A DALES based charity is calling on the help of the public to help it secure thousands of pounds to carry out the restoration of wildflower meadows both in the Yorkshire Dales National Park and in the Forest of Bowland.

The Clapham-based Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust (YDMT) is one of several organisations whose projects have been shortlisted by the European Outdoor Conservation Association (EOCA) to receive funding of 30,000 Euros - about £26,000.

Winning the money will allow the YDMT to bring back to life 60 hectares - about 148 acres - of degraded meadows, inspiring people to enjoy the beauty of this priority habitat. It will also use what it has learnt already on wild meadow restoration by working with farmers and landowners.

But first, the charity needs the support of people - and for them to vote before the deadline of March 29.

The funding, if won, will mean the project will be able to study and restore meadows in both the Dales and the Forest of Bowland, measuring the extent, quality, carbon capture and wildlife value of previously restored upland hay meadows. Rarer species such as globeflower and melancholy thistle will also be re-introduced as part of the project.

It is widely acknowledged that meadows are crucial in addressing biodiversity loss and climate change, and support more than 700 species of wild plants and a rich variety of animal life. However, they are also amongst the rarest and most threatened habitats in the UK, with more than 97 per cent having been lost in the last century.

For 17 years, the YDMT has been trying to fight the decline and in turn help restore the habitat of pollinators, such as bees, wasps hoverflies and butterflies.

David Sharrod, YDMT chief executive, said: “This loss of wildflower-rich habitats is the most significant reason behind the drastic declines in pollinator populations. Much of our surviving wildflower-rich habitat now exists as just small fragments, leaving populations of invertebrates isolated from each other, separated by intensively managed farmland and by our towns and cities."

He added: “Since 2006, we have led efforts to counter this decline through restoration and better management of species-rich hay meadows. Restoring the wide range of wildflowers to a degraded meadow can take several years, but we have set 800 hectares - about 1,676 acres - on the road to recovery. We have also raised awareness of the losses and threats – as well as the solutions – with the public, land managers, NGOs (Non-Profit Organisations) and policy makers."

Mr Sharrod said there was also an issue with available government funding getting to where it was needed, but with the charity's expertise, it was able to help farmers and landowners to act and help save meadows. He said: “Uptake of government funding for meadow restoration has been slow and relies on individual farmers applying, coordinating seed donor and receptor sites and having extensive knowledge of meadow restoration.

"Furthermore, many smaller landowners are not eligible for traditional agri-environment schemes. This, coupled with the uncertainty around the new Environment Land Management Scheme, makes meadow restoration a challenge for farmers, even where there is a strong desire to restore the land. This is where our project is different - using our experience of working in partnership with the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority and Forest of Bowland AONB we are able to act now to inspire, train and enable farmers and landowners to take action to save our meadows.”

Meadows support countless species of pollinators including bumblebees, solitary bees, butterflies and moths, as well as other insect life such as grasshoppers and beetles. Nearly 1,400 insect species rely on meadows and this habitat is particularly important for lapwings and curlews, both of which are priority species identified in the Yorkshire Dales Nature Recovery Plan.

Mr Sharrod added: “With the public's support, our project will bring people together through a citizen science project to revisit a representative portion of the 800ha of wildflower meadows we have started to restore since 2006. We will be able to obtain a detailed picture of the state of upland hay meadows in the region.

“We will also provide a host of activities ranging from meadow management and botanical identification training to guided and self-guided walks, inspiring people to support the sustainability of this priority habitat.”

The Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust is a small charity doing 'big things in the Yorkshire Dales'. Find out more about the charity and its work at: www.ydmt.org. Its work is supported by players of People's Postcode Lottery www.postcodelottery.co.uk The YDMT needs as much help as it can to secure funding; voting for the European Outdoor Conservation Association project opened on Wednesday, March 15 and ends on Wednesday, March 29. To vote, visit www.bit.ly/meadowrescue