Hay Rake making workshop in Staffordshire

An action-packed day with Groundwork West Midlands teaching a group how to make wooden hay rakes at Silverdale Country Park.

We started by cleaving a green ash log for the rake heads and stripping the bark off some straight hazel poles for the handle (called the stail) – lots of good working on the shavehorses.

To make the rake teeth (called tines) we split another ash log into squares.

These are then knocked through a tine cutter to shape them into the rake teeth. The teeth need to dry before they’re fitted into the head so I had brought some prepared in advance.

Lots of drilling followed and hammering the teeth into the heads. The handle is sawn down to make a split stail and provide strength.

Here’s some of the group with with their completed hay rakes. They’ll get lots of use this summer when we’re scything the meadows on the site.

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Manchester meadows

Another damp day didn’t spoil a great Learn to Scythe course at Highfield Country Park in Manchester. Local volunteers came to learn and help manage the ‘meadow rooms’ that we’re creating on the site.

There’s a growing Manchester scything scene with various projects around the city using scythes now and I’m pleased to be able to show how useful the scythe is for urban settings. If your project would benefit from some training, feel free to get in touch. I can deliver a workshop at your own site so the training is specific to your situation. Email stevetomlin8[at]gmail.com

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Yellow rattle in urban meadow

I’ve been working with some local volunteers at Highfield Country Park in Levenshulme, Manchester to manage a few areas to try and create small meadows to enhance the biodiversity.

Last autumn, we sowed yellow rattle seed which I’d collected from a site just 2miles away and I’m very pleased to see that it’s germinated.

18 months ago this area was dominated by thistles. It’s been cut 3 times and now is starting to look more like a meadow; it’ll be interesting to see what other plants come up from the seedbank.

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Scything workshop in Lancashire sunshine

A sunny day and another lovely group on my Learn to Scythe workshop this weekend at Bell Skyes in the Forest of Bowland, Lancashire.

Especially gratifying for me to have Adam in the group who introduced himself as ‘the reluctant husband’ and committed strimmer user who, by the end of the day was firmly converted to scything!

Visit my Learn to Scythe page for details of upcoming courses in Lancashire, Yorkshire and Cumbria

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Learn to Scythe book

Learn to Scythe book cover
If youve taken part in No Mow May 2024 or are interested in creating a wildflower meadow, you may be thinking about buying an Austrian scythe.

I always recommend that people attend a scythe workshop to learn the best way to sharpen and use a scythe. However, sometimes that isn’t possible so my Learn to Scythe book is a good option. It covers all the techniques from my scything courses and makes a great reference.

Contents

  • Introducing the scythe
  • Mowing words
  • Choice of blade
  • Setting up your scythe
  • Ergonomic mowing
  • Honing the edge
  • Peening Continental scythe blades
  • Organising your mowing
  • Scythe safety
  • Looking after your scythe


Buy your copy from Etsy

Steve Tomlin Crafts Etsy shop

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Scythe workshop in North Yorkshire

My first public Learn to Scythe workshop for the 2024 season took place this weekend at Foxglove Covert LNR in North Yorkshire.

Seven beginners spent the morning learning to set up the Austrian scythes and how to hone to maintain a keen edge.

Then in the afternoon, we headed out to cut an area of meadow which is being managed for wax cap fungi. We were fortunate to have Carl, the site warden, to explain all the work that’s being done on site and how scything has become an invaluable tool for managing the reserve.

There are still a few places available for this year’s courses but they’re filling fast so please book soon so as not to miss out. Visit my Learn to Scythe page for more details.

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Local councils join No Mow May 2024

It’s great to read that 40 local councils have signed up to No Mow May 2024 to leave some of their verges and parks to grow and increase biodiversity. Is your local council one of them?

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May whistle instructions

May Day is a traditional time of year to make a simple wooden whistle from the hedgerow. While the sap is rising, you can slip the bark off a stick as a tube then carve the airway and cavity. It’s a fun project to do with kids and all you need is a knife.

Here’s some excellent instructions on how to make a May Whistle from my friend Anna Casserley

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No Mow May 2024

Wildflower meadow in Lancashire

Whatever size your meadow or garden is, No Mow May is a worthwhile project to try and see what plants grow. Obviously, the timing will depend on where you are in the world and the species you already have but the basic principle of letting the vegetation grow for a month can bring delightful results. An increase in species and flowers attract pollinators and other insects which then can bring birds to your site.

Of course, once you have a meadow, you’ll need more than a lawnmower. A scythe is the perfect tool for cutting the long wildflowers and grasses when it’s time. Lightweight, quiet and efficient, scything is an easy method to mow a meadow. My Learn to Scythe courses run throughout the summer and will teach you everything you need to use and maintain an Austrian scythe. Places book quickly so secure your spot now via Eventbrite: Learn to Scythe

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Fellsman mandatory spoon

This weekend I’ll be attempting to complete The Fellsman, a 61mile navigational event with 11000ft of climbing across the Yorkshire Dales. It’ll be the furthest I’ve ever run and I’m hoping to complete in 24hrs, meaning I’ll be spending a full night outdoors trying to find my way using map and compass.

There’s a substantial mandatory kit list to carry, mostly for safety. It also includes a spoon, for eating at the various checkpoints en route so, naturally, I thought I’d make my own. This is some lovely silver birch from the same tree as we used during the workshop the other week. The hole means I can tie it to my pack so it doesn’t get lost.

I’m excited and nervous, wish me luck!

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