All about Willow bast.

Whilst everyone has been finally peeling off their layers of winter clothing. Coppicewood volunteers have been peeling a different sort of layer.
The sap has risen sufficiently for our annual peeling of some willow trunks. Firstly the tough, outer bark is carefully removed using drawer knives and spoke shaves to reveal the material we are looking for, the bast, which is cut in approximately 1 inch wide strips, keeping as much length as possible. It is then coiled up and hung up in the workshop to dry.
This bast from the willow is a wonderfully flexible and strong material. We use it to weave the tops stools and chairs that are made in the woods. It can be used immediately or soaked for a couple of hours in warm water when needed.

Caring for the Bastard

Bastard Balm Meilittis Melissophylum is an unfortunatley named but very attractive plant of woodland edges which has declined with the cessation of coppicing. Plantlife Cymru has received money from the Welsh government for work on this and Spreading bellflower, both of which were formerly common plants in Wales.

Coppicewood College was asked by Plantlife to carry out some of the conservation work at Pengelli Forest near Newport in Pembrokeshire. We cut back shading growth from coppiced trees on the hedgebank to create light and encourage germination of buried seed. Both coppicing and hedgebank management are necessary to allow woodland plants to flourish. The familier woodland flowers such as Primrose, Bluebell and Wood Anenome need the light generated by coppicing to flower well and set seed. Subsequently, many welsh woodlands have become dark places since the end of regular coppicing in the 1920’s. Coppicewood College hopes to promote the revival of Coppicing in Wales and is very happy to be involved in woodland initiatives such as the revival of Bastard Balm.

Nick Barnes (Chief Instructor at Coppicewood College)