“One peer went to mow – went to mow a meadow. One peer and his dog Whimsy went to mow a meadow…” Yes, it’s Lord Horatio humming a merry tune and cutting quite a dash around the grounds of Dawdle Hall.
Rather than the neat, but boring straight lines I have opted to carve out a whole new vista aboard my trusty ride-on mower. Inspired by the more ornate lawns of the French Chateaux I have gone for the fleur de lis look.
Admittedly it takes a hell of lot longer to cut the shape of a lily into the stately sward and the results are patchy at best. Lady Winifred likened my last effort to a “pregnant pineapple.” However, I rather got into the groove, so to speak.
There is something quite primal about charging around the estate wearing a leather flying helmet and goggles on my trusty old tractorette. The throb of the engine and the exposure to the elements conjures up visions of a World War One biplane.
With a lack of meaningful suspension and being so low to the ground the sensation of speed across bumpy grass is quite intoxicating. While careering about the grounds pursued by Whimsy I was struck by the thought. “Why not two, three or four men went to mow a meadow? With a trophy and pint or two at the end!”
Once out of the saddle I got down to some serious research. Over a glass of Dawdle Diesel (a refreshing blend of rough cider and Guinness) I discovered the idea of blades both young and old doing battle across the countryside is not a new one. Lawnmower racing has been going for years and has a dedicated band of followers.
Like most brilliant brainwaves the serious British version was born in a pub – The Cricketers Arms in Wisborough Green, Sussex – back in the seventies as a way of providing a cheap no-frills motorsport. Although the British Lawnmower Racing Association shuns commercialism it is a stickler for the rules.
It’s certainly turf at the top. Race aces Sir Stirling Moss and Derek Bell have taken home trophies. Hell and dust raiser Oliver Reed, had a team and other celebrities seen mingling with the mowtorsport crowd in the pits include Murray Walker, Alan deCadenet, Phil Tufnell, Chris Evans, and Guy Martin. It is also a big hit across The Pond in America and Down Under in Australia.
Thanks to a second pint of Dawdle Diesel (never a good idea) I was firing on all cylinders and determined not to be left out. Having marked out a rough race track round the lake it was time for a few practice laps before supper. Thoughts of chequered flags, podiums and champagne swirled around my head as I floored the throttle and took off.
Grass was flying in all directions as I rounded the first bend. My fevered imagination was already full of trophies and roaring crowds. However it wasn’t unbridled horsepower I had to reckon with but a Whimsy whirlwind. A late unexpected entry in the field my faithful companion caught me as I neared the boathouse.
Delighting in the chase he decided to execute a daring overtaking manoeuvre worthy of Formula One. As Whimsy flashed across my bow I had no choice but to take avoiding action. Wrenching the steering wheel to the right, the home of my beloved punt flashed before my eyes. There was a loud crash followed by the splintering of wood as I entered through the closed double doors.
As you can imagine things were going swimmingly. Having touched down on the bench strewn with silk cushions, where Lady Winifred and I had spent many a romantic hour trailing our hands in the water and sipping rosé, the mower continued on through the floor of the punt to become lodged amidships.
I abandoned ship pronto and from the safety of the jetty watched as the once elegant craft chugged slowly out onto the lake powered by the trapped machine, blades thrashing, before succumbing to the inevitable. The mower broke free and continued it’s downward plunge disappearing in a cloud of steam.
I was just able to return the salute as each end of the punt rose up in a farewell wave and slid into the depths. Barking excitedly Whimsy launched himself off the pier and swam out to the wreckage. He returned moments later clutching a piece of wood between clenched teeth. Dropping it at my feet the name of the punt glared back up at me. “Meadow Dreamer.” Indeed I had cut things a little too fine!
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