Jake planting willows
Last week thanks to Rachael and her cousin Carol, a future copse of willow sprung up on the OxGrow site. Transported via the Royal Mail all the way from the south of England, the willow plugs arrived wrapped up in a brown paper parcel. With help from the staff of Student Hubs, they’re now well bedded into the ground just next to the wheat field, with a covering of cardboard bike boxes from the Oxford Cycle Workshop to keep the grass and weeds down around them. They arrived looking like not much more than a bunch of inert twigs – 6 varieties tied in bundles with twine and labelled with a tag – but If they live up to their latin name, Salix, which comes from the verb salire to leap, to spring into life, the willows should be established within 3 years. We’ll be able to harvest them to make plant supports and structures in the garden.
I’m currently reading Roger Deakin’s ‘Wildwood’, in which he gives over a whole chapter to willow and its uses (it’s also where I discovered the roots of the latin Salix). He talks about the now-disappeared art of making willow baskets, which would once have been used instead of the ubiquitous and far less elegant plastic bag. There’s still a small market supplying niche concerns like hobby basketweavers, hot air balloon basket manufacturers and the makers of willow coffins, but at least until we get OxGrow’s production line going, the heyday of willow has probably passed. HJ Massingham writes about his visit to an ordinary village basketmaker in 1938: “If business is good, the basket-maker will use as many as 8,000 bundles a year,” making coal and flint baskets, fruit hampers, five-bushel chaff baskets, feeding baskets, “and those in common use by butchers’ boys and greengrocers.” Support your local basket weaver!
We planted over a thousand trees on the site last month (see Oxford Mail article below). Have a look at Low Carbon West Oxford’s write-up of the event here to see exactly what we planted. And check out the ‘Big Dig’ photo gallery at the bottom of the web-page for ‘before’ and ‘after’ shots as well as photos of some drenched but contented OxGrowers and local residents!
Residents plant trees on sports field
By Ben Wilkinson
Residents are transforming a sports pitch by planting 1,000 trees and plan to turn tennis courts into a vegetable patch. More than 100 volunteers turned out to the Oxford University land behind White House Road, off Abingdon Road, on Sunday to begin the project. They are renting the rarely-used land from Corpus Christi College for the sum of one jar of honey a year. Ash, hazel, rowan, crab apple, oak, willow and lime trees were planted and there are also plans for a vegetable patch in the old tennis courts and beehives in a corner of the field.
The scheme is the brainchild of city green groups Low Carbon West Oxford (LCWO) and West Oxford Community Renewables (WOCR). Lois Muddiman, from WOCR, said: “There will be community woodlands, a community orchard, and community beehives and it will be a great place to come and spend time with your family. “But the main reason we are here is the CO2 saving.” She added: “It is going to be a resource run and enjoyed by the community for generations to come.”
Rod Chalk, of LCWO, said: “It is important to plant trees because it is a fantastic amenity for local people but it also sequesters carbon. “And this area has been pretty much neglected since I have lived here.” He added: “It is also important to get kids interested because it is their future. “I will be dead by the time these trees are fully mature but it will be important for the future generations.” Daughter Gemma, five, added: “I want to come back here in 10 years when it looks like a forest.”