Stripping the willow

Yesterday, Thursday, was volunteer day and I’d love to tell you that mid-way through the task everyone broke into some spontaneous traditional dancing, but sadly(?) that wasn’t the case and the blog title actually refers to the fact that we continued the osier willow pollarding that was begun last week…

Pollards before...

Pollards before…

...and after.

…and after.

As always everyone worked really hard and by the end of the morning, although there is still some to be cut, particularly around the margins, the bulk of this block has now been cleared. Over the next few weeks that will be finished and work will begin on re-coppicing some of the surrounding willow blocks. The willow poles, or withies, that are cut are stacked into a number of cradles (one of which is pictured in the foreground above) ready for use either on-site or elsewhere. The cradles lift them off the ground, mostly to lift them out of the reach of the rabbits who will gnaw at the bark and wood rendering them useless, but also partly to stop them rooting into the soil and growing.

Although probably not true osiers the withies that are harvested are almost as flexible and can be, and have been in the past, used in basketry work by local basket makers and on courses at the centre.  Some of the willow will be used by Michelle and myself with school and community groups or events to make everything from toasting sticks, to wreaths and bird feeders, but there is always far more than we have a use for, so every year we will sell what we can (for a donation) to schools, youth and community groups and private individuals. If you are interested, or know someone who might be interested, please do let them know and get in touch with us to arrange collection (01425 472760 or BlashfordLakes@hiwwt.org.uk). The smaller stems are approximately 0.5cm in diameter and 1.5m long, the larger stems approximately 1.5cm in diameter and 3m long. In addition to the a fore mentioned use in baskets and crafts these willows are ideal for planting to create living willow sculptures.

Sherry modeling some freshly harvested willow!

Sherry modeling some freshly harvested willow!

While most people were engaged in the pollarding work mention should also go to Russel and Phillip. Russel stoically helped Michelle tackle the ever ending bramble “seedlings” in what should be one of our meadow sweep netting areas, but as long as it is as bramble infested as it is, with out reinforced sweepnets(!) it is not really useable as such. Between the two of them they removed loads, but sadly, there are still plenty more to go…

Russel getting to the root of our bramble problem

Russel getting to the root of our bramble problem

Phillip meanwhile was armed with the leaf blower and managed to clear the leaves from the paths between Ivy North, Woodland and Ivy South Hides, as well as making good headway along the woodland/Dockens Water footpath between the Tern Hide and Goosander Hide. It may seem a little strange to “waste” time, fuel and effort on removing leaves from the footpaths on a nature reserve, but the truth is that the consequences of not doing so will prove far more expensive both in terms of time and resources in the long run. One of the great things about Blashford Lakes as a nature reserve for many people is the accessibility of the paths – unfortunately if leaves are left on the paths they really quite quickly get trodden in and decompose down to a nice organic substrate that is perfect for grass and other plants to root into and in a relatively short space of time what were easily accessible gravel paths become grown over with far less accessible tussocks of grass and other vegetation. This has happened already on other, more remote, parts of the reserve which we know are going to need some attention over the next 12 months to improve them and bring them back up to spec.

Phillip - armed and ready to blow!

Phillip – armed and ready to blow!

Bird wise I’ve not much to report from yesterday – I’m not even aware of bittern having been seen, but as I type I have just had a visitor report seeing the red-crested pochard and four goosander on Ibsley Water. Not that the goosander are unusual, but it is less common for them to be seen on the lake in the middle of the day except in inclement weather.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s