Scything Poldark style

Simon Damant mowing 1/4 acre challenge at Wimpole Hall

It's not only the BBC's Ross Poldark who likes to whip off his shirt and pick up a scythe. Some of our rangers are once again putting their faith in these simple tools for tasks such as cutting footpaths and grassland

Vital wildlife habitats like meadow and grassland are under threat. But for us this isn't about attracting an audience. It's about working the land in a way that has big benefits for wild plants and animals. We spoke to our ranger Simon Damant,  a former UK champion mower.

Helping wildlife

Simon, one of our rangers at Wimpole Estate, Cambridgeshire explains why mowing with a scythe makes a difference.

‘You can only mow an acre a day. Moving at this pace means that nature has time to get out of the way and adapt to what you’re doing .

‘I found a partridge nest in the grass the other day while we were mowing. If we’d been using a tractor, it would have been destroyed. But instead we could work around it.

‘Also, you don’t just blast across a whole field. While you’re working on one bit, the other bit you did a few days ago is back in flower. There’s a balance.’

In addition, scythes are quieter than petrol-driven strimmers and cause no pollution.

Nature-friendly traditions

Mowing with scythes also allows us to revive the sort of traditional country management practices that help make our meadows healthier and better places for wildlife.

‘For example, after we mow an area we move the green hay into the next field,’ says Simon. ‘This helps it dry. But it also means the seeds drop out as we're moving it awound. There will be more wildflowers next year as a result.’

Martin McDowall, one of our rangers at the Lizard, Cornwall says:  ‘We care for over 10 miles of paths on the Lizard. These require anything up to three cuts per year. Scythes are the perfect tools. Not only are they light – much lighter than strimmers – they can be adjusted for comfort.’

" I have to admit I didn’t realise I’d be learning how to use a scythe as part of my time here, but it’s not too hard to master the basics and find your rhythm with it, although I’m not up to championship speed!"
- Gina Perry, university student on placement with us

Earning a place in the toolbox

Martin added: ‘We won’t be ditching the strimmers just yet as the scythes don’t like anything too woody. But they have definitely earned their place in the toolbox.

‘It’s great to be able to leave behind the ear defenders, and protective long sleeves and trousers. But obviously our attire is decent and modest at all times – unlike Poldark.'