These are the results from the competitions held at the 2023 Green Scythe Fair at Muchelney in the Somerset Levels on Sunday June 11th.
This year’s event built upon the successes of last years Green Scythe Festival, both for the individuals competing and for the community of scythers that come together to make it all happen. There is a feeling of renewed energy with new champions and new ideas. The younger generation of scythers are taking scything forward from the foundations built by the stalwarts (who still make a good showing in the competition results). The grass and weather was not bad either!
This year’s festival included demonstrations of scything and hay making, interpretation displays in the marquee, as well as the main competitions in the arena.
Individual 5 x 5 m Sprints
The headline event of the Green Scythe Fair is 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 2023
Richard Toogood is the new Overall Champion with a time of 1 minute 19 seconds combined with a high quality score of 8. Richard was tipped by many to win this year as in lasts year’s competition he was the fastest mower but lost it on quality getting the ‘fast but crap award’. In this progression he follows a great number of experienced mowers. Being a fast proficient mower is one thing, but delivering this in the arena with the pressures of competition is something else. Richard clearly learnt from this experience and refined his technique for 2023. As you can see from his mowing stance he has taken inspiration from top European athletic scythe competitors.
Michael Gerard, last year’s Champion, gave Richard a run for his money being only 3 seconds, and half a point in quality, behind.
Womens’ champion once again is Andi Rickard. It was not her best performance of the season as she was carrying an injury, but still well good enough.
Adeon Waters was the outstanding clear winner of the Quality Cup. Not only did he deliver the highest quality score of 9.5; but was also ranked third overall! He also achieved this using only a 75cm blade. If Adeon was to step up to a 110cm blade with its deeper cut, with practice he could potentially shave up to 30 seconds off his time (as I proved to myself in 2021), enough to challenge for the top!
This is not Adeon’s first time as a competitor, or in winning the Quality Cup. He has been competing since 2017 (then aged 13). He has always been near the top for quality: runner up in 2017, then Quality Cup winner in both 2018 and 2019 – an exceptional mower.
Stalwart Peter Blackwell deserves a special mention here as he matched Adeon’s 9.5 quality score and was just nine seconds slower.
English Scythe Cup
Danny Hodgson won the English Cup. Danny is one of the scythers bringing new ideas to the arena – in this case embracing the old tradition of English Scythes. He has gone from the bottom of the table in 2022 to top in 2023. He recorded the third fastest time but slipped down the ranking a bit with a lower quality score. Danny made his own English snath and benefitted from advice and mentoring from English Scythe advocate Terry Standen (who he now beats into second place in this category).
Colin Close won in this class. Colin never did well with standard factory made snaths and even broke quite a lot! He has recently put his engineering knowledge into refining the design and set up of his bespoke Austrian style snath. The result has been some impressively improved competition performances both here and in other competitions.
Colin’s bespoke snath was fabricated by fellow veteran competitor (and last year’s veteran winner) David Kuegler. As a result Colin beat David – but only just, by just one second and half a quality point!
Competitors in the Veteran class, like Colin and David, have noticeably upped their game in recent years. This will no doubt partly be because there is more competition moving into this class as more of the original cohort of stalwart mowers are progressing into the veteran age.
There were no contenders for this class in 2023!
Table of finalists in the 5 x 5 competition.
The tables are ordered using my formula for combining speed with quality. You can re-sort these tables yourself to view in speed order or by quality.
|Name||Blade cm||Time min:secs||Quality score|
|Richard Toogood||105||01:19||8||Overall Champion|
|Michael Gerrard||115||01:22||7.5||2nd Overall|
|Adeon Waters||75||01:50||9.5||Quality Champion and 3rd Overall|
|Danny Hodgson||E 95||01:25||6.5||English Scythe Champion|
|Terry Standen||E 91||01:48||7.5|
|Andi Rickard||110||01:43||7||Women’s Champion|
|Colin Close||95||02:11||7||Veteran Champion|
|David Kuegler||75||02:12||6.5||2nd Veteran|
|Beth Tilston||75||03:52||8||2nd Women’s|
|Julie Rubiella||75||04:47||9||3rd Women’s|
|Mike Ingram||E 61||05:59||8|
|Chris Symondson||65||05:51||3||Womens Veteran|
A Full list of qualifying heats results can be found further down in this post
Four teams of seven mowers lined out, each with a strip to mow 40 metres long x 1.8m wide. The teams are balanced beforehand each having a mix of experienced and novice mowers. Each competitor is allocated a section to mow proportional to their capability and speed. All the mowers then mow at the same time in an impressive frenzy of mass scything. In this way the whole race lasts only around two minutes.
