also be a workshop in how to make enamelled jewellery with local craftswoman Emily Knight, and drawing with nationally renowned Settle-based artist Margaret Uttley.

There will be coil pot making and pit firing with Ken Jaquiery, and and herbal walks and talks with Helen Rideout and Heather Ware.

On the Sunday, national open farm day, there will be talks from farm owner, Tom Lord, who will be offering visitors the opportunity to get stuck in by helping to turn, stack and bring in the hay - as long as the weather is suitable for hay making, of course.

Ruth Pullan, Meadow Connections organiser, said she hoped plenty of people would want to come along and find out about the area's precious hay meadows.

“We hope to help people engage with the ancient hay meadows of the Yorkshire Dales – a precious habitat that is becoming increasingly rare," she said.

" This festival is the first of hopefully many such celebrations and gatherings in the years to come. With camping, delicious local food and a range of activities on offer, we’re looking forward welcoming people of all ages to come and make fond memories for the future.”

Meadow Connections is one of 120 events that make up this year's Flowers of the Dales Festival which celebrates the region’s special wildflowers and natural environment. Other events include guided walks and bumblebee talks, family-friendly nature trails and bug hunts, identification courses, hands-on conservation activities, arts and crafts, and much more.

The Flowers of the Dales Festival is coordinated by Clapham based charity, the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust (YDMT) and is sponsored by Parkfoot Holiday and Park Homes, Ingleton and is supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery.

YDMT’s Flowers of the Dales project officer, Leah Cardus, said: “Meadow Connections is a great example of an event that will give people the chance to learn something new and gain a greater appreciation of the special Yorkshire Dales landscape and the wildlife that thrives here, which is exactly what the annual Flowers of the Dales Festival is all about.”

The full Festival programme can be downloaded from the website . Or to receive a printed copy, send an A5 stamped and self-addressed envelope to: Flowers of the Dales, Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust, Main Street, Clapham, Via Lancaster, LA2 8DP.

Meadow Connections tickets are limited and must be purchased in advance by June 30. Prices vary depending on the activity. For further details please visit the website:, or email or call Ruth Pullan on 07951 399176.