We took a trip to the Green Scythe Fair (Sunday 15th June 2014) at Thorney Lakes on the Somerset Levels after years of wanting to visit, and were blessed with the most amazing weather for our first experience. Entrance is £5 for adults, accompanied children are free, and dogs on leads are welcome, so Nan the working collie came with us.
I’m sure a lot of Permaculture readers are regulars at this and similar events, but all permaculture people are not necessarily Hard Core! This short account is for those of you who like us, might have been slightly put off before by fear of the unknown, or in this case of the alternative. We’re very interested in scything and off-grid living, and have owned an Austrian scythe bought from competition organiser, Simon Fairlie, for years - but we’re not what you’d call alternative people.
From a permaculture perspective, the event presented the opportunity to take a really close look at some small and slow solutions, produce less waste, and use renewable energy sources and was ultimately not to be missed.
We set off in our very ordinary little car, with our two slightly reluctant teenage daughters, on the brightest of mornings, finally driven by the fact that we needed some new blades and other bits and pieces, and the scythe shop has a well stocked stall at the fair.
As you would imagine, this off-grid celebration of low impact living does have its share of dreadlocks and alternative living accommodation, but please don’t be put off! The whole fair was incredibly accessible, everyone was lovely, and we all had a fabulous day.
The main event is the scything competition, and we watched this with interest and picked up some tips as to technique - our younger daughter was even inspired to have a go next year, so watch this space for a possible scything champion!
We also caught the competition to build a haycock - a kind of small temporary stack built in the field if rain is due - and picked up a lot of information from that as well. We’ve since tried and I can report it is a good deal harder than these old hands made it look.
Unfortunately we were on a very limited budget, because the stalls provided ample opportunities to indulge - stoves and cookware for outdoors and off-grid homes, traditional skills and crafts, wonderful green woodwork, produce - as well as a huge amount of information to be had. Live music throughout the day on small, people-scale stages and a lunchtime debate on an environmental issue (this year, fracking) meant there was a lot to take in and do for a whole day.
Food was varied and reasonably priced. We had the best lunch I think I’ve had at an event for years, for a princely £3.50 each. As you’d imagine there was plenty of vegetarian fare on offer, but plenty of meat as well, including some less obvious choices.
Should you be wondering, regular ‘portaloos ‘ were available, however in addition there were ‘widdlers’ - loos for wee only - treated by a reed bed system. I can confirm these were the cleanest, airiest, nicest to use festival or event toilets I have ever used.
We had a fabulous day, bought new blades without having to worry about the delivery charges, learned a huge amount, and of course brought some much needed income into the beleaguered post-flood Somerset Levels.
If you’ve ever thought you’d like to extend your permaculture ponderings to include environmental activism, off-grid living, scything, or just how some other folks live, I’d encourage you to take a trip to Somerset next June. I’d also recommend the event to smallholders and micro farmers, who are fed up of the run of the mill events becoming just one big attempt to raid your wallet. A big thank you to the organisers and all involved for a brilliant day out.
Jackie Bridgen and her family run a mixed permaculture smallholding.
The Green Scythe Fair Sunday 14th June 2015
Why Every Permaculturist Should Own a Scythe by Paul Kingsnorth
Owing and Using an Austrian Scythe by Simon Fairlie
See a selection of Austraian Scythes at our Green Shopping site.
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