Today we were mostly removing pollard shoots...............
We finished felling birch and pollarding the Goat Willow (Sallow/ Salix Caprea) in the willow grove almost two years ago. Most of the willow had grown tall and spindly and was toppling over. We needed to lower the overall height in order to maximise the chances of attracting the Purple Emperor butterfly and more Marsh Tits back to Old Copse. We couldn't coppice it (i.e. cut it down to near ground level) because the deer would have eaten it, so we decided to pollard it ie. cut it down to about 6ft, out of the reach of the deer.
We don't know if our work has attracted any Purple Emperors because we don't have time to spend sitting around with a pair of binoculars looking for them. But it's reward enough that we've made a nice attractive home for them if they just happen to wander over from Knepp Castle eight miles away ( the nearest known colony of the Purple Emperor). Who knows, they just might have been tempted to make regular visits. We hope so anyway.
It is not the right sort of willow for weaving, too brittle, and as far as we know it cannot be used for anything very much nowadays. Traditional uses included clothes pegs, and the foliage was used as winter feed for cattle. The wood also burns well and makes good fuel. Apart from the latter, I suppose we could use it for dry hedging. Aspirin is derived from salicin, a compound found in the bark of all Salix species, but I don't think that producing aspirin from Old Copse willow would be much of a money spinner, so nearly all of the prunings will be left on the ground to rot down.