Crafting Gentleness

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


I must thank my friend Lawrence for the following ...

Jan 2009 Scything Calendar

at; tel 01460 249204


1. The Scythe Festival and S Somerset Green Fair 2009

2. The Grib Forest Gathering, Denmark

3. Course in Ireland

4. Other Scythe Courses

Somerset, Devon, Notts, Bristol, Hackney, Anywhere Else?

5. World Championships (in Germany?)

6. Haymaking Festival in the Serbian Mountains

7. Coppicing Weekend

8. The Recession and the Price of Snaths

9. Poem The Scythe, by Stanley Snaith

1. The Scythe Festival and S Somerset Green Fair 2009  will take place on Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 June at the same place as last year:

Thorney Lakes, Muchelney, Near Langport, Somerset .

On the 13th there will be courses for both beginners and for mowers with some experience.

On Sunday, which is the festival proper, there will be a wider range of events than we have held previously. More details will be given in the next mail-out, and posted on the website, but if you want to pencil in a place on the course, please contact me [Simon].

For the results of last years festival see and for information about the Green Fair side of the event see

If anybody is interested in helping organize events for the festival, we are holding a meeting on 21 February in Oxford. Contact me [Simon] for details.

2. The Gribskov Forest Gathering

Last July Ray Lister and Simon Fairlie visited the Grib Forest Gathering deep in the woods north of Copenhagen where a group of Danish scythesmen have been mowing a 12 acre (or was it hectares?) clearing in the forest for the last 10 years. We were part of the “rest of the world team” (together with a Swede and a Belgian), who competed in a gang mowing contest with a Canadian team (the Vido family) an Austrian team, and a Danish team. In the spirit of Eddie “the Eagle” Edwards we came a glorious last, and made up for the unseemly obsession with medals that so marred the UK performance at Beijing.

This year, just prior to mowing their meadow on 4 July, the Danes are holding an informal instruction course for “improvers” with some experience of mowing. They have places for a limited number from England. We highly recommend this course as the Danes are good mowers, most hospitable, and the venue is lovely. It can be reached easily from Copenhagen by public transport — the single track railway stops in the middle of the forest at Gribskov Halt where there is nothing, not even a paved road. The Grib mowers are also astonishingly knowledgeable about single malt Scotch whisky. To find out more about the event contact Henrik Jorgensen at

3. Course in Ireland

Simon will be holding a two day scything and hand haymaking course at a farm near Mullingar, Co Westmeath, Ireland on 20 - 21 of June. Two days gives more time for practising different peening and mowing techniques — and also allows time to cover haymaking and grassland management techniques.

The event takes place at Porterstown Lodge Farm, Killucan, on the banks of the Royal Canal in Co Westmeath, Ireland’s lakeland. Food is provided and camping, or else you can lodge at a B and B nearby.

For more details contact Jo Dalton on +353 (0) 44 9358916 or

If anybody has an opportunity to e-mail this information out to other people in Ireland, or even better to an appropriate e-mail list in Ireland, we’d be very grateful.

4. Other Scythe Courses


Simon will be giving courses at South Petherton on Saturday May 2 and Saturday May 23

For information about these courses see

To register e-mail


I [Simon] will also be giving a two-day course in Devon on 4-5 July. Ring Gill Westcott on 01647 24789

Bristol and Hackney

LILI (the Low Impact Living Initiative are holding two courses this year, run by Simon (again!) on April 18 at Windmill Hill City Farm, Bristol (let’s hope its an early Spring) and on 15 August at Hackney City Farm. See LILI also provide lots of other practical courses.


Ray Lister will be giving his courses in Nottinghamshire.

Raymond Lister, 22 Hind Street, Retford, Notts DN22 7EN; 01777 710091.

Anyone Else?

Is anyone else out there doing courses? If so, if you want to advertise them there will put them in the next mail out, round about April.

Anywhere Else?

If you are interested in organizing a scything course in another part of Britain, I might be able to do it. Please contact Simon to enquire about rates, dates etc.

5. World Championships

Martin Hierstetter writes:

Ichteile ihnen mit wir veranstalten am 1./2.August 2009 die Weltmeisterschaften im Mannschaftsmähen.

Wenn interesse besteht dann geben Sie mir bitte die Adresse und ich sende die Unterlagen.

Herzliche Grüße Martin Hierstetter

1.Sensenmähverein BaWü 1999 e.V.

I think this means that the world mowing championships are taking place, presumably in Germany, on 1-2 August, and if you want more information contact Martin Hierstetter at

6. Haymaking Festival and Walking Holiday in the Serbian Mountains (7-8 Nights)

British couple Rob and Trish MacCurrach will take you to the annual haymaking festival on Rajac Mountain. This is both a festival of mountain culture with grass scything events and a colourful homecoming for Serbs. Plus 3 days walking in the little visited and remote flowered meadows of the Western Serbia mountains.

Accommodation is authentically simple and rural; the food traditional and tasty. It is an opportunity to visit places few foreigners have had the privilege to experience.

For more information contact Trish at

7. Coppicing Weekend

If you want to keep yourself in trim until the grass grows, how about going to Tinker’s Bubble’s coppicing weekend, on 21 and 22 February? Two days in a Somerset wood with billhook and saw, picnics and cider. Free. Telephone 01935 881975.

8. The Recession and the Price of Snaths

The volatility of the pound has meant that anyone who imports goods from Europe has to become a currency speculator, which I am not very good at, so virtually all the scythe equipment I sell will become more expensive. Most worryingly the Swiss snaths will be well over £50 unless there is a complete reverse in the rate of exchange in the near future. However I am unwilling to stock cheaper snaths as they are all so inferior to the Swiss model (designed by Peter Vido and the Schroeckenfux technicians), and I have had almost no-one who has tried the adjustable wooden snaths telling me I should stock a cheaper kind. The snaths arriving this Spring will have new handgrips angled slightly outwards (ie as if having to make space for a pair of very wide hips).

I am still open to any proposals from UK woodworkers interested in producing adjustable wooden snaths in this country and happy to co-operate on design. Many have thought about it, but nobody yet has come up with anything.

9. Poem

The scythe maybe more elegant than the spade, but the following poem is not quite as elegant as Seamus Heaney’s “Digging”, though it shares the same message.

THE SCYTHE by Stanley Snaith

This morning as the scythe swung in my grasp
I thought of the sinewy craft my fathers plied,
Those men whose hedgerow name has come to me,
Those soil-bred Yorkshiremen who fashioned snathes.
They lopped and barked and seasoned the leafy staff
To bear the blade with balance. There is a stern
Puritan cleanness in a true-made scythe.
A scythe purges the hands of awkwardness.
It has its own instinct, a subtle weighting
That pulls it round in a rich curve of motion;
And when the steel, fined to a creepy edge,
Rips and rings through the stalks, and the swath sighs over,
And the cropped circle widens at each stroke,
What a singing power flows from the hands!
The old rhythm came smoothly to my wrist.
I seemed to feel my ancestry move within me.
For though I left their soil, I found a craft
Nourished with a tradition choice as theirs:
They toiled in wood, I curb the grain of words,
Both winning grace and service from what's wild,
Scythe and sentence share one craftsmanship.


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