The wild hay expanses of Isenthal in central Switzerland, have been named the Landscape of the Year for 2016 by the Foundation for Landscape Conservation. It said the Alps were probably the only mountain areas in the world used like this.
The seemingly dangerous work is increasingly rare, the organisation said on Wednesday. It explained that the traditional production of “emergency hay” and winter fodder had long been a cultural asset and an important maintenance measure for dry grasslands with a rich diversity of species.
Gathering wild hay using scythes and studded boots is an old skill, and despite modern aids such as helicopters and hill mowers it remains hard manual labour. The hay, which grows on steep, remote areas higher than 1,500 metres, is packed into bales which can then be carried on one’s back.
In the 17th century, the great demand for hay pushed people to gather it from increasingly steep and isolated mountain surfaces.
The CHF10,000 ($10,300) will be divided among around 30 “wild hay gatherers” from Isenthal, a small municipality in canton Uri.
swissinfo.ch and agencies