The first Cumbrian Scythe Festival back in July was probably held on the wettest weekend of the year, but it still managed to attract nearly twenty people for Saturday’s beginners’ scything course. Quite apart from imparting the joys of mowing to each of them in turn, it was also a great place to bring together people from the region (and in some cases beyond) who were interested in rural crafts. Many of those who arrived were farmers, smallholders and rural craftspeople, from woodworkers to wallers. Most of them have now caught the scythe bug. As you do.
We’ve now come up with a way of scratching this itch, at least for now. One of our pupils at the festival is also a volunteer at the Haybridge Nature Reserve, in south Cumbria. Haybridge is 200 acres of beautiful land, much of it grass, bracken and scrub, and its manager is keen for it to be managed in traditional ways, and without fossil fuels as far as possible.
Which is where we come in. A small group of us have been mowing grass and bracken at Haybridge over the last month, and now we’re opening the reserve up for a weekend to other mowers.
There are several fields, meadows and clearings that need mowing. The ground is a mixture of grass, bracken, rushes, wild flowers and the odd molehill. There are slopes, tussocks, hummocks, flat grasslands, wildflower meadows, wet bits, dry bits, saplings to avoid, verges to trim … It is, in other words, a multi-dimensional mowing challenge, which will give you a chance to practice cutting pretty much everything you could ever want to cut!
The Great Cumbrian Scything Challenge will take place on the weekend of 11th and 12th September. It’ll be a relaxed affair: just turn up, bring your scythe and muck in. There will be camping available on the reserve on both the Friday and the Saturday nights. There are toilets, running water and a shower. You can come for the weekend, or for a day, or for a few hours: as you like.
Please note that this is not a teaching weekend. It’s an opportunity for mowers who already know the basics to come and get some good mowing time in. You’ll need to bring your own scythe and kit, and know how to use them. That said, you don’t have to be any kind of expert: just willing to come and have a go.
On the Friday evening, if enough people are around, we will traipse to the local (excellent) pub to sample the wares. On the Saturday night, weather permitting, we’ll have a barbecue, with charcoal made in the reserve. We’ll all have to provide our own food for this, and you’ll also need to bring any other meals you want or need as there is no food provision on site. Those of us who are coming can exchange food plans via email soon, and we can bring camping stoves to cook if we like. There is tea, coffee and water on site.
What to bring:
Tent and sleeping gear.
Food, including something to barbecue.
Any drinks you want in addition to tea, coffee and water.
Your scythe and scythe kit (a ditch blade is recommended).
Some good boots.
Where to come:
Hay Bridge Nature Reserve is in Bouth, south Cumbria. The website is here.
The nearest train station is Grange-over-Sands. Lifts from the station might be possible, depending on when you’re coming. For any more information, contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org
See you there!