The Willows and Wetlands Visitor Centre is the home of P. H. Coate & Son, founded by willow grower and merchant Robert Coate in 1819, and still run by the Coate family today. When Kathleen Boobyer, daughter of well known willow grower and furniture maker Edmund Boobyer, married Percy Coate in 1940, the joining of the two families created the present company.
Is the most important wetland area in the U.K. This unique landscape provides the perfect conditions for willow growing. Basket making willow, known as "Withies", have been grown here for two centuries, and it is now the only area left where it is still cultivated for the production of baskets, furniture, garden items and high quality artists' charcoal. Here indeed is the heart of the English willow industry, an industry that in many ways has not changed for centuries.
Production of Withies
Willow grows extremely quickly, in one growing season which lasts from late May to early October a single rod can reach up to 8ft long. New willow beds are planted in the spring using pieces of willow from the crop harvested during the preceding winter. The new willow bed will not be fully productive in the first three years, but once it is well established, with careful management the plants can last up to 30 years.
Every aspect of the willow growing and basket making process is carried out by us on our farm, factory and retail centre on the Somerset Levels.