Take a walk through the Gwent Levels, and you’ll be sure to find willow trees. These trees, famous for their long, drooping branches, thrive in this small corner of south east Wales. The vast patchwork of ditches and reens that criss-cross through the Gwent levels creates a perfect habitat for a tree that likes wet, damp ground.
Willow trees are important to the environment. They provide food for numerous insects and birds, and help bind the soil on watercourses, which helps reduce the effects of erosion. They also have a lot of practical uses too, and over the years, people have learned to use willow as a material to build all kinds of useful crafts and items. People who used to live on the Gwent levels certainly used willows for these purposes, and crafted baskets, coracles and other useful items with the bendy and flexible willow branches.
On 23 February, over 160 people turned out to Magor Marsh to learn some of these ancient skills in an event organised by the Living Levels Partnership and Gwent Wildlife Trust. People from all ages took part in ‘Focus on Willow’, a day full of crafts and workshops to teach people how to weave willow into all kinds of useful and fun objects, like fish, hurdles and webs.
Other activities included bird watching in the bird hide, a poetry workshop and a willow-themed quiz.
There other opportunities to take part in similar workshops over the next few months too:
19 March: Discover the pollards of the Gwent Levels, 12.30pm at Magor Marsh – a course to help identify and survey important veteran trees and willow pollards of the Gwent Levels
5 April: Willow for you garden, 10.00am - 4.00pm at Magor Marsh – a course in willow weaving and basket making using traditional local willow
Look out for more events by checking our events calendar for updates!