Skip to Content

Special Areas of Conservation

6520 Mountain hay meadows

Natural and semi-natural grassland formations

Description and ecological characteristics

This Annex I type comprises species-rich upland hay meadows on brown earth soils. It is a northern and sub-montane counterpart to 6510 Lowland hay meadows (Alopecurus pratensis, Sanguisorba officinalis).

In the UK this vegetation corresponds to NVC type MG3 Anthoxanthum odoratum – Geranium sylvaticum grassland. Various grasses, including common bent Agrostis capillaris, sweet vernal-grass Anthoxanthum odoratum and cock’s-foot Dactylis glomerata, are prominent in the sward, and are accompanied by a range of associated species, such as wood crane’s-bill Geranium sylvaticum, great burnet Sanguisorba officinalis and pignut Conopodium majus. Populations of rare lady’s-mantle Alchemilla species are found in some meadows.

The floristic composition of mountain hay meadow vegetation in the UK is unlike that found in the rest of Europe.

Distribution of SACs/SCIs/cSACs with habitat 6520 Mountain hay meadows. Click image for enlarged map.

European status and distribution

Mountain hay meadows are recorded from scattered localities in several EU Member States.

UK status and distribution

Mountain hay meadows appear to have declined in extent due to agricultural intensification and now cover a very small area in the UK, considered to be less than 1,000 ha. They occur as scattered fields or small isolated groups of fields in a series of valleys in northern England, with fragmentary outliers of the NVC type in Scotland.

Click here view UK distribution of this species

Site accounts

  • Moor House - Upper Teesdale Cumbria, Tees Valley and Durham
    Upper Teesdale contains actively-managed Mountain hay meadows at their highest altitude in the UK. Though representing a smaller proportion of the national resource than the North Pennine Dales Meadows, the meadows of this site have been managed at an extremely low level of agricultural intensification and show good conservation of habitat structure and function. There are important populations of an extensive suite of hay meadows species, including several rare species of lady’s-mantle (Alchemilla acutiloba, A. monticola and A. subcrenata) and abundant globeflower Trollius europaeus
  • North Pennine Dales Meadows Cumbria, Lancashire, North Yorkshire, Northumberland and Tyne and Wear, Tees Valley and Durham
    The North Pennine Dales contain a series of isolated fields within several north Pennine and Cumbrian valleys. The site encompasses the range of variation exhibited by Mountain hay meadows in the UK and contains the major part of the remaining UK resource of this habitat type. The grasslands included within the site exhibit very limited effects of agricultural improvement and show good conservation of structure and function. A wide range of rare and local meadow species are contained within the meadows, including globeflower Trollius europaeus, the lady’s-mantles Alchemilla acutiloba, A. monticola and A. subcrenata, and spignel Meum athamanticum.

Many designated sites are on private land: the listing of a site in these pages does not imply any right of public access.