Wimpole Scythe Festival 2017

The mowing is upon us

Mowing the quarter acre

So which bit of grassland this year? Well it had to be back at the Folly Field. The countryside team spent a large part of the week leading up the Scythe Festival event mowing all the large and small plots. For once the weather forecast looked pretty reasonable… dry! In fact it has been so dry the grassland was looking a bit thin, could be some fast times this year…

Mowing the eighth

First races on the menu were the large plots -the quarter acre (which is just over 1000 square metres) and the eighth (a mere 500 square metres). Most of the contestants elected to mow very early in the morning, 6 o’clock to be precise. Some undertook the challenge the next day but most had finished by lunch time on Saturday.

The gallery below shows photos from the early morning mow.

Dusk on Saturday night

The course

Later in the day, well actually at ten in the morning, the scythe course began and some eager students were soon mowing the meadow or I should really say a sheepwalk as most of what we were mowing was more akin to chalk land heath which is much drier. If grazed extensively then the flower richness can be retained but over grazing can lead to  pasture degradation, weeds and loss of biodiversity.

Wympole bodgers undertaking surgery

As well as the mowing, the Wympole Green Woodworkers were in attendance making all manner of things from chairs to shingles, spoons, bowls and knick-knacks. David spent most of his time weaving the elm bark seat for an ash chair while the forestry team planked some olive ash and  field maple but also showed how to make cleft oak posts with even a race between the  chainsaw and a hammer and wedge.

Saw milling

So who won? Actually, if you have a clean length of green oak timber then the sledge-hammer and wedges will probably always win, and so it was, although I think Paul will use the 120cc engine next time, over twice as powerful as the one he used.

Below is a gallery of the woodworking weekend photos.

Preparation for the main races

Peening away

The  lister engine and grinding stone also came in handy for those competing in Sunday’s main races with an English scythe; it was also rather useful for sharpening the knives too. Meanwhile there were a lot of banging noises from the peening tent, some oblivious to the noise they were inflicting on others (Mr O’Reilly!!!!!!).


Some much needed instruction from Phil

Oooh errrrr… looks like Michael has some work to beat this line up!

There were of course the group meetings about which was the best way to mow, the best snath, the best blades  and the best way to sharpen the said blades. Others were honing their scythes in readiness for the fossil fuel vs muscle power race. This was the first race and unfortunately the scythe came last (mind you the dirty cheating power hunger strimmer didn’t really cut the grass but just skimmed the top!).

Came to watch, we heard you’re in it Dad

Wonder who will win?

So, with rain threatening we started the five by five races a little early and this year I elected to change the rules! The five by five plots would only be open to those in the novice and intermediate classes, all others would have to go into the open ten by ten race thereby allowing fresh blood to win the five by five. It worked and there were some new winners and some old but I may still need to refine the rules…

So, for next year, we will do the same except there will be heats for those wishing to go into the open ten by ten race. It will be expected that the best mowers will compete for the six places available in the ten by ten and there will only be 1st, 2nd and 3rd prizes (for which I will now put up some prize money, probably £50, £30, £20 as a reward for being the best mowers). Those that fail to gain a ten by ten plot will then have to compete in the five by five. I may need to refine this idea but this will help test the best mowers’ skill and will give a chance for others to win. Those competing in the ten by ten must peen/sharpen their own blades and will only be allowed one scythe- if it breaks, tough luck!

Results of the Wimpole 2017 mowing races below:

Team races:
Wimpole 2.20
Dexter 2.26
SouthWest 3.13
English 3.25
Sinister 4.44
Old farts 4.48

Five by five metre races:      Time        Quality
Colin Close                                    3.05                5
Ian Streeter                                   2.48                5
Mathew Robinson                       2.14                 4         Novice winner
Nick Fradgley                               2.38                4
John Grundy                                3.38                5
Mike Gerrad                                 1.28                 6         Overall winner
Matt Commin                              2.50                 5
Paul Martin                                  3.10                 5
Shane O’Reily                              2.18                 5         Wimpole, Veteran cup,  3rd overall
Mick Velasco                                3.39                 5
Matt Robinson                            4.00                 5
Graham Teece                             2.29                 4           Broken snath stopped for repair time not included
Darren Hulbert                          3.15                   4          English cup
Simon Lamb                               8.41                   9           Quality cup
Simon Farlie                               3.05                   7          Mens third
Olga Damant                              13.16                  8
Mary                                             5.45                    6
Beth Tilston                                2.12                    7          Ladies cup, 2nd overall
Gill Baron                                    3.47                   5
Jayne O’Reily                              2.46                   5          Ladies 3rd
Fiona Pollock                             5.07                   6
Helen Holms                               2.33                   6           Ladies 2nd

Ten by ten metre races:
Kevin Austin                              4.38                    5.5
Phil Batton                                 5.47                    7
Simon Damant                          5.28                    6
Terry Standen                           7.11                    6
Richard Brown                         11.21                  7.5
Tim                                               11.50                  7

Eight of an  acre races:     hr/min
Phil Batton                                0.30                   6.5
Richard Brown                         1.05                   9
Graham Teece                          1.11                   7
Beth Tilston                              2.07                    8

Quarter acre races:
Kevin Austen                            1.16                      7

Terry Standen                          1.46                     6.5
Michael Gerrad                        1.51                     7.5
Simon Damant                         1.39                    6
Fiona Pollock                            5.14                    6
Tim                                             4.57                     9


About Sadeik

You may ask why "Sadeik" well it means friend in arabic. Worked in Jordan a lot doing tree surgery you see. I have worked in forestry since I left school with a two years in Telecom. Went back to forestry and tree surgery as it may not have paid as much but was far more interesting and dangerous. Spent a lot of years mountaineering, caving and canoeing too. At 29 I went to Bangor University to study Forestry and soil science then did an MSc in Water engineering all very interesting. By a quirk of fate in 1995 ended up helping sort out the woodland and park at Wimpole, funny thing was then I only intended to stay six months or so, but 18 years later I'm still here learning all the time. That's the best bit, if I wasn't able to learn something new every year I would not have stayed and as you get older you realise that the grass is not so green in the next field after all. In fact my patch is getting greener while much of the rest is getting browner.
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2 Responses to Wimpole Scythe Festival 2017

  1. graemeu says:

    Looks like a lot of fun, no need for a reply but have you considered having handicaps, staggered starts? That would make for exciting finishes, of course you’d need a time-keeper on each contestant to still get your fastest… The other one would be it looks like the time may be approaching for a veteran category.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sadeik says:

      Well I tried all at once it’s a nightmare, plus many find the 5×5 much to their liking the 10×10 race sorts out those that are very competitive plus it tests their stamina technique etc to win you have to mow this in three rows might add another technical difficulty too


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