Following on from our Clean Cut Gower project in 2015 many of our grassland reserves have benefitted from being managed by staff and volunteers using scythes; a sociable & peaceful way of mowing, in tune with nature and a super-efficient way of cutting large(ish) areas. In sunny early June Paul, Rose & Ceri from the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales' (WTSWW) Conservation team attended a two day scythe masterclass hosted by the Scythe Association of Britain & Ireland at Somerset Green Scythe fair. This is the annual gathering of some of the UK & Europe’s best scythes men and women. The Friday & Saturday were spent under the tuition of Phil Batten from West Wales, Steve Tomlin from the north west of England and Christiane Laganda from Austria – three of the best teachers available. We built on our existing mowing skills with the course teaching us how to analyse our own and others mowing technique, scythe set up and the all essential maintenance and peening (the magical art of hitting the blade with a hammer to thin out the metal to give a sharp edge). In addition to this there were talks on traditional methods of hay making and meadow management for conservation.
The Sunday following the course was the day of the fair, 2000 people all gathered to celebrate the countryside and countryside skills and of course, scything in particular. There was individual and team scythe races which left us in awe – maybe there will be a team from WTSWW competing next year!
The teaching was specifically aimed at those who work with groups and who intend to instruct others in efficient mowing and that is our plan going forward. All three of us agreed we learnt a lot throughout the course and have come away inspired. This summer we will be sharing much of what we learnt with colleagues, volunteers and others while managing our meadows and woodland rides. We love scything!
Paul, Rose and Ceri on behalf of the WTSWW & the Conservation Team, would like to thank the Swansea Local Group committee for the fundraising which allowed them to pay for our attendance on the training class. Thanks!