The living willow season is well and truly on us and we’ve already completed a fair few domes, tunnels, teepees and even a living willow dragon.
We had a lovely time at Ysgol Maes Y Coed both before Christmas doing a willow Christmas decoration day and last month building a willow fedge with colourful basket willow varieties so that the school can grow their own willow for craft and have a lovely living fence.
Big in Barry
We’ve also been big in Barry and had three days at Gladstone Primary and five days at Colcot Primary building mega domes, miles of tunnels and a whole village of teepees. With temperatures below freezing on quite a few occasions we’re all quickly beginning to resemble Nanook of the North and I found myself taking off 15 items of clothing before I entered the much needed willow bath. (That’s not an actual bath made of willow it’s a term used when you’ve been out willowing and freezing your nether regions off all day and the thing you most look forward to is a bath)
The year of the dragon
Snow! Just what you need when faced with three intensive days of living willow planting and just what we got in Bryn Bach Primary in Tredegar. The team were out en force and despite freezing conditions we managed to get all the willow planted and a reasonable dragon shape in three days. Many thanks Mary, Sarah L and Jo for helping out I couldn’t have managed without you. Back to add fiery breath and a nest of dragon’s eggs in a weeks time.
Lovely week, very busy again, planning large Fairytale willow play area for Rhydfelen Nursery, great willow taster course with Countryfile magazine at Dunraven, 2 days at Swansea Community Farm, a 40 m native and mixed hedge at Cadoxton Nursery and then starting 15 m tunnel project at Godrergraig Community Park and first Cyntell course with Les Llewellyn and guests from Devon, Oxford, Norwich and not forgetting Judith from Barry…..
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!
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!