school garden

school garden

Saturday, 28 March 2009

The willow classroom - March 2009

Holy Trinity School has started to grow a classroom – a living willow classroom. Other schools have grown igloo sized willow rooms but we decided to make it big enough for a whole class and teacher to sit and listen to stories, poems or just discuss the wonder of sitting in a living space.

The idea began even before the first garden meeting with a visit to the Eden Project in Cornwall where they have a mature willow room as well as many examples of willow tunnels and willow used as live edging to beds.

It was one of those things that you see and you want - but where to put such a structure, Soon after that the discussion began about what can we do in our environmental space, and the suggestion was made. It was hard for people who had never seen it to grasp the idea but photos helped.

Willow is a magical plant, you just cut a twig or even small branch, stick it in the ground, water it well and it will form new roots and grow. There are companies supplying willow in bundles and enough to make a small dome would cost around £90. We wanted a big dome and a long winding tunnel entrance. It may cost a bit more.

Then like so much that has happened in the garden it all came together… Judith Baker one of the garden group parents mentioned that she helped out as a volunteer at the Swannery at Abbotsbury and every spring they cut their willow back and she’d ask them if we could have the willow.

The reply can back as a yes, and not only that but would some of the gardening group like to visit the Swannery, feed the swans, view the willow maze that they had had built last year, see the willow that was to be cut and meet the man (swineherd) who would be doing the cutting.

The visit took place in the February half term and several car loads of parents and children had a lovely time visiting the ‘not open to the public yet’ Swannery and feeding the swans.

In preparation for the classroom whilst the garden group were working on the raised bed area, during February half term, a shallow circular trench had been dug for the classroom and a winding snake trench for the entrance tunnel.
At the begging of March the message came via Judith that the coppicing had started and that will willow would be delivered to the school the next week. The swineherd came with his willow and helped plant the main supports of the classroom, it was then up to Judith, Samantha and Helen to plant the fillings for the walls. They were positioned at an angle and woven together to form an interesting crisscross effect. It was a very pleasing process, not too strenuous apart from digging out a few obstructions. During the first couple of days many of the children were brought up to the garden to learn what was going on and to plant a few twigs for themselves.

A watering rota has been put in place as the willow will need to be watered every day for several months to ensure it puts out roots but even after being in for a week it has started to produce little leaves, a wonderful sight.

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