Learning to Scythe at Scythe Cymru

DSC_0927As I’ve written about before, I regularly volunteer at Plasnewydd Community Garden in Cardiff. My interest in the garden initially was to learn how to grow vegetables, but I’ve gained so much more from the experience. I’ve learnt about growing food and plants, composting, I’ve made new friends and got to meet lots of people from my neighbourhood. A few weeks ago, me and two other volunteers from the garden braved the drizzle and  headed over to West Wales for a scything workshop. Scythes are making a comeback in modern gardening and farming, and are a clean, environmentally friendly method of cutting long grass that also give you a free workout. After years of wrestling with an unco-operative diesel lawnmower, we recently bought two scythes for cutting the grass in the community garden. And, after a couple of attempts where I think I in particular looked more like a baddie from a bad horror movie, we thought we’d better learn how to do it properly from the professionals.

Scythe Cymru offer, amongst lots of other activities, courses on scything. You can also buy scythes and accessories from them. As soon as we arrived, we knew we were somewhere special. We were greeted by two goats before Philip, our teacher for the day, led us into the barn. This is where he explained to us the basics of putting our scythe together, how to sharpen our scythes and, most importantly, how to be safe.

Once we were all set up, we headed outside to practice our scything technique. I soon learnt where I had been going wrong in the community garden, and with Phil’s expert guidance we were ready to head out into the field and cut some real grass. I must admit, if I had to genuinely do this as a job, the sight of a large field filled with knee high grass would be more than a little daunting. However, having a go and scything a tiny section of that field was fun and taught me a lot that I can take back to the community garden. Plus, when I looked behind me at the area I’d just cut, I was overcome with a sense of pride.

Our afternoon was spent back in the barn where we learnt all about peening. In order to keep your scythe in good working order, you have to make sure that you flatten out the blade at regular intervals. Although I generally have the attention span of a 3 year old child, there are certain tasks that I can really focus on and this is one of them. Peening my scythe blade took me back to when I worked as a ski technician and I would edge and wax hundreds of skis by hand. I was in my element.

Come next summer, our lawn at Plasnewydd Garden will be expertly scythed and looking neat and tidy. Failing that, we might just have to buy a sheep.


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