Traditional crafts live on at Stotfold nature reserve as volunteers master ancient skills

Traditional crafts at Stotfold Mill

Traditional crafts at Stotfold Mill - Credit: Archant

For centuries, willows have been pollarded and their long annual stems used for a wide variety of uses, especially basket making, strengthening hedges and consolidating river edges.

Traditional crafts at Stotfold Mill

Traditional crafts at Stotfold Mill - Credit: Archant

And Teasel local conservation volunteers, aided by Colin Carpenter of the Community Tree Trust and Councillor Larry Stoter of the Nature Reserve Management Team, were carrying on this ancient tradition at the weekend.

An area of Stotfold Watermill nature reserve has been planted with osiers, one of the common types of willow, and this area is cut every year. Teasel uses the long stems for interweaving into new hedges and thickening old ones and for planting in boggy areas of the reserve.

Teasel volunteers of all ages trimmed the long stems back to the trunk before piling the osiers ready for them to move on to their next use.

Colin Carpenter said: “It is great to have this supply of stems which can be rooted and sent out as young plants to grow along other rivers and wet areas.”

Traditional crafts at Stotfold Mill

Traditional crafts at Stotfold Mill - Credit: Archant


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The osiers are also used by Sandra Barker, an internationally-famous basket weaver who lives locally in Baldock.

Sandra provides willow sculptures for events like the Lord Mayor of London’s parade and lectures across the world on basket weaving. She said: “ These lovely osiers will provide excellent resources for classes, since I can choose exactly the right lengths and thickness.”

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In return for the supply of willow stems, Sandra will be running a class on making garden obelisks from osiers, at Stotfold Watermill later in the year.

The reserve is open all year, except the two major Mill fundraising weekends. Stotfold Watermill itself re-opens to visitors on Sunday, March 22. For more information visit www/teasel-info.co.uk or www.stotfoldmill.com.

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