Producing the Goods 7

Growing things : Casebooks

Plants grown and used locally can add to the distinctiveness of places, providing good habitats for wild life when managed in a sympathetic way over long periods of time. We will be looking at reed, sedge, rushes, willows, their use and availability for thatching, basket making and so on, and assessing their potential for increased use. We are importing about one and a half million bundles of water reed from Turkey, Hungary and the Danube delta each year for thatching (and often for areas which have traditionally used longstraw wheat). At one time we were self-sufficient in reeds, and should be again.

Coppicing and pollarding actually lengthens the life of a tree, enables a form of harvesting that does not involve felling but a form of woodland management that benefits many wild animals and plants. Coppice products, wood that is cut from trees every 8 or so years, are increasingly being explored beyond their use for charcoal and building.

New crops such as hemp and nettle, biomass crops, biofuels may soon take their place on farmland and create their own distinctive landscapes.

A new use for an old ‘crop’ - wool from Cumbrian highland sheep is being used to insulate lofts. The floors at National Trust’s new headquarters in Swindon have carpets made from the wool of Herdwick sheep.

Second Nature and Thermafleece