Cricket Bats

The Willow: A Tree to Inspire Humanity

As a symbol of pain and struggle and a path towards hope, the willow tree reflects the nourishment and healing that the world needs right now. So many parts of the globe are still in crisis and the willow represents new life and recovery. Different traditions and meaning are attributed to the willow according to many cultures including despair and grief. The willow tree is also a symbol of purity, worshipped for its spiritual and sacred powers by Celts and ancient Greeks alike. Willow bark has been used for pain relief historically. It possesses salicin which is a compound similar to aspirin; its medicinal properties are well documented. It is a powerfully symbolic tree and one that has positive energy associated with survival and the ability to regenerate.

Along the banks of the River Windrush in Oxfordshire,UK, weeping willow trees flourish in abundance. Imagine my surprise as I came upon a pile of felled willows stacked high. These tree trunks were being seasoned in readiness to be used to make cricket bats. Cricket bat making is today an endangered craft with only around 20 full time makers in the UK; the process has many stages starting with grading and selecting the timber, machining, pressing, shaping, sanding and polishing the bat and fitting, rasping and binding the handle. Many of the craftspeople involved are approaching retirement and few have apprentices. With materials going abroad, the UK makers are now only finishing the bats in the UK, particularly as labour can be sourced more cheaply overseas. This situation is unlikely to change according to The Heritage Crafts Association.

And what of the stems? I was fortunate enough recently to be introduced to horticulturist and City and Guild certified basket maker Rachel Harwood, who explained how her passion for creating sculptures and structures made from willow have been inspired by nature and the change in seasons in her local parks and gardens. Her ethereal deer and hare sculptures demonstrate a freedom of movement and have led to several National Trust commissions along the trails and in gardens.

The willow can be cultivated very easily. It grows rapidly and is a source for energy renewal research, environmental stability, food, medicine and creativity. The mystery and grace of these enormous trees provide a potent cultural expression and should inspire positivity for all of humanity as we continue our journey towards recovery and recuperation.

Weeping willow tree in situ on River Windrush