Willow, willow…

by | 8 April 2024 | Gardening Club, Health, Local Charity, Retford

The early weeks of the new year are willow time for Muddy Fork, Retford’s Gardening for Wellbeing charity based at the Idle Valley Nature Reserve.

As part of the charity’s agreement with Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust, the project manages a willow holt on the reserve, located near the boardwalk towards Bellmoor Lake. Willow is ridiculously fast-growing and, in order to maintain a steady supply for weaving purposes, it is necessary to cut it back every year. This needs to be done before there’s any chance that birds may start nesting, so ideally the deadline is the end of February.

Of the 200 or so varieties of willow, the holt contains only a few – but this does include a small amount of the unusual black willow, while the majority is the beautiful golden variety which is ideal for weaving purposes.

Cutting back the trees every year ensures an abundance of new growth for next year and helps keep the trees healthy. Once cut, the rods need sorting by size; the very thinnest will be good for small items such as bird feeders and wreaths, larger ones for baskets and planters, and the very largest for fencing. Traditional willow crafts have a long history and using this versatile natural material is very much in line with the Muddy Fork ethos.

Muddy Fork makes good use of its willow harvest, with a current project being replacement planters for a number of these in the garden which are now deteriorating due to their age. The more creative and imaginative members of the Muddy Fork team also turned their attention to willow sculptures, several of which can be seen around the garden.

Following the harvest Muddy Fork has supplies of willow available for sale, to individuals or organisations. Local voluntary groups of a ‘craft-y’ bent can find a wealth of information about willow weaving available online.

If you are interested in buying some willow from Muddy Fork, or would just like to find out more, check out Muddy Fork’s website www.muddyfork.uk. To make a referral, offer your services as a volunteer, or make a donation, you can contact Rose, Muddy Fork’s General Manager, at rose.muddyfork@outlook.com.