The Old Willow Works Community Field and Willow Plantation
With funding from various sources the bare field of 2012 has been transformed. Along both sides there are now maturing mixed native-species hedges providing shelter from the wind and food and habitat for various species. The species include some, such as spindle, which were formerly found in the village but are now uncommon or absent. The ponds are being colonised naturally and, in summer, several of our colourful dragonfly and damselfly species can be seen hawking over them. We have placed some interpretive boards near the willow works, the hedge, ponds and plantation.
The willow plantation further from the Willow Works building is a major part of the area. Planting of willows of various varieties began in 2014 but, because of difficult conditions, it was not as successful as expected.
However, over the next three growing seasons the plants became more established. In 2017 the first plants were coppiced. The material from first cuttings is not suitable for willow working as it is too branched without long flexible whips. About a fifth of the area was coppiced, with some trepidation in case the root systems were not yet strong enough to put out strong new shoots. The results were remarkable – the 2017 growth has been very strong with some plants reaching a height of 3 metres. All of this new growth is ideal for willow working.
Meanwhile the other 80% of the area was left. With the success of the 2017 coppice work, we were confident enough to coppice the remainder in early 2018. By now we had an outlet for material unsuitable for willow working – Yorkshire Wildlife Park have collected several loads to use as giraffe and rhinoceros fodder. We think this represents a new use for Beckingham willow – quite a change from the willow products of the past.
If growth of the newly coppiced plants is as strong in 2018 as was the 2017 coppice, we can expect a large crop of material next winter. We are making efforts to arrange willow working workshops and to ensure that all the future crop can be made use of locally.
The Community Garden which includes the area immediately adjacent to the building is available for events of any appropriate type – educational, cultural or social. It is also usable by members of the community who may just wish to sit and enjoy the surroundings while on a walk through the countryside.
Small native trees, such as whitebeam have been planted to provide shelter from the winds sweeping across the Trent flood plain. If you have not already been then do go down and have a look at this wonderful amenity.
The Community Garden is just that, available for the use of the whole community and the responsibility of the community. At present it is maintained by a very hard working but small band of volunteers, mainly from Beckingham. If you could be interested in working in the great outdoors and helping in this worthwhile project please contact DickDickinson (firstname.lastname@example.org).