POLLING THE WILLOWS - from Life on the Upper Thames by H.R. Robertson. 1875.
A characteristic tree of all riversides the willow is especially evocative of the Thames and Cherwell valleys. They are still pollarded today but in Robertson's time the the branches resulting from polling produced a useful crop and work for those engaged in harvesting it.
The trees used to be polled every seventh year in the middle of winter and the resulting trees were called pollards. The wood had been used from early times and produced such things as baskets, parts for carts and gun stocks, harrows, shoemakers lasts, clogs, forks, hay rakes, rafters, ladders, poles to make hurdles and lattices and for many other uses. It was particularly famed as the best wood for producing charcoal and as the chosen wood for cricket bats.
In the Victorian era it supplied the timber for water wheels and for the floats of paddle steamers. It was also used in tanning leather.