Tuesday 6 February saw the first of ten sessions take place, which will teach Broads Authority volunteers based at Whitlingham Country Park to enhance the area using the art of willow weaving.
In May 2017 the volunteers who support the work of the Whitlingham Charitable Trust were invited to share their own wider visions for maintaining the park and engaging with their estimated 500,000 visitors. The volunteers, who are all local, being based at a maximum of three miles from the park, opted to learn the art of willow weaving. The weaving will be used to serve multiple functions within the park, from selling the volunteer’s work in the gift shop, to making hurdles for the park to teaching the public to create simple pieces of art when they visit the popular site.
The project will be run by the National Lottery funded Withy Arts who champion ‘self-expression through creativity’. Over ten day-long sessions volunteers will learn to harness this sustainable resource. The first session has seen the cutting of the willow crop from Repps Meadow in the Broads National Park. Following this session they will learn how to store and prepare the willow. They will then go on to have sessions in the weaving of various items, including willow hurdles for fencing, woven covers for some areas on site and small bird feeders. Using this knowledge the Whitlingham volunteers will then be taught to adapt their knowledge to create bespoke pieces for various uses as they arise in their roles.
In addition to the experience of cutting, storing and handling willow, the Broads Authority volunteers will be taught how to engage park visitors in a public evolvement day on Saturday 12 May 2018 in which items produced by the public will be combined into a collaborative art installation.
The project will conclude with a reflection day where volunteers can reinforce their learning through reflection by sharing their experiences and discussing their learning. The project aims to equip volunteers with a technique which can be used on site and as a way of saying thank you to volunteers for their valuable contributions to the National Park.
The initiative coincides with the Broads National Park nomination for the BBC Countryfile Magazine National Park of the Year Award 2018. It is one of the many positive examples of the good work done by those who live in the National Park which has led to its national recognition in being shortlisted for the prestigious title.
Beth Williams, Volunteer Coordinator for the Broads Authority said of the project,
“We hope that this wonderful willow initiative will have a really positive impact on our volunteers, giving them greater levels of confidence when engaging with the public and empowering them with a new and useful skill. It will be an asset to Whitlingham but also a way for us to give something back to our volunteers who play such an indispensable role in helping us look after the Broads National Park. ”
Monday 12 February 2018