Hodsock play a straight bat when it comes to quality
We are very fortunate at Experience Nottinghamshire to work alongside Hodsock Priory, a company providing English willow for cricket bats all over the world. With the Ashes test at Trent Bridge fast approaching, the hope is that their willow will provide the divine intervention needed to aid our boys to victory. Here is an article from George Buchanan at Hodsock on the secret to their success.
On the Hodsock Estate, since the late 1990’s, we have been growing around 300 English cricket bat willows. The quality of English willow is sought after as our growing conditions are ideal and it does make the very best bats from school level up to Test Match standard. We now have a rolling programme of replanting and harvesting every year in partnership with J S Wrights, another family business based in Essex. Only last week I went round with Oliver Wright, my father Sir Andrew and Butch our forester to inspect our crop, which grows best along our streams.
Our trees are cut down when they mature – usually after 15 years – but Hodsock recently beat a record for growing them in 12 years! You can make around 30 bats from each trunk and we fell around 40 trees a year, so Hodsock contributes 1,200 bats a year. Wrights grow the willow saplings and replant as soon as the trees are felled and cleared. It’s a totally renewable industry.
Wrights transport the trunks to their yard in Essex, (see Twitter feed @SalixBats for pictures), where they cut and condition the blades over the course of 12 months, graded into different qualities of wood. Wrights then sell the blades to a number of manufacturers, including Notts based Gunn and Moore and Warsops who make current England captain Alistair Cook’s bats. The biggest market is India and Pakistan and it continues to grow. Wrights produce 450,000 blades a year which doesn’t meet global demand so they are hoping to expand production, which means Hodsock is going to be planting more cricket bat willows!
The finished bats end up all over the world so there is a little part of Hodsock in Australia, Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, South Africa and, most importantly, at Trent Bridge! How many Hodsock bats will be playing in the Ashes series in 2013 is impossible to tell but isn’t it wonderful to think they could be in both dressing rooms?
My father and I spend summer evenings nipping down to the trees and taking any buds off the trunks to ensure they are perfectly straight and won’t grow any branches that create knots. Oliver Wright commented that Hodsock look after their stock much better than some landowners! We have been given a Hodsock bat and we had it signed by Alex Tudor, former England cricketer, who married at Hodsock in March (@alextudorcoach Twitter feed). Other guests and autographs included Alec Stewart and Mark Ramprakash.
We are a cricket family and will be going to the Lord’s and Trent Bridge tests where we’ll be supporting England – but we’ll be keeping an eye on the Aussie’s bats.