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Help & Advice

Our help and advice section contains a wealth of expert guides and information. It’s a great starting point for those with little willow knowledge while experienced weavers should find our specialist tips invaluable.

How to hide rod imperfections in a weave

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How to weave a round willow basket base

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How to weave a round willow basket

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How to use a cleave

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A guide to willow availability

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How to steam willow – A guide by Rachel Hutton

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Bundles & Bolts – Steamed willow

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Bundles & Bolts – Buff willow

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Bundles & Bolts – Green (fresh cut) willow

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Bundles & Bolts – Brown (dry) willow

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Using tallow. Vegan vs Vegetarian

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Willow tops soaking times & tips

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Hurdle willow soaking times & tips

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How to make a living willow tunnel

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Lantern willow soaking times & tips

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Semi dry willow soaking times & tips

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White willow soaking times & tips

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Steamed willow soaking times & tips

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Buff willow soaking times & tips

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Buff Noir willow soaking times & tips

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Choose the right willow

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Brown (dry) willow soaking times & tips

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How to use a soaking bag

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Essential tools for weaving a basket – Watch our video

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What time do I need to arrive for my course?

Please arrive to register for your course at 9:15am. We’ll get you set up with a hot drink, you’ll meet your tutor, and our team will do the necessary housekeeping stuff before the fun begins. We then aim to start the course at 9.30am.

What time will my course finish?

Half day courses run until approximately 1:30pm. Full day courses run until approximately 4pm.

What happens if I don’t finish my weaving project?

We are flexible on times, so don’t worry if you’re not quite finished when your course ends – you are very welcome to stay a while longer. Also, if you need to leave us before you are fully finished, you’re welcome to take additional materials with you to finish your piece at home.

Will I take everything I make home with me?

Yes, you will take every item you make home with you, so please ensure you have enough room in your vehicle to fit your willow project. We can also arrange to ship your project home to you via courier for an additional charge.

Do I need previous weaving experience for my course?

No previous experience is necessary to attend many of our willow weaving courses. Our experienced tutors guide you through your course. Even if you’re a complete beginner, you will leave our course with a wonderful woven project. We also send you home with an instruction leaflet, so you will be able to recreate your chosen weaving project at home.

What materials will I use on my course?

We provide all materials for your weaving course, so you won’t need to bring any tools or materials with you. All the materials you use will be natural, and all of the willow is grown right here at Musgrove Willows.

You will also use dyestuffs, varnishes, and paints in the making of your willow project. Your tutor will instruct you in the safe use of these materials.

How can I recreate my willow project at home?

After your course, we will provide you with details of all the willow and other materials used in the making of your project, along with instructions on how to make it again. We offer all course students a 10% discount on the first purchase of materials after they’ve attended their course.

If you would like to recreate your project again at home, you’ll be able to order all the materials you need. You can also get in touch with us before your course to pre-order the materials, or ask your tutor at the beginning of your course if you can purchase the materials needed to take home with you.

What equipment do I need to bring to my course?

Please bring glasses if you need them for close-up work. Please also feel free to bring a notebook and pen if you wish to make notes, but e-notes and links will be sent after the workshop.

Will refreshments be provided on my course?

Cold and hot drinks will be available throughout the day. Please feel free to bring your own bottled water.

Will lunch be provided on my course?

We provide a light lunch for all our course attendees. Please advise us of any dietary requirements or allergies that we should be aware of before attending your course. We cater for dairy-free, gluten-free, and wheat-free diets as standard. You are also welcome to bring your own packed lunch if you prefer.

What should I wear to my course?

Our course room has a lovely wood burning stove for when it’s chilly, but please still dress appropriately for the time of year your course is being held.

Please ensure you wear old clothes, not your Sunday best, as you will be working with wet and steamed willow rods and things might get a little messy. Please also wear covered, flat shoes – no sandals or open toes, as this is a health and safety risk. If you have long hair, please bring something to tie it back with.

Are there accessible bathrooms and other facilities?

We have an accessible bathroom onsite, and every willow course and our tour of the farm is wheelchair friendly. Please contact us before your course if you have any specific requirements you’d like us to be aware of.

Can I arrange a private willow course or group booking?

