Where there’s a willow there’s a way.
Determination will overcome any obstacle says the saying and that’s certainly what Arc Consulting have done when they enlisted the help of the Community Payback Service to create the Willow Walk, Sandown Bay’s newest wetland walk.
|Winding Woodland Walk|
At the far end of Dinosaur Isle’s car park you will find a meandering woodchip path leading through a wooded wetland area where willow trees thrive in what looks like a higgledy piggledy mess of twisted branches and fallen re-rooted trees and catkin laden canopies. Less than a year ago, the area was dense and impenetrable, wooded and marshy but the ongoing hard work is transforming this wetland area in to something quite special.
|Higgledy Piggledy Willow Trees Photo by Create Harmony|
|Ian holding a man made scultpured bees nest made by Artecology|
The Wonders of Willow
Willow trees are amazing survivors. Fossil records show they existed over 50 million years ago and some alive today, can be 300 years old. Like the buckthorn, they are dioecious, meaning they have separate male and female trees and although typically, the males have more colourful and flamboyant catkins, they are shorter and don’t produce as much nectar as the females.
|Buff Tailed Bumble Bee feeding on Female Willow Catkin photo by Arc Consulting|
Although willow is extremely useful to humans, it is vitally important to wildlife. We used to use the bark which contains salicin, an anti-inflammatory, in the production of Aspirin; we also use willow to make baskets, living fences and cricket bats. But willows are extremely important to the conservation of wildlife and have ensured their survival since prehistoric times by pollinating in 4 different ways using wind, birds, insects and self pollination by lowering their branches or dropping them to the ground.
|Willow branches drooping towards the ground|
A whole circle of life around a willow tree.
Willow is one of the first trees to flower each year and on our walk, at the end of March, we spotted buff tailed bumble bees that had just emerged from hibernation feeding on the nectar and chiff chaffs, newly arrived from Africa perched on the branches in the hope of picking off a few insects. In the summer the willow attracts butterflies during the day and because the flowers don’t close at night, moths are attracted to it in the evening to feed on the nectar which in turn attracts bats. The life around a willow doesn’t stop above ground, the base of the trees make a great habitat for insects and bees which often nest in the tussocks of grass around the roots.
|Comma Butterfly Enjoying the Sunshine Photo by Arc Consulting|
Willow trees are not pets!
With a renewed enthusiasm for the wonders of willow and a warning about how destructive they are to domestic drains in their search for water, we headed off to the tall reed beds where a cetti’s warbler treated us to a beautiful song.