03 Oct 2022

Lughnasadh Scything Meitheal at Rathbeagh

Leave the Long grass grow poem inspires scything meitheal workshop


Lughnasadh Scything Meitheal at Rathbeagh

A team of 28 scythers took to the meadows on Saturday August 27, for the Lughnasadh Scything Meitheal at Rathbeagh led by experienced scything instructor Chris Hayes. Scything is the perfect practice to manage valuable heritage sites such as Rathbeagh which have significant heritage value and also great biodiversity value.

On the day, Chris Hayes described in detail the correct technique for scything and described the sound that the scythe makes when cutting the grass as "The song of the Scyhte". Participants marvelled to hear that in older times an experienced worker would clear an acre of hay a day with a scythe stopping only to sharpen the blade. Participants on the day also learnt the art of sharpening. The event was celebrated with poetry, birch sap and mead at Amergin's circle before an enthusiastic day's work scything. The work done the day concluded with a swim in the Nore. 

Pat Boyd, Chairperson of Keep Kilkenny Beautiful supported the event by providing scythes for the volunteers. Also present at the event was Rob Steed on behalf of Galway County Council. He gave a presentation on the very successful Hay Meadow Project that has been happening in Galway City and environs and shared the learnings and experience of managing meadows in public spaces for biodiversity. 

Rathbeagh, from the Irish Rathbeathach means the Rath of the birch-trees. It is located in an ancient valley once called Mágh Airgid Rois (“The Plain of the Silver Wood”). Situated on the banks of the Nore, Rathbeagh is home to the mound of Eireamhon. “Traditionally the Tumulus, or inner ring around the Rath was kept clear by the ancestors using scythes and slashers”.

The day was a very special experience and all participants were delighted to restore this practice of the ancestors and come together as a community to tend the mound while learning new skills, sharing stories and exchanging knowledge and experience of managing meadows for biodiversity.

The organisers expressed their thanks to all who came, to Chris Hayes for sharing his knowledge, expertise and passion for scything and sharing traditional skills and also to guardian of the land, Phil Phelan for her generous hospitality. This was the first in a series of meitheal workshops in traditional land management skills which the Acorn Project will host over the coming months.

The workshop was inspired by a poem written about meadows and hares and restoring our wild places.

Long grass Leave the grass grow,

For chance that we might see her there,

Leave the long grass grow 

For it is there we might meet ourselves,

Leave the long grass grow All things in their own time

For all things are possible, all can be restored,

Leave the long grass grow,

For chance that I might meet you there one day 

and It is there that it is all waiting for us. 

Leave the long grass grow 

For chance…., 

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