This year’s Green Scythe Fair and 16th West Country scythe competition was all good: the weather was good, the grass was good to mow, and gathering back the scythe community after three years absence, was more than good. There were smiles a plenty, and not just from winners of competitions.
The standout image from the scythe festival (which featured in the Times newspaper) was of our demonstration of synchronised non-competitive community mowing This beautifully illustrates the success of our aim to give equal prominence to demonstrations of scythe mowing as an engaging enjoyable pursuit, and one of practical utility (as in the hay race and scythe vs strimmer); as much as promoting scything proficiency and excellence with the headline competitions.
In organising this year’s event we bought forward several innovations in the way the event and competitions were organised to maximise the engagement and enjoyment for both the participants and the wider Green Fair audience (the mass mow pictured above being one of them). These I will highlight in footnotes through the following (quite long) report.
Individual 5 x 5 m Sprints
Notwithstanding the above, the headline event of the Green Scythe Fair is without doubt the individual competition; this selects and recognises our best mowers as champions. These competitions aim to inspire excellence and serve as a standard to aim for in both speed and quality.
Overall Champion 2022
We have a new Overall Champion this year: Michael Gerrard
with a time of 1 min 9 secs and quality 8.
Michael is an engineer by training and so quite a technical mower. He bought his own design scythe set up to the competition : a modified English snath with a 115cm hardstal blade, modified with a beard brace, which Michael describes as “heavy but super stiff”.
Women’s champion once again is Andi Rickard
with a time of 1min 18 secs and quality of 7.
Andi is a very committed competitor, also mowing with a custom competition scythe set up
– always a scyther to watch and learn from
The prestigious quality cup was won by Tracy Harris with a faultless quality score of 9, matched with a good time of 2 mins 23 secs.
This also placed her second to Andi in the Women’s class.
Tracy is a stalwart competitor who has been competing at Muchelney for a number of years, improving each time, truly earnt this result.
Champion in the Veterans class is David Kuegler with a particularly impressive personal best time of 1 min 59 secs and a quality of 8. This is all the more impressive a result if compared to David’s 2019 performance of 11mins 40secs and quality 6; he has clearly putting in a lot of scythe practice over lockdown!
English Scythe cup
Championing the cause for ‘Real English Scythes’ is Terry Standen
with a fast time of 1 minute 17 seconds and a quality of 6.
Whilst Terry’s time was up there with the top mowers, both his, and second placed English Scythesman Danny Hodgson did not cut the grass to the same quality as the Austrian scythes.
The special honour of the Fast-but-Crap cup goes to newcomer Richard Toogood.
Whilst he finished his 5 x 5 plot in the fastest time 1 min 04 secs, his grass plot was not cut well, his quality a poor 4.5.
Many other notable scythers have won the Fast-but-Crap award on their path to better things -so, a competitor to watch out for in future (for his natty dress sense if not his scything!)
Table of finalists in the 5 x 5 competition.
The performance of each competitor matters. In this regard, watching mowers who get the scything bug progress year on year from ‘fast-but-crap’, to ‘much improved’, and achieving personal best scores, is truly what this competition is all about. When the awards are given our we all cheer and celebrate our success with the winners.
|Michael Gerrard||01:09||8||Overall Champion|
|Simon Damant||01:19||7.5||2nd Overall|
|Peter Blackwell||01:32||8.5||3rd overall|
|Andi Rickard||01:18||7||Women’s Champion|
|Terry Standen||01:17||6||English Scythe Champion|
|David Kuegler||01:59||8||Veteran Champion|
|Tracy Harris||02:23||9||Quality Champion and |
|Shane O’Reilly||04:25||5.5||2nd Veteran’s|
|Julie Rubiella||05:40||6.5||3rd Women’s|
|Danny Hodgson||03:15||4.5||2nd English scythe|
Both speed and quality are important in judging the results from the competition. With speed being absolute, and quality more subjective, balancing considerations of the two can be tricky. There is no single simple formula that can be applied, especially as the grass can vary so much in character from one year to another.
