This article considers the value of oral history to today's discussions of nature conservation. It shows how the intimate knowledge which farmers have of their farms and past practices can complement sparse data sources on hay meadow decline and change. On another level the oral histories challenge official narratives of the move from hay to silage production and consider how ‘traditional' the prescriptions of current conservation schemes are. The article uncovers the often underplayed significance of ‘community' and non-financial considerations which impact on farming practice. The article concludes that with current mandates to revert to more traditional land management oral history can make a valuable contribution to the future conservation of the British countryside.