The summer weather arrived just in time for my first scythe course of 2012, at Bradwell Community Orchard in the Peak District. I’d already done some mowing in the Lake District and in Austria but I was especially looking forward to getting out with a group of students. For me, courses I run away from home are always exciting anyway because I don’t know the land or grass where we’ll be working in advance. The orchard looked fine though with decent, thick grass and plenty of slopes as well as flat land for practise.
Over the weekend we had time, as well as learning the scythe setup, sharpening and mowing style to do some extra things. For the orchard group, I wanted to make sure that they were comfortable with how to mow on the slopes and cope with changes in the ground. We also spent time looking at how best to organise a team working together, and how the scythe could be used to trim the grass between their new hedging plants. Seeing how the sharp scythe blade could delicately cut up to and around the tree guards without the need for any force was a revelation for them as they’d assumed a strimmer would be needed. Actually, the scythe does a better job because you can see exactly where the edge that you’re cutting with is and carefully trim each stem.
On a two-day course, I’m always surprised by the leap in improvement that takes place on the second day, it’s as if the brain processes all the teaching overnight so that the ‘tai-chi’ mowing comes together better. Bruce especially was mowing really well; slow, steady strokes with nice form and easy effort. Interestingly, the only person who struggled had bought his own scythe several years ago and been trying to teach himself. Over that time he’d built up bad habits which I worked hard on to slowly change. We made definite progress which I hope he’ll continue to work with but it goes to show the wisdom in learning good techniques from the start.
The other four people all bought scythe kits which for me is great feedback; they enjoyed the course and wanted to continue using the scythes enough to invest in them for the Orchard Group. Many thanks to Ellie Dunn for organising a very enjoyable start to the scythe season.