More willow maintenance

A day at Slade in Southerndown

A lovely sunny Monday was the perfect day for a spot of maintenance and Slade House in Southerndown was the perfect spot for it. Walking down through the stunningly beautiful snowdrops and the purple crocus just about to burst open, was enough to lift anybody’s spirits. With the help of Mark the gardener we soon got to work and in no time at all we’d completed the beautiful willow arbour that sits at the bottom of the garden.

Next was the willow entranceway with a run of fedge either side of a short tunnel. The willow had thickened up nicely so we were able to create a roll top for the fedge and the tunnel had lots of small branches which we wove in. The result was very pleasing.

We finished off with the four way arch which had grown so well that we were able to create a canopy of woven willow that come spring time will burst into leaf and be a lovely source of shade for summer.

Set in six acres, Slade garden is an unexpected gem with masses of spring flowers. The terraced lawns, mature specimen trees, living willow arbours, rose and clematis pergola, orchard and herbaceous borders, create a very natural garden that also has extensive views over the Bristol Channel. The garden is open under the National Garden Scheme on Saturday 14 and Sunday 15 April this year and is well worth a visit.

I’m swapping my day’s work for some of their fantastic organic meat http://www.sladefarmorganics.com can’t wait for Sunday lunch!

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Crickhowell and Perthcelyn Primary Schools Scenic Willow

We had a fantastic week last week, if a bit hectic, working at 2 lovely schools with the most wonderful bunch of children.  Both schools were surrounded by the most beautiful views in two very different valleys …..

At Crickhowell we worked in 3 different areas to provide shade and shelter and play structures for both Junior and Infant children. The juniors wanted a dome with a wiggly tunnel exactly opposite their exit from the school, the infants fancied 3 wigwams to fit in their physical play area for ‘dens’ and we also built 2 arbours. On Day 1 we enjoyed soaking up the sunshine and enjoying the awesome views of the mountains surrounding the school, on Day 2 the torrential rain meant we couldn’t even see the mountains! We were joined by very keen parents who didn’t mind a total drenching to help us finish the project. I was the lucky one who worked with the infant children making willow crowns and magic wands while Mel got soaked to the skin!

After finishing at 3.30 we then went on to construct a beautiful arbour in a private garden in Abergavenny. The arbour was built to frame a 9ft ship’s bench and to our delight also echoed the shape of the mountain behind. No photos as we finished in the dark!

Thursday and Friday were spent at Perthcelyn Primary School, another stunning location looking out over the valley formed by the Taff to the mountains to the East. Another playground location to stand and stare (on Day 1 anyway, no sign of any mountains again on Day 2 in the thick drizzle), although there was a little too much work ahead to do too much of that.

Luckily we were incredibly ably assisted by the older children at Perthcelyn, especially Ryan and Niamh who became our willing apprentices for the 2 days. We have NEVER come across a pair of such confident, dedicated, skilled children – so much so that we handed over our hoodies and both became official staff members! The rest of the team were also superb and we made great progress with the tunnels, arbours and wigwams which were on order for this school. I am very envious that Mel has got another opportunity to go back to this lovely school for Day 3!

Love the Living Willow!

We are now on Twitter (Lovingthewillow) and just getting used to having a way of communicating with everyone on a daily basis (or minutely basis if we like!).  Had a lovely couple of weeks with new basket courses running, harvesting vast quantities of  willow in the pouring rain for some great jobs in the weeks ahead.  We have planted a basketry willow ‘fedge’ around the allotment at Wick Primary school.  This will provide craft material for their Christmas projects next year, nothing like planning ahead!  We have planted an ‘S’ shaped tunnel with the children of Cyfartha Junior school and completed some maintenance jobs at schools in Cardiff and St Donats Castle, maintenance of course is an essential part of working with living willow.

The rest of the days have been spent organising the next few week’s work.  A lovely Woodland Willow Playground in an urban school in Merthyr, basket courses at Crafts in the Bay in Cardiff, an African Village in Berkshire complete with woven mud hut in the centre, a communities first workshop in the valleys,  willow wigwams and tunnels in Chepstow, training for Bridgend Youth Services, yet more harvesting, more maintenance and 11 more intrepid beginner basketmakers for our course on 22nd January at the Model House in Llantrisant.  That course is (1 more than) full but why not join us on 26th January at All Saint Church to see what it is all about!

What a great start to the Year – thought January would be a peaceful month for getting on with some basketry commissions of our own – ha, ha!