Traditional Farming Techniques for Modern Meadows

Paul Kingsnorth, national scything competition finalist, demomstrated the use of the traditional grass cutting technique on a hectare of hay meadow at Hardcastle Crags which has not been cut for seven years.

The free scything demonstration took place at Clough Hole car park on Widdop Road, above Hebden Bridge, on the afternoon of Saturday August 27th. 

'Scything is undergoing a renaissance in Britain' explained Paul. 'Scythes were used from Anglo-Saxon times right up until the 1940s, initially to mow grass for haymaking and later also to mow cereal crops. They were operated by large mowing teams in the summer months and they were, and are, a terrific example of what used to be called appropriate technology.

Keep the blade honed and peened, and know how to use them, and you have, probably, the most efficient and effective tool for cutting grass ever developed. This is proven entertainingly year after year at the Somerset Scythe Festival where the annual scythe versus strimmer contest is always won by the scythe.'

Not only does the scythe offer a convenient method of cutting grass in inaccessible areas too small or too difficult to reach for modern machinery, but it also offers another tool in the fight to save the endangered Twite, a small ground nesting bird that depends on hay meadows for its food source. Charlotte Weightman, Habitat Intervention Officer with the RSPB's Twite Recovery Project, explained the importance of hay meadows for the Twite, known locally as the Pennine Finch.

'Twite breed on the South Pennine moorland and fly down to the meadows on the moorland edge for food.  We are encouraging farmers and landowners to cut their meadows in July and August, rather than earlier, to make sure there is a supply of food for this seed-eating bird. Scything offers landowners another way of cutting grass and maintaining their hay meadows, especially in difficult to reach places.'