Working with Blessed John Duckett School Tow Law

It was a cold, but a clear, morning in Tow Law when Durham Wildlife Trust’s Heart of Durham team arrived at Blessed John Duckett RC Primary School to lead a day all about willow.

As part of Durham Wildlife Trust’s Heart of Durham community work with schools, the team went and led a willow day full of activities and learning for Years 3-6. This began with some willing adults pruning back some of the willow trees on the school playing field which were becoming overgrown. The first group of children then braved the cold and began grading the willow trimmings into sizes suitable for weaving (little finger width) and planting (thumb width).

The children split the trimmings into thicker stems for planting (left) and thinner ones for weaving (right).


Two of the children work together to plant sections of willow using the dibbers.

The thicker trimmings were taken to the team working on the hedge surrounding the playground. Here, the children did some brilliant work, cutting the trimmings into smaller sections and using dibbers to plant them in the existing gaps to hopefully eventually create a lovely, thick hedge.

A group of children hard at work planting extra willow to fill in the gaps in the hedge.
Two of the girls concentrate on using the secateurs to create straight, thin branches for weaving.

The second group of children joined us after morning break and while some continued with the grading and planting in the playing field, a small team began work on the thinner trimmings to be used for weaving in the afternoon. This involved some very responsible work with secateurs to remove any extra branches and cut the trimmings to the right size, ideally the length of the children’s outstretched arms.

Team work was the word of the day as many tasks required a buddy to help.


Some of the finished willow star wands waiting to be decorated.

After lunch, the hard part began – weaving the willow stars! This proved to be more complicated than expected for the adults but an hour, and a lot of teamwork, later each child had a willow star wand ready for decorating.

The children then had a brilliant time using ribbons, raffia, glitter, and all kinds of fun (and mess!) decorations to give their wands a bit of sparkle.

The children have a great time using ribbon to brighten up their wands.

By the end of the day, the children’s hard work meant the school hedge was looking much improved and everybody had a beautiful star wand to take home – perfect for Christmas!

Thank you to the staff and pupils of Blessed John Duckett School for such a lovely day.

Posted by Rebekah Bainbridge Conservation Assistant Heart of Durham Project