Torksey willow-weavers create living art on park

Living willow arbour at The Elms

Nimble-fingered residents have helped to create a living willow arbour in the grounds of The Elms Retirement Park, celebrating a centuries-old Lincolnshire craft.

The park residents were joined in their task by local willow artist Alison Walling who is one of the county’s best-known proponents and teachers of the skill.

The creation of the arbour was part of a willow-weaving day organised by the park, and which drew enthusiastic support from many residents.

With careful tending, the arbour – which surrounds a timber bench – should last for many years, according to Tracey Coulson who is a member of the park-owning family.

She says that The Elms, which has more than 300 park homes set in over 60 acres of countryside, has long taken a special pride in helping to protect the natural heritage.

Willow growing, harvesting and basket making was an important source of employment in Lincolnshire in the nineteenth century and early twentieth century. In the late 1800’s there were over 320 basket makers in Lincolnshire, rising to over 450 by the early 1920’s.

“This addition to the park will be a reminder of our Lincolnshire heritage and a great feature on the park.” said Tracey Coulson.

The park has been praised in recent times by botanist David Bellamy for its many environmental achievements, and presented with his prestigious conservation award.

Wildlife initiatives have included the planting of high nectar producing shrubs which attract a wide range of butterfly species, and which are irrigated by harvested rainwater.

The park also carefully maintains its three lakes which act as a magnet for many different types of birds and aquatic life, from ducks to dragonflies.

Owls and other bird species are additionally encouraged by the siting of nesting boxes in the grounds, and The Elms has also created wildflower areas where many different varieties flourish.

Many park residents have also helped make The Elms a natural paradise by sustaining wildlife areas in their gardens which provide shelter, habitats and feeding resources for birds and animals.

“We all had a fascinating day in the company of Alison Walling, and learnt a lot about the long history of the willow in Lincolnshire,” said Tracey Coulson.

“The arbour is a magnificent structure in which many people played a part under Alison’s guidance, and we’re really looking forward to seeing it green up next spring!” she added.