Sometimes the old ways are the best ways. So thinks Uckfield Town Council head groundsman Mark Moore, 57 from Framfield who is using his well-honed scything skill at work in the town’s rural parks.
Mark has worked for the Council for eight years. At present he is scything bracken at West Park Nature Reserve as a method of conservation weed control. He finds this method is more environmentally friendly than a strimmer. It’s quicker and lighter to use, he says, cuts cleaner through the plant stem and leaves weeds in rows for easier collection whereas a strimmer uses patrol and creates a rougher, more messy cut, spreading the weed debris more randomly.
Mark uses both Turk and Austrian scythes with blades of 500 cm, 750 cm, or a metre. He started scything as a youngster, cutting headlands of fields as a farm worker, later cutting waterway and lake banks for conservation on an Ashdown Forest country park estate.
This year he’s demonstrated scythe hay cutting at Plumpton Argricultural College and wheat scythe cutting at a vintage country show as well as competing in the John French Scything Competition at Battle, using a Turk scythe which placed Mark second in the 100 square metre pairs class, first in 25 square metre class and overall competition winner.
This summer Mark and his brother Gary , also a scything competition winner, were invited to cut the wild flower meadow at Prince Charles’ Highgrove estate alongside fellow scythers from across the UK. The meadow aims to support wildlife creatures and create a better environment and biodiversity. The scythe is ideal for improving the reseeding of the wild flowers, allowing flower seeds to drop into the soil more naturally, aiding seasonal flowering cycle and leaving remaining ripe plant material in rows to be turned and harvested as hay.
He said: “Although scything is much safer than using machines, you are still in charge of a big, sharp blade. If your first reaction to this is to think, ‘I’d cut my foot off if I tried that,’ don’t worry, you’re unlikely to cut your own foot off, but this is not the case with other people’s feet. You must make sure you know where the people around you are at all times. You’re most likely to hurt yourself when handling the blade: putting it on and off the snath (handle), or sharpening. ”
Work colleagues are very proud of his achievements and think It is important to support craftspeople and small-scale land management, not only in the Uckfield area, but worldwide.