The Godinton Estate is home to a huge number and variety of trees, but one of our more special species is Salix Alba Caerulea, more commonly known as the willow tree. However, salix alba caerulea has a very specific use: this is cricket bat willow. These willows are planted in wet ground, near rivers, ditches or marshy areas, and are regularly assessed to ensure that they are growing properly, and to the right dimensions. This is frequently done by hugging the trees to gauge a rough idea of their circumference, before measuring them up properly. Eventually, when the time is right, they are graded and harvested, before being taken off to be split, cut and kiln-dried.
The sustainability of our willow-growing is ensured by a small-scale continuous planting programme, so that we are constantly replacing trees which are felled. The largest willows can produce around 15-20 bats from the outside of a round, but the average tree would produce considerably less. Even once the willow has been cut, treated and dried, it still has to be sent off to manufacturers (like Gray Nicholls) to turn the piece of wood into a bat fit for hitting sixes.
Godinton’s willows are under the watchful eye of Geoff Watling, of Anglian Willow Service, who then transforms our willow trees into top quality cricket bat willows at their yard in Essex, before selling them on to cricket bat manufacturers internationally, including the UK, Pakistan, India and Australia. Every piece of willow is unique, and therefore every bat is too – cricketers will know that everyone looks for different qualities in a bat, and has different preferences. When Geoff came to measure up our willows, it’s hard to imagine that these trees would one day be cricket bats used across the world!