Scything and cider at Wakehurst festival

Iain Parkinson practising for the great scythe-off
Iain Parkinson practising for the great scythe-off

Staff at Wakehurst Place are already practising for the first inaugural Great Scythe Race on July 19-20.

Iain Parkinson, conservation and woodland manager at the 300-acre estate near Haywards Heath, expects the great scythe-off to be hotly contested.

He said: “There will be individual as well as team scything events over the two days of the festival.

“Large scythe plots have been prepared, close to the site of the UK Native Seed Hub, behind the Millennium Seed Bank), which could take anything up to 15 minutes to cut in the against-the-clock heats.”

The event will bring together scythers from all over the country for the two day competition judged not just on speed but also accuracy.

Iain continued: “When I first started working at Wakehurst in the mid eighties many of the older generation of garden staff regularly used scythes to help manage the estate’s woodlands and grasslands.

“As they retired the skill disappeared only to be replaced with the modern day strimmer. Now at Wakehurst the scythe is enjoying a renaissance as we realise that in the hands of a skilful operator it can be just as efficient as powered equipment, it also has great benefits when managing sensitive habitats that require a gentle approach”

As well as the individual competition there will also be a team event with the grand final taking place on Sunday afternoon.

It’s not all about scything though the Festival will also includes demonstrations of other traditional rural crafts such as Sussex trug making and pole lathe turning.

“The Scything and Cider Festival is a celebration of this traditional skill and aims to re-create the spirit of collective endeavour that was common place during hay time in days gone by when the whole community would turn out to help bring in the hay harvest,” Iain added.

The weekend event is aimed at the whole family and will include Punch and Judy, morris dancing, birds of prey displays, a roaming folk band, face painting, a green woodworking area, artisan food and drink and the chance to get a bird’s eye view of proceedings from a specially designed tree house platform.

The Scything and Cider Festival is the showcase event of Wakehurst’s summer long Magical Meadows Festival.