Not so grim reapers

scything - simon barnett

Story by Saleema Imam | Photo by Simon Barnett

On Wednesday 25th September six intrepid pioneers from the Friends of Burngreave Cemetery and Pitsmoor Adventure Playground, took part in a scything training day led by Jeremy Hastings from Wildwood Wisdom.

We in the cemetery try to avoid the council workers’ motor mowers cutting the grass close to our cemetery bee colonies, as the noise and vibration disturbs the bees and increases the possibility of angry bees attacking the source of the irritation.

People at the adventure playground are trying to solve the difficulties of cutting back the grass and undergrowth where it’s awkward to use strimmers on their sloping site.

The day started with safety instruction, adjusting the scythes to each user’s height and practising the movements without blades which caused a fair bit of hilarity. We eventually moved on to working around the beehive, cleaning and sharpening the blades before moving across to the playground to work in the edges there.

We learned about the history of scything in Britain, the differences between English and continental scythes and the ecological benefits of scything as opposed to machine based work.

Scything is an activity that can be communal, sharing the load and bringing people together. Machine mowing is solitary and very noisy, users need to wear ear defenders precluding conversation. Jeremy explained:

“There is a need to recognise that although scything as well as other traditional land work skills such as hedge-laying and drystone walling, gets labelled as ‘heritage’, we need to consider the present and future. Therefore scything isn’t just a ‘past heritage’ but is contemporary heritage and most important of all, with climate change awareness, it is a tool to enable future heritage.”