Autumn mowing to restore balance

Whilst midsummer hay time in June/July is undoubtedly the most important mowing event in the scything calendar, there is important work for the scythe in meadows both in spring (which I wrote about in the new year) and the aftermath regrowth of late summer and Autumn.


Mowing dry unproductive grassland at Heacham which only requires one cut per year to maintain balance for wildlife.

Meadow and grassland which has regrown since the midsummer hay cut, or perhaps has missed a summer hay cut altogether, really does benefit from autumn mowing; it helps maintain or restore balance in grassland communities.


Overview of dry grassland management at Heacham

Timing, number of cuts and type of mowing all have significant effects on structure and diversity of grassland.  The dry grassland I manage at Heacham is a good illustration of this. In the overview above the larger area on the right is just topped once a year with a tractor mounted rotary mower and cuttings left.  This is a basic holding operation only; it prevents bramble and scrub invasion and maintains some limited grassland structure. The central and area to the left has been mown by scythe with cuttings removed.  This is the second year I have mown this patch, and already the structure is noticeably better; easier to mow, and looks to have more potential for diversity.

Meadows which are cut for hay in the summer often produce a significant amount of regrowth through late summer and into Autumn. This ‘aftermath’ (as it is known to farmers) needs to be grazed back (traditionally) or mown to help prevent vigorous grasses and herbs dominating. This is particularly important on fertile soils and in damp summers.


Meadows on moderately fertile soils which are not cut for hay in the summer and left uncut through to Autumn can suffer losses of quality and diversity.  Taller more dominant plants have more time to grow unchecked smothering out low growing and less competitive herbs and grasses.The meadow pictured has been cut late (October) for several years. The sward is now becoming rank and dominated by more robust species such as Meadow crane’s-bill (Geranium pratense) and Knapweed (Centaurea nigra).

Grassland which grows tall and lush into the autumn typically starts to collapse and die back leaving a mat of dead and rotting vegetation at its base. This blanket of grass smothers smaller plants and releases nutrients back to the soil rather than removing them with a hay crop.  These nutrients plus the blanket of dead grass further encourages the dominance of coarser grasses and weeds.  Studies have shown that areas that are left uncut for just one year can lose species.

These losses are reversible with good grassland management but may take several years to put right. If autumn ground conditions allow cut back the standing vegetation at the first opportunity. Collect and remove the cuttings as best you can (not easy with a wet laid crop), this will remove some nutrients and limit the quantity of mulch laying on the meadow.  Resume mowing management in spring taking a cut in early March where necessary.  Ensure that you cut and remove hay from neglected sections of your meadow promptly in July over the next few years to reset the balance of fine and coarse components in the sward and to offset the build up of nutrients and thatch from the missed year.

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The 2016 Wimpole Scythe Festival

This gallery contains 15 photos.

Originally posted on Wympole & Wratsworth:
The West Country Scythe Festival 2016 A good time was had by all at the West Country Scythe festival if a bit wet on Sunday, the results can be found here. ? Setting up…

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Wimpole scything festival 2016 video

A video for your amusement, Jim McVittie suggested the Morris men and a fine additional they were.

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Community Scything in the North-West

Community scything and another competition, in the NW, free to all.

Steve Tomlin Crafts

One of the nicest things about scything is that the lack of noise makes it a lovely community activity. Chatting while you work and seeing a huge amount of work done is a great feeling and how communities made hay in the past.

This month there are a couple of opportunities to get together to scythe with other people here in the North West. It’s a chance to mow some beautiful meadow grass while meeting like-minded folk and improving your skills.

15-16 July: Hay Time Party at Bell Sykes Farm – the Coronation Meadow for Lancashire (see poster for details)
21 July: 6am Dawn Scything & Rustic breakfast at Brantwood House, Cumbria La218AD. Contact Sally Beamish 015394 41396. Mowing the shore meadow in preparation for the Outdoor Theatre events.

Hay Time Lancashire 2016

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Team racing in Somerset 2016

A short video of the team races at the West Country scything festival 2016.

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12th West Country Scythe Festival Competition Results 2016

5 x 5 metre Results

As in last year year’s final only seconds separated the three fastest mowers. Kevin Austin emerged as the new undisputed  champion with both the fastest time and best quality of the three.  Mark Allery proved the English scythe by coming third; very close to former champion Simon Damant’s second place. Ladies Champion Andi Rickard was only just behind third place overall with her time and quality.


Phil, Kevin and Simon awaiting the judges decision. (Photo Dave Oxford)


Overall Champion Time Quality Placing
Kevin Austin 1′ 42” 8 1
Simon Damant 1′ 51” 7.5 2
Mark Allery 1′ 48” 7 3
Ladies Champion
Andi Rickard 2′ 03” 7.5 1
Beth Tilston 6′ 16” 8 2
Ida Fabrizio 8’17” 8 3
Ruth Pullen 7’38” 7 4
English Scythe Cup
Mark Allery 1′ 48” 7 1
Terry Standing 2′ 36” 5 2
John Fenn 6′ 48” 4 3
Veteran Cup
John Fenn 6′ 48” 4 1
Chris Matcham 7′ 43″ 3 2
Mark Brittain 8′ 51″ 4.5 3
Quality Cup
Charlie Quinnell 7′ 53″ 9 1
Richard Brown 3′ 40″ 8.5
Olga Damant 25′ 00″ 8.5
Junior Champion
Adeon Waters 8

Full Results from Finals

The grass was heavier and wetter than 2015 typically slowing times down by 25 -30 seconds.  In spite of the more difficult mowing conditions speed and quality did not diverge as much as 2015.  For interest the results are presented below in both speed order and quality order.

