Post Archives tagged ‘willow’

Harvesting Willow

Posted on: July 7th, 2013 by
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Winter and very early spring is the time to harvest – and plant – willow. Here is a view of part of a willow bed, local to us, where I was today helping to cut and sort the crop…. heads of willow can be seen standing waiting in the background; “stools” that have already been cut in the foreground and a pile of willow branches – or “whips” – lying on the ground ready to be carried off the field. And yes, that is water lying on the land; willows love it, which after the weather we have had in the past few months is just as well! Willow Bed

Cutting Red Willow

Here Neil is beginning to cut some red willow which looks particularly pretty at this time of year. I am going to have some of this to plant the heart-shaped centre of my labyrinth with!

This is the sort of material needed to build structures – and labyrinths! – beautifully straight, strong and pliant branches, 8 – 12 feet long.







Cut Willow Lengths

And here we have some of the smaller, thinner lengths, and some of the red willow, all ready bundled and tied for transportation… guess what I will be doing for the next few days????

Different Coloured Willow Lengths

An Expermient

Posted on: March 10th, 2013 by
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The thing is, that Cae Non is so different to what I have previvously experienced of country life that everything is a bit of an experiment at present! I spent a busy afternoon marking out, planting, and constructing a circular willow structure. It has a doorway on the oposite side of this picture which, in summer will afford a lovely view away down the field to the distant mountains. The only problem here is that needing to make it quite large so that at least 6 – 7 people can comfortably sit inside it (hope to hold outdoor discussions here as part of my ongoing workshops later in the year) the willow is not quite tall enough to bend over and meet to be tied in the middle to form the ‘roof’. I suspect that I have just planted myself a ‘willow crown’, but I have decided to call it ‘The Sanctuary’.


The Sanctuary

The Sanctuary


The Labyrinth

Posted on: July 28th, 2012 by
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Plotting Labyrinth I 005Ever since I first bought the land at Cae Non I have had the idea of planting a labyrinth which would facilitate journeys of self discovery as well as private little spaces in which to meditate, pray or work in some similar fashion. And I knew that I wanted it to be BIG. I provisionally set aside an area of ground and had to leave it at that until a later date.

In the summer, the vague ideas and impressions of what I was out to achieve suddenly began to swirl around in my mind and I began to play about with plans.

There will be a (heart shaped) centre and three large spirals.

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The spirals will each be 50′ across and lead to a small private space at their centre… roughly 10 feet in diameter.

Plotting Labyrinth I 003Each spiral will represent an element, compass direction and one of the three aspects of the Triple Goddess. So the first spiral will lie to the west and represent West, Water and the Maiden. It will have a pool at it’s centre. The second spiral will lie roughly to the north and represent North, Earth and the Mother. It will have a sacred space at it’s centre which contains something which represents it’s element… a mound, a cairn, a standing stone, etc..  The third spiral will lie to the east and represent the East, Air and the Crone. The heart at the centre of the three spirals will represent Fire and contain a fire pit where both individuals and small groups can go.

Last Sunday we went down to the field. I went with the intention of beginning to mark out the labyrinth to measure – and so be able to roughly estimate – just how much willow I might require to plant it, for this whole project is to be formed from living willow, planted in four or five foot “fedging” with some trees being allowed to arch over the top of the circular pathways. (However, the centres will all be completely open to the sky.)

I have never done anything like this before… at least, not on such a grand scale! Where does one begin, exactly? And how? At school, maths was never my strong point to put it mildly!

Labyrinth Outline

Outline plan of the Labyrinth

So I began by measuring my allotted space; first from top to bottom and then from side to side. It didn’t help that the area of land at this point is not square or equal, but then neither is my design! I found and marked my centre point and then, using 3′ garden canes, I marked out my central heart area. How good are you at drawing hearts? It isn’t the easiest shape in the world to replicate, especially when one is working in thigh-length undergrowth and can’t view it over all from above! But I have done my best. When I am planting I will be able to tweak the shape of things – which also means that I will be able to unintentionally distort as well – but we will cross any of those difficult bridges as and when we come to them!

I then proceeded to mark out one of the spirals. This one is the one representing the Earth, North and the Mother. Originally I tried to keep all the measurements in multiples of the sacred number three but it just wouldn’t work out that way. Several times I was obliged to change my plans and it always brought the measurements round to multiples of five. Then I realised, of course, that this is a feminine focused labyrinth and five is a much more feminine number than the masculine three! (Things have a way of telling you what is right or wrong about them and what is going to resonate appropriately!)

