Twelve gifts of Christmas

Wonderful willows for traditional crafts

A key mission of the CRT is to show how nature can thrive on working farms. We are always looking for ways of doing more for nature alongside raising an income for the charity, proving that wildlife-friendly farming is not only possible but is also financially viable.


At Bere Marsh Farm we are creating a new withy (osier) bed on land which floods. This will offer a new wildlife habitat as well as a future income stream from the harvested willow. 

During the winter of 2023 our brilliant volunteers planted 3,000 willow sets. Half were cuttings from the CRT’s Lark Rise Farm in Cambridgeshire. The other half were Flanders red and Brittany green hybrid willows, bought from a local supplier in Dorset. These will provide colourful "wands" for making attractive craft products.

An important element of the withy bed is to have wands at different stages of growth, so the planting has to be staggered. We would like to plant 3,000 wands, including 500 of a hybrid willow, which will be suitable for thatching, in January 2024.

Once the willows are mature, they can be pollarded every three years and should provide a regular income for the CRT to re-invest into conservation projects.


The willow wands will be harvested and used for weaving workshops on the farm or sold to craftspeople and thatchers. The trees will also provide habitat for a wide range of wildlife, including sedge warblers and the many insects that are associated with willow. Willows also provide a fantastic source of pollen and nectar for insects and birds in early spring.

The aim is to plant a further 3,000 this winter. The total cost of the planting for January 2024 is £500 which works out at 50p per wand. Donating a small amount now will allow the CRT to generate a sustainable income from the sale of osiers for the next 30 years. 

Your donation is being made towards the 12 Gifts of Christmas fund, not to this individual appeal. The CRT will endeavour to ensure that all the items are purchased, however if we do not meet the individual targets, the funds will be prioritised. Considering the most urgent and economical need to get the greatest benefit for biodiversity on our farms.

12 Gifts of Christmas

Wildlife blog: Willows are a cut above