When newspapers and social media went into meltdown after the episode was shown, the only thoughts that occurred were that in spite of the muscled torso, the lad wasn’t used to hard physical work and that there mustn’t be much insect life or many midges in Cornwall.
Experts on scything, the few still extant, criticised his style. Hardly fair when the lad is an actor, not a professional grass cutter. And no less proficient than most other actors when trying to recreate the way a job was done in films, TV series and historical ‘reality’ shows.
Unfortunately, the Poldark episode has encouraged a revival of interest in scything, including that enthusiast for all things made romantic by time – although hard, hard, work at the time – Prince Charles. As with every agricultural development, there is a good reason why scything became obsolete after the invention of the lawnmower and reaper in the mid-1800s – it was drudgery. The reaper and binder still meant hard work and have long been replaced by the huge combined harvesters of today, while grass cutting is almost entirely mechanised.
Those who scythed did so for low wages and because they had to. They didn’t ponce about naked to the waist either. They wore sensible shirts with long sleeves, probably a neckerchief and some kind of hat and settled into a rhythm that saw them through a long day.
Like most of us who did, or do, hard physical work on farms, our strong point was strength and stamina, the ability to keep going for long spells.
Now we have celebrities declaring that scything is some form of therapy. Wait until the first one over-swings and removes a foot or at the least inflicts a nasty flesh wound.
There’s also the skill needed to sharpen a scythe. I’ve used one occasionally and various other cutting implements such as a shawing hook for turnips, mangolds and kale, and a G-ball to cut thistles, but achieving a razor-sharp edge defeated me. Given the cuts to hands I managed to inflict occasionally on frosty mornings with shawing hooks – with frozen hands you don’t notice until the blood starts flowing – that’s probably as well. With perfectly-edged blades I’d probably now have several fingers missing.
So good luck with the celebrity scything, chaps. Make sure the first-aid kit is nearby and the emergency services number is programmed in the mobile.
In the real world, the big combines mentioned above are now working through the winter barley harvest in our area. Loads of fresh, bright, big straw bales are moving on the roads. But spring barley, wheat and oilseed rape crops continue to ripen only slowly. Lack of sunshine during a generally wet and windy July has a lot to do with that.
Yet again dairy farmers suffering the effects of low milk prices are blocking supermarket distribution centres and trying the tactic of buying all the milk in a store, then offering it to the public. Again Farmers for Action are involved
And again, I predict, the effect on supermarkets will be nil, as it has been every time they’ve tried it for the past 15 years.