As last year the team led by Peter Blackwell won.
Scythe vs Strimmer (petrol brush-cutter)
Tracy Harris and Peter Blackwell stepped up for the challenge of mowing in competition against Simon Cooter and his Stihl petrol brush cutter.
Simon was determined that the scythes should not have it all their way, having lost convincingly last year (and the years before that). He made his gaffer-tape devil-horns bigger, and he bought a brand new specialist grass cutting blade that he said would be a winner..
Simon did indeed give the scythers a good race. Peter with his scythe felt the pressure but was still the clear winner with 17 seconds to spare. Tracy didn’t quite beat the machine on time, but finishing only 3 seconds after Simon, once quality was taken into consideration (based on cheers and boos from the unbiased audience), scythers Peter and Tracy were both declared triumphant and the brush cutter lost again!
The hay race as always was a great spectacle and fun to watch, it draws a big supportive crowd. The evident enthusiasm and determination of the competitors taking part is what matters. Who wins and whether this matters is less clear.
Qualifying heats results
|Chris Symondson||00:48||5.0||V F|
|Mary Lorimer||03:44||4.5||V F|
You will notice that the ranking of performance of mowers in the heats does not usually translate through to the finals.
Firstly the more experienced powerful mowers know they do not have to push themselves too hard to qualify, maybe even wishing to save their energy and not give too much away about their form to their rivals. Also the narrow swathe of the heats does not favour large blades.
Secondly, especially for mowers with less experience of competitions, performance pressure and adrenaline in the main arena can make competitors ‘lose it’ in the moment. Pushing too hard can lead to critical loss of control and coordination and quality suffers as a result. This is the root of the fast but crap phenomena. Luke Crichton for example, the top ranked competitor in the heats with a heats quality 8, dropped to quality 5 in the finals.
Scythe course attendees commendations
These heats are run as a series of mini races of 4 – 6 entrants in each qualifying race. Within this attendees of the Beginners scythe course and the Improvers class from the previous days were invited to compete together as groups as part of the heats.
The Beginners class are all mowers with no prior experience with a scythe before the weekend. Of these John Thornton was awarded the medal for the best result with a heat time of 1 min 5 seconds; quality 6. Beginners Celia Smith and Mo Mulligan were also commended by the judges; Mo with the best quality score in this class of 7.
Steve Liney was the best mower from the Improvers course category with a heat time of 45 seconds and quality 7. Anna Tolsen received an honorable mention from the judges.
The event and competitions would not happen without the unstinting efforts of the Green Scythe Fair Crew, both before and during the event – an amazing team! Most are included in the photo above but there are some missing, notably Adrian Thomas, Andi Rickard and Kevin Austin who between them coordinated the scythe courses over the weekend.
Honourable mention must be given to Chris Riley (above left) who had the daunting task of coordinating everything between the GSF event committee and the scythe crew. Chris has announced that he will be retiring from this role for 2024. His input and clear direction will be missed and it will be a challenge for his successor(s) to fit his many hats.
Special thanks also due to Caroline Cooter (top right) and Mary Ellis for keeping track of the competition scoring and judging. Quite a scary responsibility as so many keen mowers’ hopes ride on these results!
Mark Allery deserves a special mention for holding everything together on the day as compere and announcer (including fixing up the PA system). He also hosted the awards ceremony with Chris Riley. In the photo below he is presenting a lifetime medal to Simon Fairlie in appreciation of all he has done over the years to make the event what it is.
Hopefully with the new enthusiasm and hard work coming from the new generation of scythers this legacy will continue for many haytimes to come.
Photo credits. The fantastic photos in this post were supplied by Christiane Laganda and Andi Kurzyca, also Richard Brown and Danny Hodgson/ Helene.