The grass at Muchelney this year was generally easy to mow to a good standard. Furthermore, we had plenty of grass to allocate to 5 x 5 plots which meant that we were able to assess the plots beforehand and reject from the competition any poor plots (eg with wheel tracks), and ensure the top finalists from the heats were allocated plots of evenly matched good mowable grass.
The consensus for both heats and finals, given the good grass quality this year, was that mowers who on they day did not manage to mow to a standard of at least Quality 5 would not be considered for advancement to the finals or for awards (other than Fast-but Crap and with some concession being given to English Scythes).
I have chosen to present the results tables ordered by speed, but with ranking adjusted for quality, and with all scores of less than 5 grouped at the foot of the tables. The ranking formula I prefer for this is to multiply each time x 9 (9 = Q max score), then divide this by each quality score. These adjusted times determine the ranking in my lists. With this system fast times of similar high quality are penalised the least; and poor-quality slower mows are given progressively higher time penalties. (NB. This is not necessarily the system adopted by the judges on the day who remain independent).
Qualifying Heats Results: Full results of the 64 competitors who entered in the qualifying heats are given further down in this article.
Team results (in order)
|1||01:07||(1:21)||Peter Blackwell||Camilo Liarte||Colin Close||Danny Hodgson||Jonathon Adams||Jared Hills|
|2||01:12||(0:56)||Simon Damant||Nigel Adams||Joe Haywood||Andi Rickard||Beth Tilston||Lena Polymenakou|
|3||01:13||(1:12)||Kevin Austin||Simon Cooter||Raphi Martin||Richard Stump||Hannah Holden||Neil Gemmell|
|4||01:44||(1:12)||Michael Gerrard||Phil Batten||Sarah Robinson||Tom Waters||Tracy Harris||Rachel Remnant|
Team competition Footnotes
For the team races we implemented a new format first trialled sucessfully in small scythe events in 2021. The objective of this new format is to put on a race which is quicker, a better spectacle for the audience, and is safer (less risk of blade clashes as compared to the old relay format).
The race itself was quite an exciting spectacle as hoped for. All four teams, 24 mowers in all, started simultaneously in a frenzy of mowing. The whole team competition area was cut and completed in just 1 minute 44 secs!
Each team of six mowers is allocated a long narrow 44 x 1.8m lane to mow. All four teams mow against each other in a race, with all competitors spaced out and starting to mow simultaneously. Each mower is allocated a different amount of grass which is matched to their potential (based on heat times and past results) – with champion mowers mowing the most and novice mowers least.
If planned optimally all six members of a team should complete their allocated section of the 44m lane together. The winning team is the one that finishes first. There is an expectation that competitors will mow to an adequate standard so quality is not assessed, but rival teams may launch a protest if a team is deemed to have cheated on quality.
*Team selection was allocated based on heat or past competition results to produce four teams of mixed ability and with teams having similar performance potential (averaged over the team). Based on these assessments in the results table I have I have been able to present in brackets a calculated estimated potential time for each team.
With this format a winning team is one which arranges its mowers optimally , and in which all six team member give of their best. All mowers have to finish their allocated section, other team members who finish early cannot assist.
Team 1: The winning team led by Peter Blackewell finished in a time that was significantly better than predicted from heat results – a good effort by all!
Team 2: led by Simon Damant, were a bit unbalanced due to last minute team substitutions. They came second falling short of their estimated time expectation as Joe’s new snath snapped in two half way through his section!
Demonstration team mowing
The frenetic mowing spectacle of the team races was followed by a number of contrasting demonstrations of non-competitive, graceful synchronised team mowing. To give prominence to this other mowing style , which is in practice more closely related to regular mowing experience away from the competition field.
We made sure that we allocated plenty of space for these events, and positioned it so the audience could get close and feel the vibe. These demonstrations were well received by both participants and spectators. (Photo at head of post)
Like the team mowing demonstrations this regular part of the festival about shows what scything is really about and for – making hay together!
