World-renowned cricket bats made from MK willow
When you’re watching international cricket games do you often give much thought to how the bats were made? I bet you’d be surprised to learn that the bats used by players representing teams such as England and India were grown in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire and produce in the UK by companies such as Kippax and Surridge.
Each year the independent self-financing charity, The Parks Trust based in Milton Keynes plants over 150 Willow trees across its 6,000 acres of parkland. These trees are grown as a commercial crop to be harvested when they reach their maturity which is around 20 – 25 years old or when their stem has reached its optimal diameter for producing cricket bats. Once felled the timber is sold to manufacturers of cricket bats. The Parks Trust use this income to help fund their work of caring for, maintaining and improving the parkland across the city.
For over 30 years The Parks Trust have been growing a man-made strain of hybrid Willow that was derived from the White Willow (Salix alba). This is the only strain of cricket bat Willow and was originally created to grow the best timber quality for cricket bats. This species of tree grows quickly to produce an even grain and a good weight whilst also being strong and durable when produced into bats.
During October each year the Willow trees are felled, the majority of the trees are felled from the base as this maximises the useable timber. However, due to the locations of some of the trees within the parkland, a safe dismantle is the only viable option. This involves an expert team climbing the trees and felling them from height. In this video created by The Parks Trust in 2019 you can see this process.
Once the trees have been cut into appropriate lengths any remaining pieces are chipped, this leftover material is then used to resurface the bridleways and leisure routes throughout the woodlands and parks within the care of the Trust. The chipped Willow is also used as a mulching material as Willow has good properties within it for this, and thus benefits other plants and trees.
In 2019, The Parks Trust worked alongside Kippax Willow Limited who took the raw timber, some of which was made it into cricket bats, the rest was exported to India for bat production there. You can see Kippax’s manufacturing process in the video. Once the timber is delivered to the manufacturers, they start by turning the main stem of the tree into rounds. From here the rounds are split into clefts, these are then dried to 10% moisture, graded, waxed and stored before being worked by hand into recognisable bats.
James Stimpson, Landscape and Arboricultural Officer says ‘Every year we work hard and strive to achieve the best timber product that we can grow across our estate. So that when we sell our trees to the manufacturers, they have the best raw material to work with. Expertly felled and delivered our timber can go on to produce the best cricket bats possible’.
This October, The Parks Trust has again felled Willow trees across their parkland at sites such as Waterhall Park, Monkston Park, Ouzel Valley Park, and Stony Stratford.
To find out more about the work of The Parks Trust visit the website: www.theparkstrust.com