Pupils Discover the Wonders of Willow

Dechmont Primary School pupils have been showing off their beautiful willow wreaths, perfect for the Christmas season, after learning about willow weaving with local project Rural Connect. They – along with nine other West Lothian primary schools – have been braving frosty mornings, and having tremendous fun, looking after their living willow structures with the help of the project team.

Project worker Bernice Keegan worked with the schools over the summer and autumn months, introducing them to this ancient skill and helping them plant and maintain willow tunnels and coppices in their grounds.

The willow team at Dedridge Primary recently received a Stellar Award for all there hard work building their living tunnel and coppice while nursery children at Lethum also built a mini tunnel in their school garden which the children help to look after and love to play in.

Bernice points out, “Willow is not only a decorative tree with vibrant winter colour; it provides schools with a sustainable resource which will last for many years. The coppices and tunnels the children have built and are now looking after have provided schools with enough willow to get creative and learn the basics of willow weaving. As they are now doing so beautifully!”

Willow has been used throughout our history, and not just for decorative purposes. Traps made from willow branches were commonly used along river edges to catch eels and open baskets were used to collect potatoes at harvest time.

The willow initiative started in August 2013 when the Rural Connect team travelled round West Lothian with their Wonderful Wild Wednesday roadshow. Some children were extremely enthusiastic and spent up to four hours weaving their projects.

The team then designed an educational resource for schools and CPD (Continuing Professional Development) training to provide teachers with the knowledge required to teach their classes about willow. The schools involved also received enough willow to get started with their coppice free of charge. Outdoor learning provided an opportunity for all the children to show their skills and abilities, and to work in a team.

These educational resources will be available on the Rural Connect website for teachers to download and use indoors and out after the New Year.

Bernice said, “Our willow resource will provide important information and activity ideas for learning and will support schools’ biodeviersity initiatives, especially if they are working towards gaining Green Flag status.”

The willow initiative is part of a series of rural resources that are being developed through the Rural Connect Project, a two year county-wide programme, which is funded by West Lothian Leader and Scottish Heritage Lottery funding. For more information on the wonders of willow go to: – http://www.ruralconnectwestlothian.co.uk/with-willow.html or contact Bernice Keegan at Bernice.keegan@sruc.ac.uk.

Published by

Suse Coon

Suse Coon started life training to be an architect but ended up as a fashion buyer then civil servant. After some time out to bring up her family of three, she returned to what had been a hobby and entered the field of freelance journalism. After becoming regional correspondent, then editor of the orienteering magazine CompassSport, she formed Pages Editorial & Publishing Services. In this guise, West Lothian Life was launched, while Suse maintained a level of freelancing and wrote the award winning children's novel Richard's Castle. In 1999, Suse bought over CompassSport and found her time taken up pretty well exclusively with the two magazines. In 2004, West Lothian Life was expanded to form Lothian Life, however, the workload was too great. In 2006, CompassSport was sold and Suse concentrated on the web version of Lothian Life. Her hobbies include gardening, orienteering, sea kayaking and Tai Chi.

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