It comes as a shock when meadows are mown and wildflowers are seemingly cut down in their prime. But taking a crop of hay is what makes a meadow what it is.
The word ‘meadow’ comes from the Germanic word for ‘mow’. It fits with the technical meaning of meadow as ‘an area of grassland that’s cut in the summer’. Before the advent of the car, this hay crop was a vital part of the economy. It provided winter feed for the nation’s transport: horses and livestock.
Weather permitting, the hay was cut in late July or early August and left in a “swath” to dry. This was aided by “tedding” or spreading the hay. This helps remove moisture from the cut plants including from the seed heads. When the hay is collected and baled, the seeds are knocked back into the ground. By autumn, there is sufficient new growth or “eddish” for it to be grazed by cattle or sheep.