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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!!!!!!).
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!).
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:
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