Sunday 14 August 2011

Strim Reaper - Zero Carbon Scything

If you thought that cutting grass was a pretty boring activity, I am here to tell you otherwise. I'm a scyther, scythe teacher and all-round scythe nerd. Cutting grass is my raison d'etre.

Scything, as I am sure you will all know, is a way of cutting grass using a blade attached to a long stick. Think the Grim Reaper but with fescue rather than souls and you're there. Scything is undergoing a revival in Britain at the moment, largely thanks to the importation of lightweight Austrian scythes by Simon Fairlie. Usually I would choose to buy British, but no one in Britain is making scythes at the moment, and the old Anglo-American tools that can be seen in sheds and second-hand shops around the country are cumbersome, heavy and difficult to set up.

In the past, the scythe was used for many things, from harvesting wheat to mowing the churchyard. These days it's a great option for people with small to medium amounts of grass and weeds to manage. It's perfect for orchards and, with a bit of practice you can even mow your lawn with a scythe. One of its main benefits is its silence. There are no engines to disturb the peace of a Sunday morning. The only sound is a gentle swoosh of the blade going through the grass. It's also zero carbon. A scythe is person-powered. The only fuel needed is a midday sandwich.

On a deeper level, for people (like me) who don't have a lot of experience of using tools, the satisfaction of really getting to know a tool, and mapping it in your mind is a profound one. Scything is relatively easy to learn but it does take skill and that is what brings the satisfaction. The first time you cut a clean swathe of grass, get your blade really really sharp is one of great joy. It sounds corny, but it's true. It's a real 'taking of the stabilisers moment'.

So, hang up your strimmer and take to the scythe. You won't regret it..."

Beth Tilston

Postcard from The Scythe Shop; Beth Tilston at work. video (no audio) by Pete Vido of "short scenes demonstrating the versatility of a good scythe in diverse conditions--from "lawn" and field cutting to an "obstacle course" requiring precision mowing technique"; Beth Tilston at work.

Beth Tilston is available to teach scything courses (up to six people) either before the end of October or from May onwards next year. The course requires an area which has access to a reasonable amount of grass which isn't regularly mown short, plus somewhere with nettles, docks, thistles etc to provide variety. Contact or phone 07818474712

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