Bats made from Bury St Edmunds willow trees could end up in the hands of top cricketers

Willow trees at The Crankles in Bury are set to be made into cricket bats. Mayor, Robert Everitt is

Willow trees at The Crankles in Bury are set to be made into cricket bats. Mayor, Robert Everitt is pictured. - Credit: Archant

Runs from a bat made from Bury St Edmunds timber could decide a future Ashes series.

In just over two weeks’ time, St Edmundsbury Borough Council will begin to harvest Cricket Bat Willows from the Crankles, just outside the Abbey Gardens.

The crop of 41 willow trees are being removed by, and sold to, renowned willow merchants JS Wright & Sons of Great Leighs in Essex, which turns the timber into ‘blades’ before they are sent on for the finishing touches.

The Cricket Bat Willow (Salix alba coerulea) first appeared in Suffolk in 1780 and its light, strong timber is the only wood from which decent bats can be made.

The Crankles, sandwiched in dark, damp soil between the River Lark and River Linnet, is deemed a perfect location for growing the trees.

The crop will be harvested from March 9 and the work, which has been licensed by the Forestry Commission, will take about seven to 10 days.

Mayor of St Edmundsbury, Robert Everitt, said: “As a young man, some 25 years ago, I used to play for the Bury Round Tablers’ Cricket Team in its annual match against the rotary club. Of course if we had had bats made of this quality wood grown in Bury, perhaps I would have hit a few more sixes.”

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He added: “I’m pleased that these Cricket Bat Willows will have a new use and that some of the top grade bats will be to the standard used in test cricket.

“Furthermore, while these trees are being removed before they become diseased, the area will be restocked with fruit and native hardwood species to encourage pollinating insects, creating a sustainable woodland environment.”

Oliver Wright, a director of JS Wright & Sons, which was founded in 1894, explained the firm had trees in every county south of Ayrshire.

He said organisations and businesses buy the young trees and when they are ready for felling - normally at 20 years - JS Wright & Sons buy them back.

He said if the wood at the Crankles was of a tight grain there was a chance the end product may well be used by “one of the top players in the world”.

A spokesman for the council said now was an ideal time to remove the trees as they are still of marketable size and, if left any longer, would become increasingly hazardous and susceptible to disease.

The money made from selling the trees to JS Wright & Sons would cover the cost of the work, he said.

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