scything weald and downland museum

Traditional scything demonstrations

The Museum team is keen to promote historic skills and crafts, and we regularly demonstrate those that would have been carried out by the inhabitants of our exhibit houses. Scything has been an important traditional skill at the Museum and the grass around our historic gardens  – particularly those at Bayleaf Farmstead, Poplar Cottage and Tindalls Cottage – is regularly cut using the traditional method of scything.

We have a team of staff and volunteers who are trained in the safe and effective use of scythes. This has been achieved with the help of Carlotta, our Head Gardener, along with expert tuition and an infectious enthusiasm from Mark Allery (The English Scythe Champion) and Martin Fox.

The Museum team mainly use Austrian scythes, which are better suited for our work force, but some members of our team use traditional English scythes, which are much larger.
Why do we scythe?

We scythe the grass around the historic gardens for several reasons.

  • Until the 1830s, when the first lawn mower was invented by Edwin Beard Budding from Gloucestershire, there was no other way to cut grass, so this is a fantastic historical seasonal demonstration.
  • Scything can be a relatively fast process; a competent user with a well maintained blade will be able cut awkward corners and edging that modern machinery is unable to reach.
  • The regular motion of the cutting process – as the blade moves from one side to the other – leaves the grass cuttings in a tidy pile that is easy to clean up. Cuttings that are left on the ground, e.g. by modern equipment, increase nitrogen levels in the soil and limit the biodiversity of what can grow in the open area of a well maintained field.
  • Not to mention the costs of modern machinery and the relatively short life span of modern grass cutting tools.

Now that we have a dedicated and trained team, we will continue to scythe the areas around the historic gardens during the warmer months. Look out for us at the Museum and please feel free to come and talk to us about it.

Courses

The Museum runs seasonal scything courses: beginners can learn with the Austrian scythe and advanced with the English scythe. Please visit our traditional rural trades and crafts course pages for details – 2016 course dates will be released in November. To receive our annual course brochures, email your name and full postal address to [email protected].