Sustainable housing since 1995
Welcome to Chickenshack
A housing co-op is a home that is owned and managed by its tenants,
A fully mutual limited company

Willow Pics: Here at Chickenshack we grow about 8 different varieties of willow, and can supply cuttings via mail order if required.


Willows are cheap, easy to establish from cuttings and needs no fertiliser or other input. They build fertility in poor and depleted soil, and are of great value to wildlife, particularly birds and insects. They respond well to regular cropping, providing a sustainable source of material for a wide variety of uses.

They have potentially many uses, simply as a biomass crop, simple basketry or huge outdoor statues. It is possible to make living structures like 'fedges', which can make an excellent almost instant windbreak or privacy barrier. You can carcoal it, build with it, or use it to add colour and attract wildlife to your garden. Its roots stabilise soils in places like river banks,a nd as it is so fast growing it is a great tool for mopping up excess nutrients, and is used in organic sewage and sludge treatment to protect water courses.

As our site is pretty windexposed and surrounded by farm land we had two priorites when it came to planting. These were to create windbreaks and to make the land feel a bit more private and as nutruent breaks, to ensure agricultural run off is fully absorbed before it reaches our water course. Additional to that we wanted something that would produce biomass - simply bulk that we can burn or charcoal but as it has grown I have noticed that it has helped provide habitat especially for birds and has been a valuable addition to the land. As the field we are growing it in is a natural wetland the other concern has been not to affect the water table and habit diversity of the field.

So far I am very pleased with the results and the yields seem to increase each year. To give you an idea of how fast this stuff can grom the viminalis pictured on the right was planted by me in the winter of 1994, as a 1m long pole which I simply pushed about 10 inches into the ground and left. It is 10m tall now, and I can climb about half way up it - to give a feel of the thinkness of the branches. It would make an excellent biomass crop if grown as such.

This is a different type of hede, or fedge, a cross between a fence and a hedge, it screens the veggie garden and keeps the sea breeze off the garden.

This dense willow hedge forms a barrier on the outer edge of the wetland field here, it is constantly being nibbled by cattle or sheep, which hardly affects it. It is an excellent wind break and visual shield and provides a rich habitat. You can see how wet the ground is that it is growing in. The tree on the right is an alder.

Above: 2 types of basket willow, with strong natural colouring

Viminalis, or super willow, this is a hybrid that is very fast growing - this one has put on nearly 20 feet after 12 years, and is now a really substantial tree.

White willow stump: This variety is perfect for many uses, including making artist's charcoal. This stump began as a single pole in 1998, i have since cropped the shoots each year, which grow to about 1 - 1.5m long each year. The thicker poles I left fo 4 years, this has yielded a set of poles 4m long which I will use to build a bender (temporary structure) in the field this summer. It is very satisfying to plan your building materials as they are still growing!


Steve Pickup's libing willow dvd

Willow Links,
The Willow Bank, site of Steve Pickup, who is a specialist in willow supply, design and is a grower, teacher and supplier of willow cuttings and products.