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Village’s scarecrows not for the birds

Village’s scarecrows not for the birds

For birds that like to plunder fields Broadbridge Heath was not the place to be.

Villagers colourfully brought to life a harvest-protection system stretching back across the world about 3,000 years in a charming festival of creativity.

Organisers were delighted with the quality and number of entries for the Scarecrow Weekend last Saturday and Sunday.

The theme of films and television hits gave people a wide range of characters from family films to sci-fi.

Creations were scattered across the community, outside homes of residents and also business properties.

Creations of all types and sizes were displayed by their proud owners outside homes and other venues in the village.

Although, as the name suggests, the devices are often used to scare crows they have been used since ancient times to scare all types of birds and animals.

The creations attracted different names over thousands of years according to where they were sited. In Sussex they began to be called Mawkins, and in England generally they have been hay-men, while in Scotland  Tattie Bogal was a variation among many, including Hodmedod in Berkshire.

Scarecrows were first used about 3,000 years ago, and some of the first were net-covered wooden frames that caught quail that devoured wheat fields by the Nile river.The captured quails were eaten.

Living scarecrows were used in medieval times in Britain when young boys threw stones or waved their arms. When the Great Plaque of the 1300s wiped out many of the young “bird scarers” landowners created scarecrows by stuffing sacks with straw and carving faces from turnips.

Human bird scarers worked in British fields until the early 1800s when children found better paid jobs.

Scarecrows have been used all over the world. Greek farmers of long ago carved wooden scarecrows to look like Priapus, the son of the god Dionysus and the goddess Aphrodite.  The Romans copied them and during their conquests brought them to England.

The first Japanese scarecrows were old rags, meat or fish hung from bamboo poles that were set on fire, the smell deterring birds and animals.

In Italy skulls of animals were placed on the tops of tall poles in the fields. German farmers made wooden witches and put them in their fields.

The scarecrow was made famous by the actor Jon Pertwee, who portrayed the well-loved Worzel Gummidge in the popular 1979-81 television series.

The District Post was out and about in the village during the weekend to capture the selection of  cherished scarecrows.

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