When our Project Officer, Johnny joined the Trust back in Jan 2020 one of his earliest tasks was to organise the tool store and in the process came across two Austrian scythes leaning against a wall. These were handy finds as due to covid restrictions and being unable to book onto a strimmer training course, to calm his nerves about using a noisy spinning machine on a busy walkway. It led to a scythe going out with him almost daily as he trimmed back the length of the walkway easily slicing through nettles and butterbur as volunteers raked away behind him.
In the early days Johnny will be the first to admit that his technique was far from the best and relied a lot on brute force and bashing anything in his path. However, through a mixture of trial and error learning and youtube videos his technique was slowly improving and then having attended a Saturday training with Rob from Quieter times everything clicked into place and the dream of volunteers mowing meadows and the walkway started.
Along the walkway you’ll find seven wildflowers meadows we look after that creates a bee and butterfly corridor, each year to keep the best conditions for wildflowers we mow the meadows and remove all the cuttings so the soil fertility level stays low. In the past we have used a mixture of petrol strimmers and volunteers armed with shears and bill hocks to achieve the cut which can be noisy, time consuming and hard work.
However this year with funding from a private donor to run a training course for fourteen volunteers, a grant from Action Earth for more scythes and lots of biscuits to keep everybody’s energy levels up we began our move to the new world of scything on the 11th of September at Bog’s Mill Meadow.
It’s safe to say that some volunteers found the learning process easier than others and there has been some good humor and lessons learnt along the way. When handles have been put on the snath the wrong way around, when water has poured out of their wet stone holder when they bent over and when a late visit by the survey team to a meadow led to the cut being significantly harder as big parts had been trampled down.
However the proof is in the pudding and as we come to the end of October all seven meadows have all been cut once successfully with the scythes, cuttings raked off and then a light strim for any parts that were missed. During the process we’ve come across frogs and beetles in amongst the vegetation that were rescued and relocated to safety, had conversations galore with passersby’s about what we were doing and reduced our petrol usage.
Now that the meadows are complete we’ve put the large meadow blades away and we will be found over the next few months cutting back nettles, brambles and butterbur with shorter ditch blades along the walkway edges as workers have done many years ago.