Traditional v Mechanical As HES Prepares for Limited Re-Opening

Work has been restarted at ‘tidying’ up the sites managed by Historic Environment Scotland as they set to re-open some to the public – be it in a limited way.

Stenness A

There’s been a mower out at the standing stones of Stenness and of course the highly effective sheep are there too.

On publication , the inner ring at Brodgar still had padlocked gates. Some visitors go down into the ditch, bypassing the gates but most folk do not. The grass and wildflowers have fairly grown high in the inner ring. The grass in the  outer ring where most visitors are having to walk is in a very poor condition and on a wet day extremely muddy.

path at Brodgar May 2020 credit Bell

Path of round the outer ring at Brodgar Credit Bell

At some HES sites traditional methods are being used rather than strimmers and mowers, for example at the King’s Knot, Stirling Castle.  The area formed part of the royal gardens associated with Stirling Castle from the early 17th century, and is now protected as a Scheduled Monument. At this site HES workers are scything.

Sarah Franklin, Landscape Manager at HES, said:

“As many of our staff and contractors have been unable to get into sites during the lockdown period, the easing of restrictions has presented as with the opportunity to trial scything as a way of tackling the overgrown grass at the King’s Knot and ensuring that the distinctive land formations of the Knot are maintained.

“We hope that this work at the King’s Knot will be a useful exercise to help us determine how these alternative methods of landscape management can fit within our wider programme of maintenance moving forward.”

There’s still scything done in Orkney by a few but it is hard going. Here’s an Orkney farmer showing how it is done:

You can find out which sites are re-opening here: Possible Late August/September Opening For Skara Brae and online sales have opened for the ones opening first.

You can explore many of Orkney’s HES sites through our pages if you can’t get out to them. In this recent visit to Brodgar Bernie Bell recounts what it was like The Last & First of Brodgar

wild flowers May 2020 Brodgar credit Bell

Credit: Mike Bell

3 replies »

    • I think the main problem with a strimmer would be if they scalped the grass instead of leaving it a bit longer. Then there’s the noise and fuel issue. The sheep are really effective

  1. scythes probably take a wee bit longer and need getting used to…but are more environmentally friendly. New scythes are very expensive.,however. There must be a lot rusting away in steadings and sheds. Good recycling project perhaps?

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