The long paper-wrapped parcel that arrived in the post was quickly dubbed the Nimbus 2000. Inside wasn’t a magical flying machine but a pretty special mowing one. At the end of this no-mow summer where you’ve all hopefully been allowing the mower to gather dust and wavy summer grass to gather insects, the maintenance cut is going to require a different animal to a lawnmower. There is of course the dreaded strimmer with its horrible high-pitched whine of a spinning plastic whip. But I was inspired to buy a new kind of mower by a friend who hated strimming because he “couldn’t listen to podcasts” over the noise. Instead he bought an Austrian scythe.
There’s something delightfully steam-punk weird about wielding an ancient human tool with a digital podcast pouring stories into your ears. Armies of scythers who once mowed meadows together must have talked as they worked. So maybe scything while listening to Desert Island Discs, or Maeve Higgins talking climate change with Mary Robinson in Mothers of Invention, is just a new twist on an old tale.
YouTube is also home to a tribe of scythe dudes who wax lyrical about the joy they get from taming overgrown areas with a long curved blade attached to a two-handled stick. You learn new words when you go down the scythe rabbit hole. The snath is the long handle. Blades are peened. Whetstones are carried in holsters with water to sharpen every five minutes so your scything is less arm-juddering hacking and more silken slicing. The best guides say that you use your leg strength rather than your arms, a knee dip and small step with each circular sweep in front of your body. And after some practice you’re in your flow, with the scythe adjusted to your leg and arm length and a rhythmic sound of swishing. Shorter blades can handle woodier patches like rushes or young brambles. An added bonus? Combined with a hooded raincoat and a blade cover, the Halloween costume is sorted for this year.
The creatures living in your overgrown area have more of a chance to escape in front of a scythe than they do from a mower or strimmers. And of course there are no fossil fuels involved. Just core strength, arm muscles, quadriceps and a legacy of human ingenuity. I got ours from fruithillfarm.com. The handle costs about €80 depending on size, and blades cost from about €50. It’s a full body workout in the fresh air, and when you look behind you a fresh path has been made. We’ve a new name for ours. We call it the Gym Reaper.
Catherine Cleary is co-founder of Pocket Forests