Stripping the Willow

To protect and decorate the pallet shed, we’re planning to weave willow through it.  Pearl from Story Storey tracked down a source – right on our doorstep on Hackney Marshes.  The huge site is, incidentally, home to the biggest number of football pitches in the world – or at least that’s what the man at the cafe said.

The site is home to an amazing 82 pitches - mostly football.  Known as the spiritual home of Sunday league footie.
The site is home to an amazing 82 pitches – mostly football. Known as the spiritual home of Sunday league footie.

Len the Lop (that’s what we call him) from Hackney Council lent us some loppers from their depot, which is also home to a wonderful array of parks department gadgets, large and small: sit-on mowers, benches, recycling bins, piles of gravel, tractors, an ambulance – and loppers.

Len the Lop let us out of the back gate and we walked down to the River Lea – and into a peaceful, quiet world (apart from the steady hum of the A12 and the echo-y thudding of the Yahoo Wireless festival at the QE Park over the road.)  So while we were ambling down an almost rural woodland path by a gentle river, Justin Timberlake was warming up for adulation.

A quiet haven - humming distance from the busy A12.
A quiet haven – humming distance from the busy A12.

Willow (salix alba) is a wonderful tree.  Not only does it attract and support a variety of wildlife, but it is, of course the original source of aspirin.  It is also, because of its anticoagulant properties, a natural alternative to rooting hormone.  Just cut several 10cm lengths and soak them overnight in the fridge and use the water to root cuttings.

Salix Alba, the original source of aspirin - and cricket bats.
Salix Alba, the original source of aspirin – and cricket bats.
Jan doing some gentle lopping.
Jan doing some gentle lopping.
Second in Lopping Command.
Second in Lopping Command.
Willow Tree 2
Willow Tree 2

The willow trees along the Lea are ancient and giant.  Normally for weaving, we’d use coppiced willow, but we hope the branches have the same bendy properties.  We we tugged on their leafy extremities to get at the thicker branches.  Snip snip with the loppers and we soon had a large pile of leafy twigs and branches.

Future Willow Weave
Future Willow Weave

They may be too thin for our weaving but we will see… The wonderful Paul from the council is going to deliver them to us tomorrow.  Watch this space.

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