Scything was almost forgotten until Aidan Turner’s turn in Poldark, but Nigel Adams says there’s still a place for it. He spoke to Tessa Waugh; portraits by Richard Cannon.

‘Scything has undergone a renaissance in the past 10 years,’ says specialist Nigel Adams, who practises and teaches the art all summer and lays hedges during winter.

‘The art of sharpening and using the traditional old English scythes had largely been lost,’ he continues, ‘but the arrival of light, ergonomic models from Austria has made it accessible to a whole new range of people.’

A certain TV programme has also had an influence, he laughs: ‘We call it the Poldark effect. Of course, we [the scythers] were up in arms because his swing was all wrong, but it certainly helped bring the skill to the attention of the public.’

Churchyards are an area of focus for practitioners, but, at this time of year, Mr Adams is in demand for scything wildflower meadows: ‘We wait until the flowers have passed and the seed is set, then we scythe the field and toss the cuttings around with a fork to scatter the seed.’

Strimming is a dirty word. ‘We’ve held competitions between strimmers and scythers,’ he notes.

‘The scyther always wins by a country mile, plus you have the huge advantage of working in silence. Why buy a machine for hundreds of pounds when you have your own arm and a scythe that’s equally efficient, with no noise disturbance?’

Scyther Nigel Adams in the churchyard at Pyrton Church, Oxfordshire. Pictures © Richard Cannon/Country Life Picture Library

Scyther Nigel Adams in the churchyard at Pyrton Church, Oxfordshire. Pictures © Richard Cannon/Country Life Picture Library

‘In a lot of modern work, there’s no end product,’ he adds, ‘but, when you scythe, you’re working in a rhythm with complete concentration, your body is in tune and it’s very therapeutic—as well as satisfying to look back at where you’ve been.’

For more information and to find a course, visit scytheassociation.org