In rural West Wales, clinging to a wooded area on the side of the Preseli hills, you will find a small cottage industry run by the Lishman family. Here, we grow willow, on our smallholding called ‘Plas Helyg’.
Plas Helyg means ‘Willow Palace’ in Welsh, a very apt name for our main business here – growing and weaving willow.
Every year, we coppice our 2,500 willow trees. This produces thin fine rods of willow, suitable for basketry and sculpture. The willow then grows back abundantly, making it an amazingly sustainable crop.
Once the willow has been cut, we organise the willow into bundles of each variety – we grow 15 different types of willow here.
We can then sell the freshly cut willow for cuttings for people to plant. We also supply large 10kg bundles of living willow for living willow structures.
Most of our willow is dried or used fresh, in workshops and for our own products.
We leave the bundles of willow outside for about 4 weeks of weathering. After this, we bring the willow under cover into a airy place. We have a small roundhouse we use just for this purpose.
This slow ‘curing’ process process the best quality willow, not shrinking too quickly, nor being allowed to degrade outside for too long.
At this point, we can use the willow ‘semi-green’ – it is at the perfect stage for making baskets and sculpture. We don’t sell willow when it is at this stage – we use it all for our own work.
After a couple of weeks under cover, the willow starts getting too dry to use. The next stage then is to re-soak it before use. The rule of thumb is to re-soak it one day per foot of length .
We have a large water trough to soak willow in, up to 8 feet long.
Our workshops are very popular, we have nearly filled all of our spaces for 2019. If you are interested, please have a look and maybe grab the last space!
We also run private workshops, for families or groups – do get in touch if you are interested.