Mary’s cradle

IMG_5587 Only three months since the last post so getting better.

In September one of our lovely basket makers, Mary Ponting, came to us for a little bit of guidance on making a willow cradle for her son’s friend.

Armed with a mattress, a set of white (handled with extreme care) fitted inserts, a stand for the cradle to sit on and a printed picture of what the cradle looked like we set to work. Size was quite important so we measured carefully with measuring tape, wrote everything down on paper and crossed fingers. Mary set to work on the base while I was very happy being her basket making apprentice sorting willow, making tea, wiping her brow while she wove away. Day one and the base was finished, “I never thought it would take that long!” said Mary, I nodded sagely.

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Day two was German waling, pricking up and weaving away. We had to tie the uprights straight away to get the rounded front and back to come into shape. Crunch time came when we remembered to test out the mattress, inserts and put the halfway cradle onto the stand. Holding breath for what seemed an eternity we both let out a sigh of relief when it all fitted beautifully.

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Day three, more weaving, waling, packing, border and brow wiping. The cradle started to take shape nicely and Mary worked very hard with barely a whimper. After a good dunking in the bath it was finally time for the border. The end result was so fantastic and a real heirloom. Well done Mary!

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Willow hurdling in Barry

Willow panels

I must admit we were slightly dreading the thought of weaving willow hurdles with children on a bitterly cold day in early February so we put it off till the next day which thankfully turned out relatively sunny and springlike.

Luckily we had a nice stock of golden willow so we were able to add some colour to these panels which are going to used as screening in a nursery.

The children quickly got into the swing of things as they wove the willow in and out of the uprights to the chant of ‘to me, to you’.

Gypsies and Shoppers day two

Gypsy baskets

Vale Adult Learners took on the Gypsy Basket challenge last month and after a fair amount of sighing, the odd curse or two and cries of please no more packing, beautiful shaped baskets unfolded.

Welsh Shoppers round two

The second day of the welsh shopper course took place last month. It was a pretty cold day and once again we were all huddled around the fire at the Heritage Coast Centre. With hoops, handles and ribs all dried out it was a day of weaving the basket. It’s quite a tricky basket if you keep the traditional weave going and try and shape the basket at the same time. Also helps if you’re told how to start the basket off properly in the first place, I blame brain freeze…

Wonderful living willow

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.

New Directions – Carved Arches

We had a fantastic two days at Rhydfelen Nursery finishing off the Fairytale Village with a carved wooden arch. Although we have done a fair bit of green woodworking, use knives on a daily basis  and had worked alongside another woodcarver we still felt we had a lot to learn when we embarked on this project.


We needn’t have worried. We spent two days working on carving and chiselling the children’s own drawings and impressions of their willow village (see previous blog entry) onto a lovely ash arch. This is still one of our favourite projects as everytime we visit we observe the incredible imaginative play that goes on. This time the whole group of ten children were whispering and tiptoeing around the structures so as not to wake the sleeping dragon in her lair.  The staff also reported that a child who chooses not to speak at all in nursery came out of the willow village telling a story about the dragon – how fantastic is that!

Royal Welsh Show 2011

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It was our second year at the Royal Welsh and although it was four long, hard days it was still enjoyable.

It was my first time as I managed to be on holiday last year and I must admit I was very taken with all the different varieties of sheep, badger faces have to be my favourites, quite difficult to get me out of the chicken tent as well.

Clare was asked her opinion on judging the cows and said she found the ‘blond’ ones very fetching.

Lovely to see a few familiar faces throughout the week, overdosed on chocolate brownies a bit, didn’t sell any coffins, maybe next time.

Day three – on a roll

Sun still shining, loads more weaving, can’t stop the birds from singing, anyone know how to shut up a cockerel?

Willow village coming on splendidly, had first group of children play in it which was wonderful to see. We now have a fishmongers, a doctor, a church, the White House, a baker, just to name a few of the new residences of the willow village.

Started the woven fence at the back of the extra large dome, really exciting, uprights in for the wood stores so well on track.

Italian restaurant tonight as a treat, what with Dave’s breakfasts, waitrose picnics and cafe cakes going to have to do Rosemary Connelly extreme dieting for a month!