At the end of August, I went a one-day course to learn the noble, ancient and fantastically sensible art of scything. I thought I would give it a go, with no real reason other than to see if I liked it or not (and indeed could actually do it).
Many years ago, I learnt some Tai Chi and I was surprised to discover that scything is very similar in terms of how you shift your weight from one side to the other and allow the momentum of the blade to do most of the work. Once you have the hang of it, scything doesn’t make your joints ache!
Turns out I did really enjoy scything. So much so, I bought a scything kit at the end of the day. Now, I thought, I can practise at Denmark Farm, helping to maintain the meadows there.
Two months later, I managed to find time to give it a go!
I manged to scythe an area of approximately 23.75 m2 in just under an hour and a quarter, which included setting the blade angles up initially, and sharpening as I went along.
People using a strimmer, particularly a petrol-driven one, have to wear ear defenders and usually have an MP3 player too. I did think about listening to some tunes while I scythed but then thought, no, that didn’t feel as if it ought to be part of the experience. So I listened to the swish of the scythe, my (occasional) swearing as I swung the blade incorrectly into the ground, and the glorious sounds of Denmark Farm on an autumn morning with the cries of a kite overhead and the sound of Roesel’s bush-crickets from the field just over the hedge. No mechanical sound, no smell of petrol, no having to stop and remove debris and clumps of wet grass from the blade – bliss!
My scything teacher told us that a council (it remained unnamed) had trained a number of its land maintenance workers to us a scythe instead of petrol strimmers, for cutting verges by roads. After 6 months, they decided they would train everyone as it was as fast as strimmers, and cheaper. There were also health benefits, mental and physical. How great would it be if every council did that? And, come to think about it, that person who decides to cut their lawn at 8 o’clock on a Sunday morning?