Private willow courses, corporate team building days, hen and stag dos, school visits, and one-to-one tuition can all be arranged at your convenience. The maximum group sizes depend for each willow course, for example;

  • Basketry: max 8 people
  • Sculpture: max 14 people
  • Lanterns: max 20 people

If you would like to arrange a private willow weaving course, please just contact us to discuss your specific requirements.

How do I get to Musgrove Willows?

Our address is: Willow Fields, Lake Wall, Westonzoyland, Bridgwater, Somerset, TA7 0LP.

If you’re coming from the M5: Get off at Junction 23 and head towards Glastonbury/Wells (not Bridgwater). At the traffic lights at the bottom of Puriton Hill, turn right and head towards Bridgwater. Head over the motorway bridge by Mole Valley, turn left at the roundabout, then at the next small roundabout take the third exit and go down Whitefield Road.

Head through the housing estate until you come to the end and meet Westonzoyland Road. Turn left, take the second exit at the roundabout, follow the road into village of Westonzoyland, and once in the village turn right at the shop. Once you’re heading along school road, turn right into LakeWall.

If you’re coming on the A39 heading towards Bridgwater: As you approach Ashcott, turn left for    Taunton (A361). Pass through Pedwell, Greinton, head along the road across the Somerset Levels, and pass The Greylake RSPB Nature Reserve. At the end of the straight, turn right, and follow signs for Bridgwater (A372). After one mile turn right at the T-junction and take the A372 to Westonzoyland. Once in the village, turn left at the shop, and then turn right into LakeWall.

If you’re coming on the A303: Leave the A303 at the Podimore Roundabout, and take the turning for Langport (A372). At Langport, continue on the A372 to Bridgwater. At Othery, continue on the A372, turning right and then left towards Bridgwater. Once in the village of Westonzoyland, turn left at the shop.

From the shop in Westonzoyland: Follow the brown tourism signs along School Road and Lakewall. Musgrove Willows is on the left.

Is there accommodation nearby?

If you’re joining us to take part in a course and are planning to stay, here’s a few suggestions for local accommodation:

The Bower Inn: A charming 18th-century pub, restaurant and hotel situated on the edge of the Somerset Levels near Bridgwater.

The Old Vicarage: A unique, award-winning, and dog-friendly hotel in the heart of Bridgwater.

Bridgwater Travelodge: Situated on the M5 services area, this is a great value option for staying locally.

Mercure Hotel: Just three miles from the M5, this 4-star Mercure Hotel is conveniently set in the heart of Bridgwater.

Bridgwater Premier Inn: Close to Bridgwater town centre and next to the M5, this Premier Inn has free onsite parking and accessible wet rooms.

Glastonbury Premier Inn: Close to Clarks Village shopping area, the historic Glastonbury Tor, and just 22 minutes from Westonzoyland.

Can I attend my willow course online?

Our willow courses are held in person. We provide all the materials and tools needed to create your willow project, our experienced tutors carefully guide you through the process – helping where needed – and we also provide refreshments and a fresh, home-cooked lunch.

We do have videos available to watch on our website and social media channels, including a series of videos on how to weave a round willow basket.

Will I use any tools on my willow course?

We will provide all tools needed for your willow course. Basketry and willow work involves the use of sharp, strong bladed knives. Your tutor will instruct you in the safe use of these.

You may also need to use electrical tools in the making of your willow project. Your tutor will also instruct you in the safe use of these tools, and provide any protective equipment needed.

Will my willow course affect my allergies?

When working with willow, some of the materials used are liable to mould growth. If you have any allergies, please take all necessary precautions, such as wearing a mask during your course.

Your willow course will include a home-cooked lunch, so please make us aware of any allergies or dietary requirements you have. Please also feel free to bring your own packed lunch if you prefer.

What is the maximum size panel?

The maximum size panel that can be made is 3.6 metres wide and 2 metres high. Please be aware that there is an additional charge for delivering a panel over 3 metres wide.

Which willow weaving books or guides are good?

Mary Butcher, Jenny Crisp and Joe Hogan are all very talented weavers and writers. You will find a small selection of books on this website.

What is a good first weaving project?

A round willow basket base is a good starting point. This ‘base’ can be adapted to make a flower.

