Shropshire Hills Hay Meadow Festival Report

This Hay Meadow festival was held on Saturday 24 July 2021 behind the Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre (run by the Charity GROW COOK LEARN) where there are 30 acres of meadows beside the Onny river.

The meadow selected for the festival and scything competition was uneven, lumpy ground with dense, wiry vegetation including dock, lady’s bedstraw, yellow trefoil, mallow and thistles creating very tough mowing conditions.

It was a dry weekend. Heavy rain had been forecast, but there were only two micro showers of about two minutes each during the day. At dawn there had been absolutely no dew which didn’t help the mowing conditions, but was lovely for the campers.

The festival was a gentle affair attracting about 1000 people to the interesting crafts, food and local wildlife groups’ stalls with wildlife and conservation talks and walks plus a music tent.

In the morning a steady stream of festival goers signed up for the scythe Have a Go session.  In all about 50 people tried mowing, led by Mary E and Jane O’R. One person stayed nearly an hour and returned later for a second go. Bitten by the bug, he will be going on a scythe course and help out mowing locally with Simon Cooter up at the Stiperstones.

In parallel, Jim McV led a mowing clinic to review people’s scythe set up and technique, while Peter B and Shane O’R started running the heats. When Shane went to help with the long queue of Have a Goers, Hannah Holden took over with the heats. New to the scything scene, she and partner Joe Haywood are a real asset, and decent mowers too!

Have a Go originally intended for 11 till 1pm, ran on well beyond that, and the scything clinic extended into the afternoon with Jim and Peter helping people to improve their mowing.

The scything heats (how far can you mow a 1.8m wide strip in 1 minute) attracted about 20 entrants competing to win one of the 12 places in the 5×5 metre final. Peter Blackwell came first in the heats with a distance of just over 7m followed by Beth Tilston with a distance of 4.40m.

In the afternoon, the 5×5 meter finals, Peter Blackwell came first overall and first for quality with a score of 6.5 in 4:29 minutes. Second was Phil Holden – faster at 3:31 but with a quality of 3.5, and third Jim at 5:24 minutes and quality of 5.5. Best women’s was Beth, quality 6.5 with a time of 6.5. Congratulations to the best newcomer Hannah Holden who first scythed only a couple of weeks ago at the Northern Festival. In the Heats she mowed 1.9m with a quality of 6.

Simon Cooter suggested a new class ‘Best Standard Blade’ meaning any blade no greater than 75cm. Phil Holden won this, mowing with a 60cm blade.

Team mowing was very exciting and a truly amazing team won (can you tell Shane wrote this bit?). Team 1 led off with Phil Holden (no relation to Hannah) with Jim following on, then SABI’s newest member Miraslav, and Joe Haywood (who’s only been scything a few weeks), Shane and then Phil H again to finish the last 8 metres.

Team 2 led by Beth, followed by Alex, then Hannah, Peter Blackwell and a final scrabble to the end by Beth, came a close second.

In the deadly serious brushcutter vs scythe, the brushcutter, expertly driven by Joe Penfold, was hopelessly slower than several times champion Peter’s scythe, because it was choked by the dense and wiry stems.

There was also a hay bale tossing competition, won by Joe Haywood (so officially the biggest tosser of the day) and a traditional team hay race with Ian Cheesebororgh, Charlie Bell, Alex and Joe Penfold beating Miraslav, Ron, Peter and Simon who had arguably tougher conditions.

Neither Phil nor Fergus Batten competed because they had a constant stream of customers at the scythe stall. Let’s hope some of those are competitors next year.

Mowing Finals Results
Mowing conditions were tough and this is reflected in the quality and time scores.

                                                     Time       Quality

Phil Holden                3:31            3.5       Overall 2nd and Best Standard Blade
Peter Blackwell            4:29            6.5       Overall 1st and 1st for Quality
Jim McVittie                 5:24            5.5       Overall 3rd
Lucy                                5:42            3.0
Peter Vojak                    6:48            2.0
Simon Cooter                7:42            4.0
Shane O’Reilly               8:57            5.0
Andy Hyde                     9:54            3.5
Beth Tilston                 10:01            6.5       Women’s 1st and 2nd for Quality
Ben                                10:43            4.5
Harriet Corty               11:17            4.5
Alex (CfGA)     15:06            7.0       3rd for Quality

Best novice
Hannah Holden 1.9m with quality 6 in the Heats

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