We spent a cold February day at the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust reserve in Gloucestershire, Slimbridge. Work was going on coppicing and pollarding the many willows around the site. It is so good to see this ancient countryside craft still being practised. Many of the willows here at Slimbridge are ancient but there is plenty of planting of willows going on all the time. When the trees have been cut the wands are used around the site. In other parts of the country the willow prunings are used in cottage industries like basket making and hurdle making. Larger pieces are also used as fuel. Willows are so useful but also very beautiful, the branches of no two ever seem the same ranging from greens and yellows to oranges and reds. One in our garden has even got black branches which develop a white bloom on them in the winter, making it a beautiful addition to our garden.
The photo below shows a grove of willows through an observation hatch in a hide.
The photo below photo shows a craftsmen head down sharpening his tools and having a break from pollarding these ancient willows. The wands when cut are delivered around the site where they are used to make screens which allow the public to walk around the site without disturbing the wildfowl and waders feeding in the lakes, scrapes and estuarine mud.
There is evidence of recent coppicing and pollarding at every turn.
The pair of pictures below show a freshly cut willow and another showing strong regrowth.
Some of the older willow trees line the main paths and looking close up you can see the gnarled bark. Some are hollowed out so that in extreme case only a tube of trunk remains.
Enjoy this little gallery of photos of individual trees.
We came across groves of small willows pollarded at about 4 feet high. When freshly cut they look like a busy crowd of people.
The bowls of ancient willow after years of being subject to regular pollarding create a perfect moist area for mosses to thrive.
So there we have it – a brief appreciation of the willows at Slimbridge. They have an important role to play in these wild areas but of course they can also star in our gardens. But, as they say, that is a different story. Soon we will need to pollard and prune the many willows we grow in the community gardens of our allotment site. I shall post a blog celebrating those willows soon.
So there we leave Slimbridge with its wonderful willows and look forward to my next post about willows, featuring these versatile trees growing in much smaller places.