the Bank Holiday traffic on the A35, head along some winding country lanes and
the familiar growl of modern farm machinery was replaced with the tranquil slicing
of hand-held sythes at the first West Country Scythe Festival.
West Country Scythe Festival|
at Fivepenny Farm near Wooton Fitzpaine, the event attracted scythe specialists
from as far as Cumbria, Merseyside and South Wales as well as local people interested
in learning the skill.
of spectators were happy to lie on the freshly mown grass and enjoy the bank holiday
through our Photo Gallery from the West Country Scythe Festival.
labourers hand-mowing with scythes were once a common sight in West Country fields
but as more farm machinery was introduced, the practice almost died out in the
However, festival organiser
Simon Fairley insisted that the event was about more than just showing museum
pieces. He explained how scythes have practical use in today's countryside:
been a revival in interest in scythes, people find them much more pleasant to
use than strimmers but it is a skill that takes sometime to acquire. With
more people buying up organic small-holdings, they find them a congenial tool
for certain jobs, rather than having to pay for large farm machinery to do the
job. It doesn't use fossil fuels, and it doesn't take much resources to
The highlight of the festival was
a competition to find the best mower in the West Country (and probably Britain,
as no-one was aware of another competition of it's kind.)
of eager support, the competitors attacked their five-metre square of uncut grass.
The judges were looking for speed, but also style in evenly shaving the grass
close to the ground and neatly piling up the grass in rows, without bruising it.
spanned all ages and abilities - the oldest pushing 80. One had just
recovered from a kidney transplant and another was pregnant, but it didn't stop
any of them swinging their scythes with plenty of enthusiasm.
The eventual winner of the Mens'
competition was Steve Friend who finished his patch in 2 minutes 13 seconds, ahead
of Robert Ridges on 2 minutes 48 seconds. The womens' competition was won
by Jenny Carter whose 11-minute time was made up for by a high quality of cut.
scything guru Peter Vido made the trip to Dorset especially for the festival to
train people in the art of good scything and wow the crowd with his own precision
technique (including a 360 degree, over-the-head scythe movement!).
explained how there is much more to it that just cutting grass: "It's about
an alternative way of looking at the way we live - it's a vehicle to inspire us
to think about what we use the body for and why we replace it with machines.
Doing things the fast, easy way isn't always the most satisfying. It'll
not make you richer in a material way, but it'll make you richer in all kinds
of other ways."
Peter bases his scything style
on Chinese Tai Chi principles: "You are using your body in a way that makes
you feel good, the way you move with the scythe. If it's a sharp blade,
it's pure pleasure."
Scything is widely practiced
in the rest of Europe, where advances in scythe manufacture have produced tools
that are lighter and nimbler than the traditional English blade. Champion
mowers on the continent can scythe 100 square metres of grass in two to three
A two-day course was also held as part of
the West Country festival, not only teaching the skills needed, but also how to
instruct other people in scything skills. And with Dorset on the 'cutting edge'
of the Scythe renaissance, the organisers are hoping to make the Scythe Festival
an annual event.