Somerset floods: Fingers crossed for harvest at Willows and Wetlands centre

Somerset County Gazette: Jonathan and Nicola Coate at the centre. Jonathan and Nicola Coate at the centre.

THE Willows and Wetlands Centre in Stoke St Gregory remain optimistic they can harvest crops despite their fields being submerged since Christmas.

Owners Jonathan and Nicola Coate say they would normally harvest their willow in late December when the crops are dormant but they have not been able to use their 70 acres of fields as they are underwater.

Nicola said she is hopeful they can salvage their crops once the water levels go down.

She said: “It is more resilient that other plants and more suited to wetlands so even though it's not supposed to be flooded, we hope we are ok.

“The weather conditions we have been through are unprecedented so we not quite know what to expect but we can't look on the bad side of things.”

Staff were able to use one of their harvest machines this week to recoup some of the crops, which are now drying at the centre, but Nicola said she hopes they do not start to grow yet.

She added: “We normally harvest it when it is dormant and when the leaves have fallen off the trees. They would then start to grow in the Spring with everything else.”

Each plant or “stool” would produce more than 30 rods and machines are used for cutting and stripping off the bark.

Despite the floods, they wanted to stress their visitor centre is open as normal.

The 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.

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