Sunday 18 August 2019

Poldark star's topless scything boosts interest in the craft

Poldark star Aidan Turner's topless scything boosted the numbers of those wanting to learn more about the craft
Poldark star Aidan Turner's topless scything boosted the numbers of those wanting to learn more about the craft

Poldark star Aidan Turner famously made female viewers swoon by scything topless but his activities have also boosted the numbers of those wanting to learn more about the country craft.

Bathed in sweat and swinging the hand tool wildly, the actor was criticised for his scything technique but some instructors from the national Scything Association have dubbed the renewed interest in the ancient mowing method - the "Poldark effect".

Andrea Gilpin, 44, who runs courses in the Welsh borders area said the popular BBC television series, about the life and loves of the 18th century Cornish man Ross Poldark, had encouraged those thinking about learning the country activity to take it up.

She said: "It was brilliant the way it got things going and people talking. What I hear is a lot of trainers did feel the news boosted interest."

The 44-year-old added that the number of those joining her scything courses over the summer were up by about a third on a normal year.

"I normally do two course but did three, and I still had people on the waiting list, I could have run another," she explained.

Ms Gilpin joked: "People who came on my course said 'I will keep my shirt on'."

The Prince of Wales is an advocate of scything and has tried his hand at the country activity at his Duchy Home Farm in Gloucestershire.

It is becoming more popular as it is seen as an environmentally friendly and a cost effective way of mowing wildflower meadows or small patches of ground like graveyards not viable for large machinery.

Debbie Horsfield, Poldark's writer and executive producer, was surprised by the interest in scything her historical drama series had generated and confessed to being a fan of the country pursuit.

She said: "It's interesting, I do know how to scythe because my mother-in-law wanted to know and I went with her (for lessons). I find it very relaxing."

Poldark, based on Winston Graham's novels, was originally made for TV in the 1970s when it attracted audiences of 15 million and the remake has helped BBC One to its highest share of an audience in a decade.

When the show's star took part in an online question and answer session earlier this year he was bombarded with indecent proposals with questions including: "How do I refrain from licking my flatscreen TV?'' and "Can you scythe my lawn topless?''

Ms Horsfield added: "There was a lot of interest regarding Ross and the correct scything technique. We knew he didn't have the correct technique but it was a dramatic scene. He was in turmoil emotionally and we wanted the scene to reflect that."

Conservationist and scything instructor Jeremy Hastings said the BBC drama series had added more momentum to the general return to scything by organisations and individuals.

He said: "I think the main thing about the Poldark effect is any media coverage of scything is good media coverage."

Mr Hastings added: "In my experience I've got quite a bit of demand, large organisations are getting interested - and really Poldark has kicked it off."

Nicole Clough, 37, a reserves officer with the Woodland Trust and the Scything Association 's Oxfordshire representative said she had received a lot of inquiries from organisations contacting the Trust wanting to learn scything or asking for help to find people to mow their land with the hand tool.

She said: "It's quite funny my dad is known as Mr Poldark with the people who know he scythes."

Ms Clough added: "I've got a Twitter account I mainly use for work and I've been really trying to get scything on Twitter but the buzz after Poldark - for once there were a lot of tweets on scything."

PA Media

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