(Hay Race Report 2022 by Lloyd Newman)
With the weather fine and the grass light we had some quality fully dried hay to play with this year at Thorney Lakes. An incredible team of volunteers formed over the week to ensure the haymaking and hay race setup was all ready to go for the big day on Sunday. So after days of scything, spreading and rowing up the scene was set for the 2022 Hay Race!
The finest haymakers around were gathered into two teams of four, The Not So Giant Haystacks – Camillo, Julie, Danny and Nicole were up against The Budget Bailers – Neil, Raffi, Ida and Lloyd. The team captains went up for the toss, the Budget Bailers electing to clear the windward side in the hope any stray strands would end up in the other teams half. Tools were chosen, game plans deliberated and we were off in a flurry of activity with hay being flicked, pushed, raked, racked and pitched over our characterful lofted stock fence.
As is traditional our very own adjudicator, judge and historical expert Mark Allery gave an excellent informative running commentary. After 5-10 minutes the teams were done, the Not So Giant Haystacks finishing first with the Budget Bailers just behind, the wind made it difficult to get the last of the hay to stay on top of the racks (that’s my excuse anyway) and we ended up with some interestingly shaped hay creatures!
Mark deemed the better team on the day to be the Not So Giant Haystacks for their superior speed and quality of the hay rack with the Budget Bailers coming in a close second. There were congratulations and sweaty hugs all round before disbanding to find a cup of tea and get some rest. The rivalries will have to wait until next year . . .
The Scythe vs Strimmer Challenge
This is the challenge where traditionally we pitch our of our Scythe Champions against a petrol brush-cutter to demonstrate that in skilled hands the scythe is far from an outdated and slow tool for cutting grass, but is a real contender, and in fact our Scythe champion almost always easily wins on both speed and quality.
This year I found myself stepping in as a last minute substitution (as the real past Champions were all otherwise engaged getting prepared for their individual finals). My hope and expectation going into this mow-off was that, as only a middle ranked speed mower, I might be able to match the speed of the brush cutter and win a draw on a quality decision. I would have been satisfied with this as it still proves what we all know that a scythe is at least as good as a brush cutter, and superior in so many other ways.
Simon Cooter is a proficient qualified brush-cuter operator (as well as scyther) who always looks to demonstrate his professional skills and win if he can.
I was therefore both surprised and pleased to win our 7 metre sprint race comfortably in about 42 seconds with 33 seconds to spare, Simon with his brush cuter finishing in about 1 minute 15 seconds. (times estimated from video footage as I forgot to delegate time keeping when I stepped in to compete!).
As a finale to this scythe vs machine demonstration Simon Damant stepped in with his new electric battery powered ‘Eco’ brush cutter. We ran this demo afterwards for safety reasons, and because it would have been impossible to appreciate the quiet operation of the electric mower above the raucous petrol engine strimmer. Anyway, realising that he had no real chance of beating either scythe or petrol machine (being armed only with a rubber flexible cutting head), Simon went for speed and comedy over quality and literally walked it – with a laughable attempt at actual mowing.
Qualifying heats results
Sixty scythe mowers signed in to enter the qualifying heats aiming to win a place in the 5 x 5 finals.
In line with our aim to make the competitions better for competitors and audience, and to run smoothly and safely, we implemented a number of changes this year to the way the qualifying heats were ran.
The main change was to run the heats as a series of mini races with six competitors mowing agisnt each other in each round. Each mower was tasked with mowing a standard 1.8 x 5 metre plot in the best time and quality.. This gave the onlookers something more accessible to follow, but also made the heats run more smoothly and quickly.
Results were posted on a leader board as the competition progressed, and later used to judge which entrants would be selected to go forward into the 5 x 5 finals in each competition category (no entrants this year in the Junior class). The table below is ranked following my system as described above.
|P. Teddy Sawyer||02:30||4.0|
Behind the scenes
A big enormous thank you to everybody who came together to work to make this years event such a joyous success…too many to mention individually .. just few visual clues here as examples of keeping us to time and in sync with the GSF
.. and of working behind the scenes (literally), and coordinating the infrastructure build (below).
Thanks also to those who contributed the photos for this post (again sorry for not putting individual credits I don’t want to risk missing someone out).
It was a true team effort.