Artist Sophie Courtier made all of our willow sculptures for the trail at Steart Marshes which opened five years ago. As engagement officer, I have spoken to Sophie many times about her idea to create a giant sculpture and how we could make this a community project at Steart Marshes. A plan started to hatch!
Willow weaving can be a very relaxing and mindful activity, it is possible to focus on the task and forget other worries. It can also be a social activity, bringing people together to learn a new skill and chat while they work. We saw an opportunity through the Green Recovery Challenge Fund to work with Sophie and tutor Nigel Cox from Bridgwater and Taunton College. We could create a giant sculpture as a community event, teaching people new skills, talking about the wetland environment and story of agriculture at Steart, creating an opportunity to enhance the wellbeing of participants and involving them in a lasting part of the reserve.
After much planning and preparation, we ran the event for three days, 3, 4 and 7 November 2021. We were very lucky with the weather, we had over 100 participants, and we created an entirely new creature! A longhorn cow? A long, horned, cow? A Minotaur-like beast? Whatever you wish to call it, we had a lot of fun, we learned new skills, we talked willow, wetlands and wellbeing.
Thank you everyone who helped: members of the local community, passers-by, people with links to the reserve going back to the early days, Bridgwater and Taunton College, Blossom in Somerset (providing opportunities for adults with learning disabilities), The Environment Agency, WWT volunteers and staff, The Green Recovery Challenge Fund, and of course the talented and ever patient Sophie Courtier.
See pictures below of progress over the three days of the project...