Scything: Mowing on mute

As the year reaches its peak, many of us are faced with the seemingly endlessly growing grass in our gardens and on our plots.  It seems that we only need to turn our backs for 5 minutes and the grass is knee high once again.  Here, Christine Wiltshire offers us a gentle alternative to the usual noisy, heavy methods used to tackle the perennial green sward – and perhaps an opportunity to fall in love with mowing.

Since learning to scythe it seems I never need to cut the grass, which is a double-edged sword (the situation, not the scythe).  Scything is satisfying, relaxing and peaceful all at the same time and mowing becomes a pleasure, so I would like a bit more in my life.  No longer do I look at the grass growing and think of it as a problem because I know with just one sweep, whoooosh, its done. This enables you to let the grass grow longer if you wish, and because it’s so peaceful, you never need to worry about causing a disturbance with your neighbours or the wildlife; no appointments needed.

There is a national organisation – The Scythe Association – that coordinates festivals, and if you are a competitive person you can get physical in a variety of mowing races.  I just use my scythe for keeping my weedy lawn in check and to get involved in the occasional group scythe in the orchard at Stanmer Park. I love it because it’s a gentle activity, but it also builds a relationship with you as a carefully balanced tool; you learn how to keep it sharp and understand when it is working at its best capacity.  The blade I use is Austrian – a hand forged very light blade. Interestingly the scythe was used by women more on the steep slopes of the Alps.  In England it had a much more macho reputation as the English scythe was very heavy, and I think this has put people off a little in the recent past, with no information on how to use it.

When I saw the scything course at Brighton Permaculture Trust, I knew instinctively this was something I wanted to do, despite at the time having nothing of my own to mow. I just wish more people used them, especially when I am relaxing in my garden and the neighbour gets their noisy mower out.


If you’re inspired by Christine’s story, Brighton Permaculture Trust are running a one-day course on Saturday 20th July at Stanmer Park.

Christine has been scything since 2012 and often helps on the scything course and demonstrates at Stanmer Apple Day.


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