9 June 2013

Report: Peter Mann; photograph: Philippa Pearson.

St Denis' church East Hatley, Cambridgeshire – blessing of the new mower. Under the churchyard management plan, the grass is allowed to grow very long – the Alco scythe (or scissor) mower makes cutting long grass relatively easy. Pictured left to right are Sarah Brennan, Reverend Steven Rothwell, John O'Sullivan, Peter Mann and Michael Pearson – 9-6-13. Photo: Philippa Pearson.

Blessing the mower.
L to R Sarah Brennan, Revd Steven Rothwell, John O’Sullivan, Peter Mann and Michael Pearson.

The peaceful churchyard and nature reserve of St Denis’ church, East Hatley has a special ‘scythe’ mower to help keep it trim.

On Sunday, 9 June 2013 the then new mower was blessed by the Reverend Steven Rothwell, who was Rector of Gamlingay and Hatley at the time.

He said: “In seven years of rural ministry, this is the first lawnmower I’ve ever blessed!”

The mower was bought via Gamlingay and Hatley Parochial Church Council, ultimately responsible for the churchyard, via a successful application to SCDC for a Community Chest grant – which used to fund projects like this for the benefit local people.**

Before blessing the mower, the Revd Rothwell read two appropriate poems…

Fresh Cut Grass by Paul Colvin

The fresh cut grass, that summer scent
That smell of summer, Heaven sent
I used to squeeze it in my fingers
Shreds of green, its smell still lingers.
The whirring blades just spinning round
As bales of grass grew on the ground
I’d scoop it up and throw it high
Then take a dive and then just lie,
Or dive right into all that green
And like a magnet, stuck between
Every hair and every pore,
In all the clothes I ever wore
Would smell of grass and I somehow
Still find wee bits, yes, even now.

The Mower by Philip Larkin

The mower stalled, twice; kneeling, I found
A hedgehog jammed up against the blades,
Killed. It had been in the long grass.

I had seen it before, and even fed it, once.
Now I had mauled its unobtrusive world
Unmendably. Burial was no help:

Next morning I got up and it did not.
The first day after a death, the new absence
Is always the same; we should be careful

Of each other, we should be kind
While there is still time.

… and then the Revd Rothwell blessed the mower:

Let us pray to our God
the creator of all things.

Blessed are you, Lord God,
king of the universe:
you have made all things
for your glory.

We give thanks for the work of
human hands, which have created
machines to ease the burdens of our tasks and duties;

Bless this mower
and grant that we may
use it in your service
and for the good of all your people.

Loving God,
we praise you through Christ our Lord.


Management plan

Happy volunteers at the St Denis' church East Hatley, Cambridgeshire, churchyard tidy-up on 4th August 2019.

Volunteers at a St Denis’ churchyard tidy-up,
4th August 2019.

The churchyard is looked after by a team of local volunteers, who work to a management plan drawn up by South Cambridge District Council, which at the time owned the redundant church (it’s now owned by the Friends of Friendless Churches). It calls for the grass to be left until the wild flowers have seeded.

Every year volunteers are faced with the problem of cutting long, often very wet grass – rotary mowers are fine if the grass is dry and fairly short, but the recent wet summers have made cutting very difficult, particularly in August or September when the grass has grown extremely long and flopped over.

** In theory… a scythe mower will cut an inch or so off the ground near the base of the grass, which should make mowing long grass more efficient and relatively easy – however… our mower proved to be rather cumbersome, noisy and inefficient and was sold in March 2024.

Published on the first Hatley website, June 2013; updated for this site, August 2019 and 18th June 2024.