Ancient craft kept alive by volunteers to improve environment

Osier volunteers at Stotfold with Sandra Barker, left,
Osier volunteers at Stotfold with Sandra Barker, left,

A centuries old craft is being kept alive in Stotfold and benefiting the environment.

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.

Volunteers of Teasel conservation group have been busy at Stotfold Watermill Local Nature Reserve ensuring this heritage activity continues, helped by two of their Duke of Edinburgh award students, Billy and Justin.

An area of the reserve has been planted with osiers, one of the common types of willow and this area is cut every year. Volunteers trimmed the long stems back to the trunk before piling the osiers ready for them to move on to their next use.

The long stems are the result of one year’s growth and provide dramatic evidence of the speed at which Teasel uses the stems for a variety of traditional uses, such as interweaving into new hedges, thickening old ones and for planting in boggy areas of the nature reserve.

Some of the osier crop is provided to Colin Carpenter of the Community Tree Trust, which works locally to enhance natural habitats and grow and plant native trees.

The stems have also been used to provide a useful hedge to Stotfold’ s Common Road allotment site and to help to drain the wet ground there.

Sandra Barker, an internationally-famous basket weaver, who lives locally, finds the osiers vital for her work.

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.” 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.

Stotfold Watermill Local Nature Reserve is open all year, except the two major Mill fundraising weekends. Stotfold Watermill itself re-opens to visitors on Sunday, March 20, when visitors can enjoy the tea room and gift shop, as well as watching the quality stone-ground flour being produced by the nationally-important mill machinery.

The Annual General Meeting of the Stotfold Mill Preservation Trust will be at 7.30pm on Thursday, March 24 at the mill. All are welcome to attend and find out more about the work of the trust on behalf of the mill and the nature reserve.

For more information about Teasel Conservation Volunteers see: www/teasel-info.co.uk or www.stotfoldmill.com