Plotting Labyrinth I 006I can now say that I have first hand experience of how civil engineering must have come about. Only instead of theodolite and measures etc. I had a dressmaker’s tape measure and a couple of garden canes cut to specific lengths for easy calculations. Oh, and also a pair of garden scissors and a ball of string.
I measured from the centre of the heart to the centre of the spiral and then began to mark the path out from the spiral centre. Originally the paths were going to be 3′ wide but it was gradually born in upon me that this was going to be too narrow to allow growth of willow as well as easy access, so I widened them to 5′. This meant that I had to up-sticks – literally, as I was also plotting the spiral pathways out with garden canes and remeasure from the centre of the heart. As I completed each ever-widening turn of the spiral I stopped to tie string to the tops of all the canes so that I could see what was potential “fedge” and what was going to be open pathway.

By the end of the afternoon I was beginning to understand what it must feel like to be a spider, sitting in the middle of her web spinning away! Ha! ha!

But now I have my basic measurements and ground plan. Each spiral will measure approximately 50′ across. Each centre will occupy a space of 10′. The heart in the centre is roughly 14′ across.

Each spiral will require 325′ of fedging – a total of 700 willow whips to be planted and plaited during the winter months. Then there are the 120 willows needed to edge the central heart and a further all-enclosing fedge to surround everything, with it’s single entrance in the east.

Now I know what I am going to be doing in January and February 2013! But it will be an utter labour of love, to plant and grow, to form and create a structure of such potential containing so many perfect hidden spaces… watch this space to see how I get on!

The March of the Trees

Posted on: July 5th, 2012 by
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IMG00155-20120805-1739It suddenly struck me this afternoon that I hadn’t blogged about the trees we’d planted at Cae Non.

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The cultivation and use of trees (for spiritual as well as material uses) is a key tenet of our vision for Cae Non, to this end last winter and early spring, we planted over 700 trees. So far, we have planted:

  • 200 Alder (Alnus glutinosa)
  • 200 Downy Birch (Betulina pubescens
  • 100 Wild Cherry (Prunus avium)
  • 300+ Willow (Salix spp.) – Basket and fast growing ‘super’ willow.

We have also planted an oak grove consisting of 8 sessile oaks, and a ‘feminine’ grove consisting of hazel, blackthorn, birch, crab apple, mountain ash trees.

So far, less than a year after planting, the trees are on the whole doing really, really well.

The one exception to this is the wild cherry, but these were not intentionally planted – we were given them by someone who needed to find a use for them! The most obvious success is the Alder trees – they are absolutely on fire, rocketing away… Thus far, they have grown over a foot since we planted them, and the season isn’t over yet! The Birches have mainly taken also, but are growing more slowly than the alders. 

The willow have established themselves really well, and this is great because unlike the Alders, they were propagated by cuttings of willow stem pushed into the sodden ground. The viability rate has been very good and most of them have grown 2 – 3 feet – and some were only planted as sticks in March!


Part of our Willow Plantation

But perhaps one of the biggest surprises is the success we’ve had with our Oak Trees. One, that was planted last august has reached a height of about 4 feet and has really bushed out and looks fantastic! We’ll know when we’ve succeeded when it’s possible to sit underneath it and look up at the branches way above!


It’s really amazing to see how quickly the oaks are growing – Oak has a reputation of being a slow-growing tree, but ours are sprouting shoots that are at least 6 inches long – quite a feat for trees that are 3 feet tall! They’re also lovely because the shoots are a beautiful shade of red! IMG00159-20120805-1755

Bolstered by how well these trees are doing, we are (of course) going to plant more. The plans currently are to plant at least several hundred more trees this coming winter. Discussions with experienced horticulturalists, and observing what grows well here suggests planting more of the same (mainly willow and alder) and many more oaks. It has also been suggested that we could (and will) try planting wych elms, elder, poplar, and more oaks on the drier areas.

The real victory for improving the land will be when the trees start to drop leaves and create a bed of leaf mould, which combined with greater shade will start to discourage (kill) the grass and start changing parts of the land from boggy grass-choked swamp into drier light woodland. This leaf mold will also be useful on areas of the land where there aren’t trees – it’s good compost for growing vegetables, herbs, fruit, and much more besides. Given that we can’t bring in soil due to logistical reasons and that we have about an inch of topsoil, this will be hugely important in enriching the soil, and enabling the field to be more productive in other ways.

The march of the trees has begun!

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