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This Britain

Minor British Institutions: Mowing the lawn

Its origins are lost amid rival claims of monks, princes, and even the Garden of Eden, but the lawn as we know it was born when the British invented the lawnmower.

Now a machine could replace a herd of something, chomping, the way was turfed to a lawn in every garden, tended mostly by the man of the house, revisiting ancient roots. How many dreams of bucolic estate have accompanied the measured progress, up and down, pipe clamped in mouth, ready for war on moss and mole?

Motorisation lent yet more to the performance, but the 1960s, as usual, mowed over all that by challenging the order of the stripe with the less formal effect of easier machines.

The ride-on mower has helped some, but the ritual is now mostly relegated to a pre-barbecue cosmetic, if it has survived deck or patio.

I recommend reverie at Southport's British Lawnmower Museum, among mowers owned by Brian May, Diana, Princess of Wales, and Hilda Ogden off Coronation Street.