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Four women went to mow, went to mow the Meadow Circle

Four women scythers mowed the Meadow Circle in New Court on the eve of the autumn equinox – the first time in living memory scything has taken place at the College.

In 2019, the Gardens Team planted 14 types of wildflower in the turf encircling a pink chestnut tree. At a special event for College members on 22 September, Trinity gardeners Joharna Richards and Jo Miles, Trinity Fellow Professor Marian Holness, and Head Gardener at Clare College Kate Hargreaves – all trained scythers – scythed the Meadow Circle.

The College Choir sang ‘Four women went to mow’, among a medley of English-country-garden-inspired songs, while a traditional fiddler Erin Brown and tin whistler Barry Watson accompanied the scythers.

Jo Miles, Professor Marian Holness, Joharna Richards and Kate Hargreaves. Photo: Laura Rupolo

Mowing’ or scything revives a centuries-old tradition believed to have been practised at Trinity before lawnmowers, and maintains the calm of New Court, where benches offer passersby a peaceful moment among the wildflowers.

Kate Hargreaves, Head Gardener at Clare College, preparing the scythe. Photo: Laura Rupolo

Senior Gardener at Trinity Joharna Richards said:

I love scything – it’s a real skill to do it well but once you have the knack it is very restorative – not just for the scyther but of course for the meadow you are mowing too. Scything is carbon-neutral, quiet and you can see the seed heads drop down into the ground, so you know it’s contributing to the health and diversity of the meadow next year.

The event, attended by students, staff and Fellows, took place prior to Michaelmas Term, named after the Feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, which marks the start of the academic year at Cambridge.

Tin whistler Barry Watson and fiddler Erin Brown. Photo: Laura Rupolo

Trinity Head Gardener Karen Wells announced the Gardens’ Team use of iRecord, managed by the Biological Records Centre, to chart the variety and prevalence of species across the College’s 36 acres of gardens. Read more about Gardeners chart biodiversity at Trinity.


The Trinity College Choir gets into the mowing spirit. Photo: Laura Rupolo

Watch a film about Trinity's Meadow Circle

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