ScythingTradition Returns To Rural Village
Categories: On The Farm
For at least three centuries residents of a North Oxfordshire village have gathered once a year to see one of the more unusual church traditions.
And once again on Saturday, Shenington-born Christopher Hawtin took on the annual task of grass-strewing from the churchyard of the village's parish church.
Like his ancestors from the village near Banbury Mr Hawtin took a scythe – which had been used since the 17th century – and cut fresh grass from outside the church to lay down on the building's aisles and around the font.
It is believed the tradition dates back to the Middle Ages, and is timed to coincide with the Whitsun, on May 15, which marks the descent of the Holy Spirit on Jesus Christ's disciples.
Mr Hawtin, of Stocking Lane, has been helping to strew the grass for nearly 40 years with his father Donald.
Before then the grass had been cut by Donald's uncle Percy Cook and his father Walker Cook – both residents of Shenington.
Mr Hawtin said: "We use the same scythe to cut the grass by hand that has been used by generations before.
"Probably no one else knows how to use it.
"The grass comes from an area within the churchyard itself, which is why it's kept so long before May. Longer grass works better."
Village records of grass strewing go back to 1720, and it is thought the tradition has never stopped.
Residents also believe theirs is the only church in the country that still strews grass, although a few still practice rush-bearing.
As is expected from such a long tradition, people gather each year to watch the work take place.
According to the Hawtin family, the tradition of putting down fresh grass dates back to the Middle Ages.