Not such a basket case

Devon Life|June 2020

Not such a basket case
SUE CADE discovers the traditional craft of stave baskets is alive and well on Dartmoor
SUE CADE

Devon stave baskets are a rare thing, it seems, requiring a visit to Burnicombe Wood near Bridford to talk with John Williamson of Dartmoor Woodcrafts, one of a handful of people still making them.

John and his partner Clare have ten acres of ancient woodland here that they work with their two horses: Jens, a stunning Belgian Brabant heavy draft, and Louis, a handsome gypsy horse.

They have a long term aim to bring these woods back to their ancient state through coppicing, allowing more light in and encouraging a wide range of flora and fauna. It’s where they crop ash to make the stave baskets. “Ash bend well and is tough; a young ash tree gives enough wood for a couple of baskets,” John explains.

These unusual baskets are made from wooden splints of fir or pine attached to a wooden base, held together by nails and ash bands, with two end staves for the handles. John says: “Traditionally they were used to carry produce like potatoes or apples from the harvest. The size of basket told the farmer how much had been collected.”

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June 2020