Winter is somewhat of a quiet season for the scythe but for a number of years now Richard Brown, member of the Scythe Association of Britain and Ireland (SABI), has been giving fellow members an opportunity to get in a bit of winter mowing by cutting reed on the wildlife reserve he manages in Norfolk.
Phil went up and helped last year, when the cutting took place alongside the SABI winter gathering. The reed cuts well with a scythe, although it is harder physical work then cutting greener vegetation. The addition of a simple willow “bow” to the scythe helps guide the tall reed as it falls and keeps it clear of the blade once cut.
Below is a video made by Richard which shows the scythe at work in the reed and explains the function of and fitting of a simple bow. Reports of previous SABI reed cutting gatherings can be read on the SABI website
We have added some more course dates for 2016.
There will be Introductory Scythe Courses on Saturday 28th May, Tuesday 28th June, Wednesday 27th July, Saturday 6th August and Sunday 21st August. The course costs £60 or £50 concession.
There will be a Peening Workshop on Sunday 3rd April, Saturday 9th July and Sunday 18th September. The course costs £40.
For more information on all courses, see this page
Introductory Scythe Course
As the year turns we are starting to plan the year ahead. The first two course dates are in the diary – a Peening Workshop on Sunday 3rd April and an Introductory Scythe Course on Saturday 28th May. More dates to follow soon!
For more information on either course, see this page
Introductory Scythe Course
There is a particular spot on one of the Trust paths that often smells rather, well, unpleasant. I walk by frequently when we have stock in the far field and the source has been puzzling me since the summer. At first I thought it was a dead fox or similar, but the smell didn’t seem to disappear over time as I would have expected. Then I wondered if I was disturbing Hedge Woundwort (Stachys sylvatica) as I walked by, but there was no sign of any in the area.
At last though, the mystery has been solved. Now the bracken at the base of the hedge has died back a lovely specimen of the common stinkhorn (Phallus impudicus) fungus has been
revealed. The stinkhorn has probably been fruiting on and off all summer, creating the distinctive smell.
Common Stinkhorn (Phallus impudicus)
The fungus is common in UK gardens and woods and is associated with rotting wood, which may be buried underground. Initially, the fungus is egg like in appearance, covered in a thick gelatinous layer. The mushroom emerges through the egg, covered in olive green slime which contains the fungal spores. The slime is responsible for the strong offensive smell which is highly attractive to flies. The slime sticks to the legs of the flies, so dispersing the spores.
According to the book “Mushrooms” by Roger Philips “The egg stage, which lacks the disgusting smell, is edible though not tasty”. I don’t think I’ll be rushing out to try it any time soon.
Water at the Trust comes from a spring on the land. The spring is below the main areas of water usage, so is pumped up to storage tanks in the Red Barn using a ram pump.
We store the water in second-hand IBC tanks which were previously used to contain bulk food stuffs eg orange juice concentrate. At the end of this summer we expanded the water storage capacity by adding a second IBC to the loft in the barn. The challenge is getting the tanks up into position, a job much helped this time by the use of a hand chain winch which we had recently been given.
The IBC positioned at the bottom of two ladders with the chain from the winch attached
Boy power is all that is needed to haul the IBC up using a chain winch!
A slightly awkward moment as the IBC is pulled onto the platform
IBC in final position. The chain winch has been dis-attached and can be seen hanging in front.
While researching Welsh scything terms I came across the Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru, a wonderful Welsh dictionary run by the University of Wales. Whilst checking on more mundane words such as “haystack” and “scythe” I came across a rich seam of specific historical terms.
Under the word gwair (hay) there were terms not so dissimilar to ones we might use in English eg “gwair doldir – meadow hay”, “gwair mynedd – mountain hay”. But there were also terms such as “gwair bondew – hay growing thick at the base” and “gwair egras – one year old hay”. I hope I won’t be needing “gwair wedi cochi – hay which has been stacked while green and has deteriorated through fermentation (lit. reddened hay).”
The terms referring to different types of hay, such as “gwair maswaidd – soft tender hay, difficult to dry, August hay.”, speak to me of the farmers knowledge of the variability of hay and how the hay making process changes with season and grass varieties. This chimes with our own experiences.
There was a section of words to describe mowing with a scythe. A word I hope we won’t need to use too often is “bonllath – long stubble left after scyther or machine has cut carelessly; the height at which the scythe initially hits the corn” . Or “haffiad – a snatching, a snapping or grabbing; (clumsy) stroke with scythe, &c., a hacking” And is this another scything fault “ gwrychyn arfod – blades of grass left standing between each sweep of the scythe“?
Similarly I wouldn’t want to come across a “durdor” – fault or notch in blade of a new scythe” or suffer from “clwyf y bladur – pain after handling a scythe (lit. scythe disease).”
Of course, many of these words are lost from common usage and many of them may have been highly regional in usage. Still, I find it is interesting to look at the words that people needed to describe the world around them and what that tells me about what that world might have been like.
To finish I’ll leave you with “ffocs – a kind of love-making during the hay harvest” and “ffocsaf – to make love in the hay during harvest“. It obviously wasn’t all work and no play……..
Every autumn we look out for the attractive and highly coloured waxcaps (hygrocybe spp),
spindle and coral fungi on the farm and at our local churchyards. Worth a search but harder to spot are the strange looking earthtounges.
These fungi are strongly associated with old grassland, church yards and lawns and are as distinctive a part of our undisturbed grassland as the wild flowers of the summer
Here is a red hygrocybe species found at the Trust.
Below is the rare and amazing Violet Coral (Clavaria zollingeri) that can be seen at Penboyr Churchyard, a particularly good site for waxcaps and related fungi.
The picture was taken by Isabel Macho a couple of years ago. We haven’t spotted the Violet Coral yet this year but will be back to check frequently. There are plenty of other fungi to be seen in Penboyr church yard at the moment, so if you are local why not pop up and have a look?