Scythes used to manage iconic Yorkshire wildflowers

Rory McGhie, a volunteer at Ryedale Folk Museum, Hutton-le-Hole, North York Moors, takes a break from Scything the Cornfield Flowers Project paddock at the museum.
Rory McGhie, a volunteer at Ryedale Folk Museum, Hutton-le-Hole, North York Moors, takes a break from Scything the Cornfield Flowers Project paddock at the museum.
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A common sight in our countryside a hundred years ago, many of our British wildflowers are now endangered or have been lost altogether, as they have been ‘weeded out’ of our commercial crops.

As wildflowers support an unimaginable diversity of other wildlife, it is also no coincidence that our bees, butterflies, and most iconic native birds – including the skylark and turtle dove - are struggling to survive.

Now, one of the most traditional methods of all, is being used to manage them.

Workers will use traditional scythes – most recently seen on the BBC publicity photos for Poldark featuring a shirtless Aiden Turner – to harvest the waist-high crop of rare wild flower seeds.

A spokesman said: “Some of the seeds will be left for next year’s cornfield at the Ryedale Folk Museum, some collected for the crucial seed bank, and others sent out to farmers and horticultural volunteers involved in the Cornfield Flower Project for planting before the end of October, to bloom next year.

Tom Normandale, the museum’s project officer explains, “In this year’s cornfield, visitors can spot two flowers that have been ‘critically endangered’ for decades, but are now out of intensive care at the museum. They include the Corn Buttercup, found in just one location in North Yorkshire when the project began 16 years ago - in fact, we found just half a plant that had been cut through by a plough. We rescued the seeds, and now from those plants nurtured in the museum’s Nursery, thousands of these cheerful flowers can be seen across the region.”