After who knows how many weeks without rain, fears the grass would all be burnt off and the commencement of a lakes-wide hosepipe ban, the first Cumbrian Scythe Festival took place amid pouring rain.
Nonetheless, 18 hardy souls turned up on the saturday for a weekend of scythe tuition. As the stormclouds emptied themselves, we occupied the morning safely under cover with Christiane Lechner and Paul Kingsnorth teaching half the group how to set up their scythe ready for mowing while I demonstrated peening the blade to reshape the cutting edge.
The man from the local paper appeared just as we, and the rain, stopped for lunch. As always he wanted to set the three of us up for some cheesy photos but was at least honest enough to admit that’s what they were and didn’t ask us to wave the blade over the grass at ankle height or anything. You can see the results here.
Then up the hill, scythes in hand for a thankfully dry afternoon of mowing with the spectacular backdrop of the Langdale valley. The grass was sparse, the ground was sloped but the group got to grips with it all, learning to move gently and slide the blade through the sward.
I’ve been going to the Somerset Scythe Festival since it started in 2005, seen it grow and become increasingly involved over the years. So when I moved north last year I wanted to see if something similar was possible up here and got involved with Ian Hunter and Celia Larner of the Littoral Trust who had been running a scythe event in Lancashire. We decided to move it to Elterwater in the heart of the Lake District and see who would turn up. And what an interesting group they were; smallholders, coppice workers, farmers and managers of public and private meadows. Some had mown before, some complete beginners but all came with enthusiasm and ideas for future mowing projects in the north-west. It feels like the start of something really exciting.