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 firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to get involved.
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.
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 email@example.com for more details.
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)
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 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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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 www.meadowconnections.co.uk or contact Ruth on 01729 822694 or email@example.com
Although the Austrian scythe dominates the UK scythe scene these days, there are still a few people who use the English style scythe. It’s a heavier tool and difficult to find an old one which fits but if you can then it can be an excellent tool.
At the Scythe Championships this year Mark Allery, the reigning champion, decided not to race and instead loaned his scythe to Owen Thomas. Owen made an admirable performance in the finals though not enough to beat Terry Standish who took first place. Hopefully Owen will be getting some training and advice from Mark and be back next year.
I was lucky enough at the Somerset Scythe Festival to have a ringside seat for the finals, a 5m x 5m square of thick agricultural grass to be mown as quickly and as neatly as possible. I was positioned right next to last year’s champion Kevin Austin and with a view of George Montague behind him. The video gets a bit shaky as I zoom in to see Andi Rickard finish in third place just ahead of Simon Damant in an amazing final.