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Scything renaissance a return to old skills
Buy this photo » Instructor Clive Leeke sharpens his scythe
THE ancient art of scything is enjoying a “renaissance” according to expert Clive Leeke.
Mr Leeke, 59, led a practical course in the grass-cutting skill at the Earth Trust centre, Little Wittenham, near Didcot, at the weekend.
He said: “This was the second scything course I have done for the Earth Trust and I’m very happy to say there seems to be a real renaissance happening at the moment in terms of people wanting to learn old, traditional skills.
“I had one man with me who wanted to scythe at his remote cottage in Northern Scotland, while another guy, from Oxfordshire, had a flower meadow, which he obviously didn’t want to mow with a lawnmover.
“I taught them how to use the scythe and showed them what great results you can get in the wet and the dry.”
The scythe was used in Britain for more than two thousand years, until the mid 20th century, when it was mainly replaced by mowers and strimmers.
Mr Leeke is no stranger to working in front of an audience – he is currently gracing our cinemas in the Hollywood blockbuster Anna Karenina, starring Keira Knightly.
He explained: “Last summer I was taking part in an annual scything competition in Somerset when a lady turned up from London, looking for ‘extras’ for a film. It turned out that she was the assistant to the director working on the new film version of Anna Karenina, starring Keira Knightly and Jude Law.
He said: “Jude Law was scything with us too and I was about three people away from him.
“It was an interesting day, we were paid about £60 and I hope to go and watch the film.
“Who knows, maybe even more people will become interested in scything after watching it?”
At the weekend, Mr Leeke showed people on the course the benefits of the quieter, environmentally friendly, method of grass cutting.
He added: “There are many environmental benefits to scything as opposed to lawnmowers of course, but I think people are getting into scything because it is a skill, and also because it is so quiet.
“I got rid of my lawnmower and only use a scythe now.”
Among those taking part in the class was Charles Dickerson, 69, from Drayton St Leonard, near Wallingford.
He said: “I manage the churchyard of St Leonard and St Catherine Parish Church, and an acre of grassland in the village of Drayton St Leonard and was very interested in finding out more about scything.
“I have tried it before and found it extremely difficult. But now I know the correct technique, I found it much easier and very effective.”
He continued: “Because I am involved in protecting the wildlife in the churchyard, I find that scything helps me a lot more with grass management.
“I am now looking forward to the delivery of my own scythe this week.”
Lorretta Waters, a warden from the Earth Trust, also tried scything and said: “This was a great course, very interesting. I had a go and found the scythe much lighter and more manageable than I had imagined.”