An important part of the Walter’s Tools project was a series of short courses in the craft skills to which the tools belonged. Once the grass had grown tall enough in mid July, we organised a weekend of scything and hay making, with tutor and Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust Craft Scholar Steve Tomlin, and we were blessed with good weather.
We looked at Walter’s English scythe blades, which unfortunately were too tired to renovate, and compared them to Austrian Schröckenfux blades, which we would learn to use, sharpen and peen over the course of the day.
After learning how to mount the blade and handle accurately – something which varies person to person and greatly affects your technique, we made our way into Walter’s field and made some headway mowing hay.
We raked the cut grass into rows and turned it in the sun to speed up the drying process, using hay rakes and pitch forks from the Walter’s Tools collection. We were also able to repair and make use of Walter’s hay racks, upon which we would later stack the cut hay once it had been turned, raked into wind-rows, spread out again (‘scaled’) and was almost dry.
The A frames are propped against each other to make a free-standing rack, and the hay pike is build around them, so that air can circulate through and underneath. By the time some light rain came later in the afternoon, the outer layer of the pike acted as a sort of thatched roof, protecting the less dry hay underneath. The A frames complete the drying process, and also protect the hay from rain if it is not yet ‘made.’ Walter would sometimes make the hay into pikes and spread it out again several times due to bad weather, before bringing it home to the barn with pony and hay sledge.
Making hay rope:
To complete the circle, the hay would be used to feed Walter’s son Tom’s Fell Ponies in the field next door.
Photos by Dayve Ward