I had a marvellous day in Somerset on Monday. Three friends and I visited Somerset Willow growers and PH Coates. We were met with a very warm welcome and shown around the farms.
It was great to see the willow harvest, sorting and processing in person. It has greatly increased my understanding and appreciation of this material. It is all very labour intensive especially the sorting which is done by hand.
The buff willow is made by boiling brown willow in the boiling tank for approx 10 hours. The bark is then stripped off using a machine. Although I’ve read about this process I hadn’t appreciated it fully. The machine at Somerset willow growers can take a bundle of willow at a time. This must be spread in a thin layer and clamped in a holder. It is then pushed into a drum of rotating teeth. Once the bark is stripped from one half the willow must be turned around and the process repeated.
The stripped bark is called stripple, what a great word! We brought a big bag back with us to experiment with. Results to follow…