National Trust scything a way forward

National Trust Rangers on the Lizard are turning back the clocks, by putting their faith in the humble scythe.  These simple tools, which were the only way to gather in the harvest of hay and corn just a few generations ago, are making a come back for tasks such as cutting footpaths.

Martin McDowall Ranger for the National Trust explains “We care for over 10 miles of paths on the Lizard, which require anything up to 3 cuts per year. I’m a convert when it comes to scythes.  Modern ones are light and can be adjusted in a myriad of ways, so they can be set up for comfort. It’s so nice not to have the weight of a strimmer to carry around, nor the fuel, and it’s much more pleasant to be able to work without the noise and fumes of a petrol engine, even if it is a little slower. It’s less intrusive for the public too, and doesn’t scare wildlife.”

ScythingGina Perry, an university student on placement with the Trust said “I have to admit I didn’t realise I’d be learning how to use a scythe as part of my time with the Trust, but it’s not too hard to master the basics and find your rhythm with it, although I’m not up to championship speed! I’ve had brushcutter training too, so I can switch between the old and new technology easily enough.”

Martin added “We won’t be ditching the brushcutters just yet as the scythes don’t like anything too woody, but they have definitely earned their place in the workshop. It’s great to be able to leave behind the ear defenders, and protective long sleeves and trousers, but obviously, being The National Trust our attire is decent and modest at all times! Funnily enough, we do scythe at some of the Cornish locations where Poldark was filmed, but there’s no danger of us baring our flesh or working up quite such a sweat. We have to pace ourselves for a full day’s work on the cliffs, and we take the dangers of sunburn very seriously!”

Published: Sept 2016
Author: Rachel Holder (Area Ranger, The Lizard)