To mark National Apprenticeship Week, we’re launching a series of blog posts by our newly-appointed Kitchen Garden Apprentice Lauren Jennings. Here she shares her experiences of willow coppicing.

Hi, I’m Lauren, the new Kitchen Garden Apprentice. It’s such a pleasure to have been chosen for this exciting new position.

Tell us about your apprenticeship

My apprenticeship is a two-year course, kindly funded by the Linbury Trust, involving a four-day working week at Chiswick House & Gardens. My week is split between three days in the Kitchen Garden and one day within the grounds. I also go to Capel Manor College one day a week to study for a Level 2 in Horticulture. It’s the most perfect apprenticeship for me as I love how I am learning and getting involved in new things every day. There’s so much opportunity for growth.

Give us a flavour of your work so far

This is a difficult question to answer, as I’ve done so many things in such a short space of time. From mulching, pruning, planting bulbs and coppicing to even being allowed up in the cherry-picker to learn about tree maintenance. The start of January really did test me with the freezing temperatures, but it was actually fine, a frosty kitchen garden really is the most beautiful sight.

What’s been your favourite task so far?

Willow-coppicing has been really interesting to learn about. Coppicing is a traditional form of woodland management that promotes new growth and is great for wildlife. It’s essentially a pruning method. Willow grows very quickly and can be coppiced every year. The willow can then be used to make baskets, sculptures, fishing nets or fences.

Our willow will hopefully be used to make weaved fences around the grounds. This is an old technique and looks very beautiful with the natural yellow colour of the willow.

One of the gardeners told me that this area of South West London around the Thames, was a hub for willow coppicing in London. There were many thriving willow businesses around this area in the 1800s and early 1900s. I feel it’s important to keep the growth of Chiswick willow going. We’re preserving the traditional of local willow coppicing.

Which future project are you most excited about?

In the next few months, I will be getting more involved with our community participation projects which will be happening in the Kitchen Garden. This is something I’m very passionate about as gardening has helped me personally and I really believe in the holistic effects it can have on us. I love how Chiswick House & Gardens think and plan with community at the forefront.

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