Speed  Time  Q Quality  Time  Q
Kevin Austin 1:42 8 Charlie Quinnell 7:53 9
Mark Allery 1:48 7 Richard Brown 3:40 8.5
Simon Damant 1:51 7.5 Olga Damant 25:00 8.5
George Montague 1:52 5.5 Kevin Austin 1:42 8
Andi Rickard 2:03 7.5 Beth Tilston 6:16 8
Andy Coleman 2:05 6 Ida Fabrizio 8:17 8
Terry Standing 2:36 5 Simon Damant 1:51 7.5
Phil Batten 2:38 7 Andi Rickard 2:03 7.5
Dan Britton 3:35 7.5 Dan Britton 3:35 7.5
Richard Brown 3:40 8.5 Mark Allery 1:48 7
Peter Blackwell 4:18 6.5 Phil Batten 2:38 7
Neil Gemmel 6:05 6.5 Chris Riley 7:20 7
Beth Tilston 6:16 8 Ruth Pullen 7:38 7
George Maule 6:38 3 Peter Blackwell 4:18 6.5
John Fenn 6:48 4 Neil Gemmel 6:05 6.5
Michael Gerrard 7:15 5 Andy Coleman 2:05 6
Chris Riley 7:20 7 George Montague 1:52 5.5
Ruth Pullen 7:38 7 Daisy Parsons 9:51 5.5
Chris Matcham 7:43 5 Terry Standing 2:36 5
Charlie Quinnell 7:53 9 Michael Gerrard 7:15 5
Ida Fabrizio 8:17 8 Chris Matcham 7:43 5
Mark Brittain 8:51 4.5 Mark Brittain 8:51 4.5
Daisy Parsons 9:51 5.5 John Fenn 6:48 4
Olga Damant 25:00 8.5 George Maule 6:38 3

Results of Qualifying Heats

The heats are assessed on the distance mown (6 ft /1.8m  swath) in 1 minute and quality.

53 people entered the heats this year (compared to 65 in 2015)

In alphabetical order by surname.

Distance Quality
Nigel Adams 3.7 5.5
Mark Allery 9.0 7.5
Antony Aslett 2.4 4.5
Kevin Austin 6.9 8.0
Phil Batten 7.0 7.5
Peter Blackwell 4.6 8.5
Mark Brittain 2.1 6.5
Dan Britton 4.6 8.0
Richard Brown 6.3 7.0
Colin Close 3.0 7.0
Andy Coleman 6.2 7.0
Graham Cook 1.2 5.5
Ben Critchley 1.9 5.5
Olga Damant 2.5 8.0
Simon Damant 8.2 7.5
Mary Durling 2.4 6.5
Ida Fabrizio 3.6 5.5
John Fenn 6.4 8.5
Neil Gemmel 4.5 8.5
Michael Gerrard 4.2 6.5
Tracy Harris 2.8 7.5
Veronica Hudson 2.9 3.5
Darren Hulbert 3.7 6.5
Camilo Laarte 3.4 7.5
Dide Lucas 1.7 8.5
Elliet Mackrell 2.4 2.0
Chris Matcham 4.1 3.0
George Mauls 4.9 5.0
Mark Melbourne 2.7 5.5
George Monbiot 4.4 4.5
George Montague 8.7 7.5
Nathen Muriatroyd 2.4 9.0
Shane O’Reilly 2.8 7.5
Daisy Parsons 3.8 5.0
Linda Perry 2.8 8.0
Fiona Pollock 2.3 7.5
Shane Potts 1.6 7.5
Ruth Pullen 4.0 6.5
Charlie Quinnell 4.3 8.0
Tish Rickard 2.0 5.0
Andi Rickard 7.1 6.5
Chris Riley 4.0 7.5
Sarah Robinson 2.6 6.5
Terry Standing 7.0 8.0
James Thurtle 2.8 5.5
Beth Tilston 3.9 7.5
James Tinker 2.5 5.0
Rosetta Tolkovsky 3.0 3.0
Phil Wakefield 3.0 4.5
Adeon Waters 2.4 8.0
Anthony Waters 2.7 6.0
Jeremy Weiss 3.8 7.0

Team mowing Results

To follow

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Scythe Improvers’ Course 2016

Why Struggle? 
Learn how to get your blades sharper and to scythe expertly
at the
at the
West Country Scythe Fair

Friday 10 and Saturday 11 June 
• mowers with some experience who want to develop their skills;
• team leaders managing volunteers or staff;
• people who want to teach scythe use to others.

Over two days, you will get personal attention from three of the most experienced teachers in the UK:
Christiane Laganda, scythe and yoga teacher from Austria;
Phil Batten master peener and scythe competition winner from Scythe Cymru;
and Steve Tomlin author of the definitive scythe manual Learn to Scythe.

The course covers: correct set up of the tool; your mowing stance and style; sharpening, peening and repairing blades; teaching and organizing volunteers and novices.

The venue is at Thorney Lakes. Muchelney, near Langport
The cost is £125 for individuals, £150 for organizations, £80 concession for unwaged. Meals are provided. Camping on site is available. Includes live Gypsy Jazz from the Gaulois Brothers on Saturday evening.

Nicole Clough of Bucks Berks and Oxon Wildlife Trust who did this course two years ago writes:
I came away with a far deeper understanding of the scythe and my technique, as well as the tools and course structure to teach others in a safe and efficient manner. It has revolutionised our team at BBOWT, and we now use scythes for a great many of our tasks. As a result our management is more wildlife sensitive and volunteer friendly. A number of my colleagues have now also done the course, with more booked on in the future. This has enabled us to train in the region of 50 staff and volunteers across our three counties in just 2 years. Great for wildlife, great for people.

To book, email Simon at tel 01297 561359

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