New project takes root

YOUNG people are using an ancient method of controlling woodlands to learn about the environment and produce sustainable materials to be used in class.

Students at Priestley College have planted a small area of coppicing on the campus that will be nurtured for years to come.

Willow rods will be harvested and eventually be used by Art & Design students to create sculptures.

Staff member Ken Halliday, who has worked at Priestley for 12 years, came up with the idea.

“Once it is established the coppice should produce enough material to make woven items the students can then sell and money could go back into the college charity,” he said.

“Another plus is that we are contributing to the greening of our environment. Much is being made in the media of replanting and rewilding of areas so although it is a small patch this is our way of contributing to that idea.”

Ken enlisted the support of Priestley’s Public Services students to plant the coppice. They marked out the plot to ensure the trees were spread evenly before hammering holes into the ground and planting the stems.

It will take two to three years for the coppice to establish itself enough for students to make use of it.

Art Foundation coordinator Steve Lane said: “The notion is that Architecture and Art students can crop a renewable source and use it as a building material to create sculptural forms.

“We see it as a great opportunity to explore a renewable material that is grown and sourced here at Priestley. It’s exciting to see a collaboration between Public Services and Art Design, not forgetting the science department’s involvement in the growth of the willow.”

Coppicing is an ancient method of controlling wooded areas to prevent the crowding out of one species of tree by another.

Last week the coppice was already starting to sprout and growth is expected to accelerate once temperatures warm up.

“This is a really great project that has so many benefits and involves many students from across the college,” said Ken.