Country diary: cutting-edge technology from the stone age

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Wellington, Somerset: The blade is shaped like a toucan’s bill and the long wooden handle has the pleasing curve of a well-balanced spine

It was the first cut of the season, and I was out with my friend and UK scything champion Andi Rickard. We headed for a small triangle of common land known affectionately as Norman’s Folly.

We laid our scythes down and stood among the tufts of grass, dead nettles and celandine. Andi showed me how to attach the blade by sliding down the ring at the top of the handle and fitting the protruding metal knob into a socket. Once the tang was snug against the snath – I was starting to enjoy all the lingo – I copied her as she stroked the whetstone across her blade to hone the cutting edge to razor sharpness. For a pipe smoker, half the pleasure comes from the tapping and cleaning and general palaver; the same for scything, I think.

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