So i’m digging up Christmas trees in July and scything fields. Sweat pouring down my face, sunburn everywhere and prickle rash all over my body, oh and i’m on my annual leave, on my holiday?! I’ve travelled up to help clear a festival site with other volunteers in the heart of the Devon countryside.  Why? I wanted to do something different with my time off in the place I live , something physical and something local. Now that I’m home and have just soaked my pain riddled body in the bath I can reflect on just how brilliant my day was.

I worked with a team of people whom Id never met which at first was a little daunting, especially after turning up late. Throughout the day I had the privilege of chatting to most of them and hearing about why they were there and stories about their lives. So many people with such different lives and views to me, this became most apparent at lunch time when I was asked my political views and did i know that legally i could print my own currency? I was totally out of my comfort zone socially and what a fantastic thing this was. We are often so comfortable with others with the same views and same interests and I for one like to keep my views to myself and am rarely asked what they are or challenged on them. Its OK that we don’t all agree and its OK that we are not like others. After the politics were over we all continued to work together,  learning skills and there was lots of laughter.

In terms of the work….well, there was lots of land clearing to do! Farming land that needed cutting back without the use of electricity. I was introduced to the scythe! I thought this was a museum tool from the feudal system!

I was taught to cut down head height grass and was taught how to sharpen my scythe! I spent hours clearing a field;  back and forth with the blade in meditative sweeps! I had time to think but didn’t, i was absorbed in the cutting, the smell of grass, the birds around me and the encouraging voices telling me how well I was doing. I felt a real sense of achievement looking back at the piles of grass Id made and my mind was bathed in the moment. I was also taught to dig up some Christmas trees. This was physically very tough but again gave me a real sense of self achievement and confidence. Its also given me an appreciation for and thought about people who use just hand tools to farm with across the world.


I’m not going back tomorrow, i’m going to send my apologies,  i’m too broken. This is me being kind to myself. I feel a pang of ‘I’m letting people down’ and ‘what will they think of me?’. None of that really matters. Some of us are not made for days and days of scything and its OK to say no sometimes. My mind says yes but my body no!

I would recommend doing something different and volunteering , especially if you don’t know what you are interested in life or you feel like you are not going anywhere or achieving anything.  There are so many psychological, physical  and social benefits you can gain. For once you are not the expert of anything and no one has expectations of you. Give of your time and you will gain more than you can gain from money.


Don’t know where to start volunteering and what on earth to do?

Start here

These people will help you!

South Hams



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