The First Cut is the Deepest

As the song lyrics say: “the first cut is the deepest” and newcomers to the art of scything at Home Grown Hornsea’s Community orchard discovered the truth of this first hand. For those of you who couldn’t make it on the day, HGH invited any local people who wanted to learn the art of the scythe along to a training event at the orchard situated along side TESCOs and the old railway line on Friday October 12th. The event also attracted the outside broadcast team of BBC Radio Humberside hosted by presenter Phil White who interviewed a number of people representing local groups as well as getting stuck in with attacking the meadow grass. When Phil caught up with Paul Hanson, founding trustee of Home Grown Hornsea, he naturally wanted to know where it all began: “We actually set up HGH in 2010 as a positive response to climate change by encouraging local people to produce more of our own stuff rather than flying in produce from all over the planet. I mean, why are we flying in apples when we can produce them in abundance right here without packaging and pollution, just like we used to do. In 2012 we started this community orchard thanks to the financial support and encouragement of the local Lions Charity Group. Today we have some 120 trees with apples, plums, sloes, quince and even walnuts. Today’s event has come about because the local Rotary Group has sponsored the purchase of some brand new, hand- made Austrian scythes which we can use to control the grass and tidy the orchard. So we thought it would be a nice idea to invite local people along to learn how to use them – just like the Poldark character on the telly.” Representing the Rotary Club on the day was the ubiquitous Keith Twigg who stripped down and got stuck in with considerable gusto and a very bad tasteless t-shirt in an effort to convince all assembled that it really was his rippling torso. To most readers it looks in the photo of him in action that he is squinting at the camera. He explained that it was his way of ‘smoldering’ for the lens. HGH volunteer Elaine Sommers explained one of the core reasons for creating the event: “When we started the orchard there were plenty of local people involved but over time the attendance has dropped off. We need more volunteers and we need to encourage younger people, the next generation, to join in. A general enthusiasm for the outdoors is all you need. The rest we can teach you. Everyone will have different interests. For me the most important facet of the orchard is the wildlife. Because we don’t use poisons and chemicals, because we don’t use mechanical petrol-driven devices, we are actually saving the wildlife. There are frogs in there, harmless grass snakes, toads, all kinds of insects and a rich variety of bird life. They all keep the orchard healthy.” BBC producer Helen Scholefield can be seen demonstrating the classic first mistake of scything – to cut too deep at the first swing and get snagged in the grass. “Let the scythe do the work and swing lightly” is the advice Paul Hanson has for all beginners. Readers will be pleased to know that Helen soon sharpened up her skills and cut a fine figure in the orchard. Have we discovered the true “Demelza” in her? Remember you read it here first. Thom Stridd.

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