Ancient rural craft heralds tall stories for pupils

Pupils from Ysgol Maes Owen, Kinmel Bay cutting some willow ready to make a story telling chair. Pictured is Willow Weaver Rosie Farey (centre) with pupils Georgia Baxter and Chloe Flemming.

A group of school children have been learning some rural crafts to create a giant story teller’s chair made of willow.

The pupils from Ysgol Maes Owen in Kinmel Bay went with willow weaver Rosie Farey to cut saplings from a nearby coppice.

The huge outdoor seat, which will have an oak base, will be made from the living willow saplings.

It will take pride of place in the school grounds and once it’s fully matured and grown it’s back will be 10 feet tall.

The project is being run in partnership with the Community House on the Chester Avenue estate, which is run by housing association Cartrefi Conwy, and Welsh Water have provided £1,500 in funding.

Rosie Farey, of Moelfre, Abergele, was on hand to help children cut the willow.

She said: “We have made an oak frame which we will now weave willow around to form the chair. It will have a large medieval-style arch and, as it will be a living structure, will need to be maintained.

“By late Spring it will be in leaf and children will be able to use it and enjoy it as a storytelling chair.”

According to Community House manager Zara Roberts, they particularly wanted to be involved because many of the pupils are children of Cartrefi Conwy tenants.

She said: “Having talked to teaching staff we decided the story teller’s chair would be an ideal feature that could enhance educational opportunities for pupils.

“Working with the Chester Avenue Action Group, which is based at the Community House, we wanted a project that had literacy at its heart and believe the living willow chair will really add something to the education the pupils.

“We are also grateful Dwr Cymru Welsh Water who have part funded the project after donating £1,500.”

She added: “The chair, which has an oak base, will be moulded from willow which will then continue to grow. Children will have to look after and maintain the chair pruning it throughout the year.

“It will be a wonderful resource and a living creation and means children will enjoy storytelling outdoors. It really will be something different and something children will, I’m sure, become very proud of.”

Year 6 pupil Georgia Baxter, 10, was excited to have the chance to cut some of the willow sapling that would be used to build the chair.

She said: “I’m really looking forward to seeing it when it’s built and growing. I’m a school eco councillor which means I help to keep the school eco-friendly. The willow chair will be good for all the pupils of the school especially Year 3 children who come from nursery.

“It will be a magical way to listen to stories rather than just sit in a boring classroom. It’s going to be great for the school and something we all have to look after.”

Fellow Year 6 eco councillor, Chloe Flemming, 10, said: “The willow chair is going to be brilliant especially as it will keep growing and will need looking after. It will be fantastic being able to sit outside for reading and storytelling rather than being stuck in classrooms. I can’t wait to see it when it’s finished.”

Nine year old pupil Ebony Hall, added: “I think it’s a brilliant idea and I can’t wait to see it finished. It’s been fantastic coming out and cutting the willow we need to make the chair and I think every pupil at our school is going to love it.”

Teacher Mark Pickering, who is also the school’s environmental lead, said: “We are very grateful to Cartrefi Conwy and Dwr Cymru Welsh Water for their support which will help us to continue improving standards in literacy.

Gwyl Roche, a Keep Wales Tidy project officer based in Conwy, dropped by to help the pupils.

He said: “It’s fantastic to see Cartrefi Conwy, Dwr Cymru Welsh Water and the community working together to deliver what will be a fabulous new resource for the school.”