Willow Harvesting On Leys Estate
Willow is one of the unsung heroes of the crop world – easy to harvest and handle and environmentally beneficial, supporting the greatest range of wildlife of any single crop grown in the UK.
Leys Estate is home to 30 hectares of established willow, quite an imposing sight to see amid the Deeside countryside.
In April, Leys Estate worked with Energy Crops Consultancy to harvest the crop. Crops are harvested on a two to five year rotation making the process an impressive sight as the tall willow stems were harvested using the companies large scale specialist equipment.
In the UK, many different species have been coppiced in the past, however the principal species currently used, the Short Rotation Coppice (SRC) willow, is mainly grown as an energy crop, with the harvested crop chipped and used for biomass fuel for district heating or in combination with other fuels.
Members of the Leys Estate team were on hand to see the harvesting in process with the resulting chip being transported to, and some of it is being used in the Hill of Banchory Energy Centre biomass district heating plant. The distribution network serves more than 200 houses, commercial units, business centres and the multi-million pound Banchory Sports Village.
The crop is also hand-harvested on a much smaller scale throughout the year, providing willow cane and posts to Schools and Community Group for a diverse range of projects and displays. The Estate has also provided support on a larger scale to the Don District Salmon Fishery Board in its work to restore and prevent further bank erosion on the River Don. This involved planting live willow posts on the affected banks and interweaving willow canes around these to create a strong wall. The work carried out to date has been met with great success with the willow successfully rooting and turning an eroded bank into a lush thriving embankment. You can read more about the project here – https://bit.ly/3fhiGb8