Working with a scythe is an enjoyable experience in its own right, but there are fringe benefits as well. One of these is that you tend to end in special places with a scythe, whereas with a strimmer you’ll be stuck on a verge somewhere.
The recent scything course I gave to the South Downs National Park Volunteer Ranger Service (bit of a mouthful that) was no exception. We started off in the workshop but soon adjourned to practice on some thistles in a nearby meadow, part of the Woolbeding estate.
The meadow is right by the river Rother near Midhurst. Looks more like a peaceful stream at this time of year, though the 10 foot drop from the meadow to the water level gives some idea of how it can flow during the winter.
I should have been taking lots of photos of the mowing, but on this improvers course the team had got the hang of it quite well in the main and I was captivated by the ancient parkland oak trees in the meadows. Large trees with the fabulous gnarly shapes and wide spreading canopies that come with growing out in the open.
Back to the mowing. With this many thistles the job should really be more topping than mowing as cutting the thistles is more important than cutting the grass. That’s normally the case with using scythes in conservation work. I started using a scythe on bracken (when I was 16) and I get to use them on bracken, brambles and weeds far more often than I get to mow a meadow for haymaking so it’s useful to look at different ways of working.
….One man went to mow, went to mow a meadow, one man and his Land Rover went to mow a meadow. Two men went to mow, went to mow a meadow, two men, one man, and his Land Rover, and his other Land Rover…went to mow a meadow…..got the picture yet?