Hundreds of acres of flower-rich farmland have been bought by the National Trust to throw a lifeline to declining wildlife, PA reports.
The £2.15 million deal to buy 186 hectares (460 acres) of land in the Peak District – an area equivalent to 260 football pitches – is the biggest farmland acquisition by the Trust since it bought Trevose Head in Cornwall in 2016.
The 80 hectares (198 acres) of land at High Fields at Stoney Middleton and the 106-hectare (262-acre) farm at Greensides near Buxton are home to “unusually large areas of hay meadows and flower rich grassland”.
They also support a wide range of bugs and butterflies, as well as small mammals and birds, the Trust said.
Making the announcement on National Meadows Day, the conservation charity said the kind of species-rich grassland found on the two farms need protection because 97% have been lost since the 1930s.
Having raised the money to buy the farms thanks to legacies left by supporters, the Trust said it will now work with partners to join up 1,342 hectares (3,316 acres) of nature-friendly landscape.
The geology and soils of the White Peak landscape provide ideal conditions for a wide range of plants from the early purple orchid and mountain pansy to cowslips, rock roses and bilberries.
The landscape is also home to common blue butterflies, meadow pipits, skylarks, brown hares and great crested newts, and has rare examples of limestone pavement which supports many ferns and wildflowers.
There also dewponds at High Fields originally created as watering holes for livestock and which now provide wetland habitat for the protected great crested newt.
“This is testament to the generations of farmers that have cared for them, farming them traditionally and in tune with nature.”
He said that while the impact of post-Brexit support for farming and land management was uncertain, the area was one that could be farmed more intensively.
“By buying this land we have the opportunity to conserve and enhance what is there and work with other farmers and land managers to contribute to caring for the wider landscape and ensuring connectivity.”
Patrick Begg, outdoors and natural resources director for the conservation charity said protecting and enhancing such sites and linking up habitat to the wider farmed landscape was needed across the UK to restore lost nature and wildlife.
The Trust will begin with short-term land management plans, with High Fields likely to be grazed by cattle to restore and maintain the rich variety of wildlife and at Greensides there is the potential for more focus on its special hay meadows.