Scything tough weeds on slopes

I’ve been scything in Lancaster city this summer, cutting the grass and other vegetation from the earthworks around the Castle. Some of the areas have been seeded with a wildflower meadow seed mix, others are rank grass and some like in the photo are rougher. Here I was scything a mixture of brambles, hogweed, rosebay willowherb and other tough weeds on a slope. Hopefully you can make out the clock on the church tower- 1 hour to clear the area.

Scything tough weeds on slopes Scything tough weeds on slopes

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Scythes are Just the Job

Scythe course Richmond Yorkshire

Just the Job is a charity and social enterprise empowering adults with disabilities to achieve their potential by doing valuable work in the community. This weekend I travelled up to their site in Richmond, North Yorkshire to teach some of their volunteers how to use an Austrian scythe.

It’s great to work with groups like this as they can immediately start to support each other learning the skills by doing them together.
How to set up a scythe How to set up a scythe

Sharpening was next. We were joined by Emily who is just about to start studying conservation at university so I hope she will continue using her scything skills in that.
Sharpening a scythe in Yorkshire How to sharpen an Austrian scythe

Their wildflower meadow hadn’t been cut for a year so was overgrown and tangled in places but I showed the group how to work through those difficult areas using the scythe with less effort. We left the burnet to continue to develop its seeds while mowing the rest of the meadow.
Scythe course Richmond Yorkshire

We then ended the day with a session on how to peen an Austrian scythe using the peening jig. It seems like Steve and Trevor will be taking on this task for the group so I made sure they got some hands-on practise with it.
Learning to peen a scythe in Yorkshire

Just the Job are keen to develop links with other people using scythes in their area so get in touch with Steve or Bridgette if you’re interested.

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Leeds orchards scythe group

Scythe course Leeds

Helping Britain Blossom is working with community orchards around Leeds and asked me to deliver a Learn to Scythe course  for some of their volunteers. I think you’ll agree that we make an awesome looking team and got a massive amount of grass in the wildflower meadow cut too.

Contact if you’d like to get involved.

Scythe course Leeds Scythe course Leeds
Scythe course Leeds
Scythe course Leeds Scythe course Leeds

Scythe course Leeds

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Scything the burial ground

Scything the Quaker burial ground
I’ve been running my Learn to Scythe courses at the lovely Brigflatts Quaker Meeting House for a few years now. It’s a gorgeous venue and been brilliant to see how the meadow has improved thanks to the regular mowing of my students.

This year, the warden has been away a lot dealing with family business and his wife mentioned that they hadn’t had chance to cut the grass in the burial ground. So I spent a pleasant couple of hours one evening mowing the area for them.

Scything the Quaker burial ground Scything the Quaker burial ground

The scythe is the perfect tool for burial grounds and churchyards. The quiet atmosphere isn’t disturbed, there are no fumes or pollution and the scythe doesn’t damage any of the stones. I’ve taught a few courses for groups managing areas like this and hope that more will follow. If you have a group that would like to learn, I can come and teach you at your own site – email me for more details.

Mowing burial ground July 2017
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Scything in North Cumbria

scythe course Penrith
I was back up to Cumbria this week to teach a Learn to Scythe course for a group of friends in Glassonby near Penrith. I used to live up here so it was great to be back and the views of Cross Fell were fantastic.

The group are a mix of smallholders and volunteers at the nearby National Trust Acorn Bank property. Scythes are being used on the property since I taught the warden there back in 2010 so it’s very satisfying to see that they are increasing their use by training up new people.
scythe course Cumbria scythe course Cumbria scythe course Cumbria

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Never mind the machine

A recent student just sent me this terrific poem by R. S. Thomas. I love the energy and message in it.


Job Davies, eighty-five
Winters old, and still alive
After the slow poison
And treachery of the seasons.

Miserable? Kick my arse!
It needs more than the rain’s hearse,
Wind-drawn to pull me off
The great perch of my laugh.

What’s living but courage?
Paunch full of hot porridge
Nerves strengthened with tea,
Peat-black, dawn found me

Mowing where the grass grew,
Bearded with golden dew.
Rhythm of the long scythe
Kept this tall frame lithe

What to do? Stay green.
Never mind the machine,
Whose fuel is human souls
Live large, man, and dream small.

   ~ R. S. Thomas (1913 – 2000)

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Using the jig to peen a scythe

Peening a scythe using the jig
This afternoon I peened a couple of scythe blades that I’ve been using for some contract work at Lancaster Castle. The peening jig is a brilliant tool, easy to use and when done well produces a very tidy and well-shaped edge in a short time.

Peening a scythe using the jig
Peening is the process of reshaping the blade to form the bevel into a shallower angle. The peening jig simplifies this process as the accuracy is, to a large extent, built into the tool.
These two photos show the bevel after peening with the two caps, the first cap creates a groove a few mm back from the edge and the second cap then smooths and thins the area towards the edge.
Peening a scythe using the jig Peening a scythe using the jig

A single pass with each of the caps can be enough to create a good bevel angle but I like to make a third pass, repeating cap no 2 but this time holding the edge of the blade slightly away from the guide post. This allows the jig to peen the scythe right to the edge and gives a finer shape.
Peening a scythe using the jig

I peened my 65cm Ditch blade and my Hahnsense, also 65cm long. The Hahnsense, which used to be called a Stone blade, is very similar to a Ditch blade but with a more curved belly. They’re both brilliant all-rounder blades for cutting everything from meadow grass to nettles, brambles and even small scrub.
Peening a scythe using the jig

With a nice, steady rhythm it took me about 45mins to peen both blades including getting my gear and packing up. A quick sharpen with a whetstone and the blades are ready for mowing later this week.

I am teaching a one day scythe peening workshop for Austrian scythes on 15th October at Slaidburn, Lancashire. Come and learn how to peen a scythe blade, how to repair cracks and meet up with other mowers at a lovely farm location. It’s a great way to finish off the mowing season. If you’d like to book a place, please email me at

Peening a scythe using a jig
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Scything course at RHS Harlow Carr in Harrogate

Learn to scythe course Harrogate
A busy day today, teaching eight students how to scythe at RHS Garden Harlow Carr in Harrogate, Yorkshire. Lots of fun mowing the wildflower meadow in the arboretum but only time to take a single photo.

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Learn to Scythe on National Meadow Day 2017

Scythe course in Cheshire
Yesterday I was at Marbury Country Park in Cheshire teaching a Learn to Scythe course organised by the Saltscape project. It was National Meadow Day so a perfect time to be out enjoying the sunshine and teaching people how to scythe.

Learn to scythe in Cheshire
The group included Steve & Clive who had come over from the National Trust Erdigg Estate in order to learn the skills and are now planning to use scythes in managing the estate there. Steve commented that our group of novices cut a much bigger area than he would expect if we’d all had strimmers. And we had more fun too!

Scythe course in Cheshire
As well as working, it’s important to stop, rest and chat sometimes. The scythe is a perfect tool for volunteer groups as there’s no noise and people can work at their own pace or stop when they want. Each member of the team contributes but can also enjoy talking as they work.

Scythe workshop in Cheshire
Our backdrop was some of the industrial landscape which the Saltscape project celebrates and lead to the formation of the canals and lime-rich meadows in the area.

Learn to Scythe Cheshire
And I couldn’t let Hannah Petrie, the Saltscape Project Communications Officer leave without a lesson. Thanks to you & Saul for organising such a brilliant day.

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Learn to Scythe at Meadow Connections Festival

Two day learn to Scythe Course

Lower Winskill Farm, Langcliffe, Settle. North Yorkshire. BD24 9PZ

Friday 7th – Saturday 8th July

10-4.30pm each day including breaks for refreshments and a delicious lunch

Come and learn to scythe with internationally recognised expert Steve Tomlin on Friday and Saturday. Steve learned to scythe in 2001 and has since gone on to teach hundreds of people across the UK including Paul Heiney for ITV’s Countrywise and the estate team at Highgrove. His lively and engaging courses cover how to mow with, sharpen and maintain your scythe safely and effectively, giving you the confidence and enthusiasm to continue on your own.

There really is an art to scything effectively and Steve teaches the “Tai Chi” style of mowing, using your body weight to do the work so that mowing becomes effortless and even meditative. There is no need for sweat and muscles! It is accessible to all and a truly versatile tool.

The course costs £160 and includes lunch on both days, a bring and share barbecue on the Friday evening, a celebratory dinner and ceilidh on the Saturday evening and basic camping at the farm on Friday and Saturday night (Thursday camping is also available for those who are coming from afar – please email to enquire, thank you). It also includes entrance into the farm open day and Northern scythe championships on Sunday.

The course is part of Meadow Connections Festival 7th – 9th July which is a three day long celebration of upland hay meadows set on a beautiful farm in the Yorkshire Dales. The limestone bedrock of this area gives the meadows and pastures on the farm a distinct and rich fauna and there will be talks and workshops over the weekend which hope to engage and teach people more about these increasingly rare habitats.

For more information and to purchase tickets please see or contact Ruth on 01729 822694 or

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