Which variety of willow should a weaving novice use?

Brown (dry) Black Maul is a good choice. It is easy to soak and work with. Buff willow is another good option.

Which tools does a weaving beginner need?

Secateurs, a weight (could be a brick or pebble roughly the weight of a bag of sugar) a rapping iron (alternatively use a hammer and a stick) a rubber band, a peg, a bodkin (or use a screwdriver) and some tallow. A pair of pliers can be handy. For further information, take a look at our tools video.

Where can living willow or a living willow structure be planted?

A maintained living willow structure does not have the root structure of a mature willow tree. It is safe to grow a tepee, arbour, tunnel or fedge close to an outbuilding.

The main considerations are adequate sunlight, keeping the area weed/grass free and regular watering. Do not plant a living willow structure close to a wall or drain.

What should be done with new growth on a living willow structure?

It is worth gently weaving in the growing rods. This helps to prevent the structure from becoming top heavy. Weaving in new growth also provides additional cover. As the structure matures, new growth can be trimmed.

Can lantern willow be used to make a basket?

While our lantern willow rods can be used to create indoor sculptures as well as lanterns, the rods are NOT suitable for basketry.

What items are needed to make a lantern?

Materials will vary depending on the size and shape of the lantern. (It may be easier to purchase one of our lantern kits!)

As a rough guide, to make a pyramid lantern requires 8 willow rods, masking tape, (to secure the rods in place) wet strength tissue paper, (4-5 sheets) a sheet or two of coloured run resistant tissue, PVA glue and a soaking bag (to soak and mellow the willow in). If you wish to hang the lantern from a pole, you will also need a bamboo pole and some floristry wire. LED lights could be inserted inside the lantern.

You may also wish to decorate your lantern with paint, foil and/or glitter.

5ft or 6ft lantern willow or 5ft and 6ft buff willow rods are ideal for making a lantern. A 1kg of our 5ft buff willow contains around 145. That’s a lot of lanterns!  

How much tissue paper is needed to make a lantern?

Probably less than you think! Our lantern willow kit contains 20 sheets of white wet strength tissue and 5 coloured run resistant sheets. This is enough to cover 4 good size lanterns.

How should run resistant tissue paper be used?

Although our coloured run resistant tissue is strong, it does need to be handled a lot more carefully than the white wet strength tissue. The run resistant tissue should always be laid over either white wet strength tissue or cling film. Coloured tissue can be aplied to a damp or dry lantern. Tear off strips or cut out shapes from the coloured tissue, lay on the lantern and genty brush or sponge over with a little glue mixture.

How should wet strength tissue be used to make a lantern?

There are two different ways of applying wet strength tissue to make a lantern;

  1. Scrunch up the tissue and dunk it in your glue mixture. Gently squeeze out the excess glue and carefully unfold the tissue. This can then be wrapped around the frame
  2. Use a pasting table and with a sponge or paint brush wet the tissue paper with your glue mixture. Next, lift the tissue off the table and wrap around the lantern frame

It is often easier to tear or cut the tissue sheets in half (or in small strips for small lanterns) BEFORE wetting them. This can make the tissue easier to handle.

Pull the tissue tightly over the frame, wrapping it around the rods and back on itself. Overlap the tissue so it can be stuck tissue to tissue. Use two layers of wet strength tissue to make the lantern strong. The tissue will dry tight like a drum. Add additional decoration when fully dry.

 

What is the difference between wet strength tissue & run resistant tissue?

Our wet strength tissue is the highest quality available in the UK. It is designed to be used to create lanterns large and small. Professional crafts people use our wet strength tissue paper.

When making a lantern or similar structure, run resistant tissue should be used on top of wet strength tissue paper. It should not be solely used to make a lantern. If run resistant tissue is soaked in glue it will disintegrate. Wet strength tissue will not.

What can be used to mellow willow?

If you have used a soaking bag then the water can be emptied out and the willow left to mellow in the bag. Otherwise, wrap the rods in a damp blanket or hessian and leave to mellow overnight.

Why is mellowing important?

Mellowing is a vital part of the process as it enables the very centre of the rod to become pliable. Always lie the rods down to mellow. Do not stand them up!

What to do with over-soaked willow?

If a rod has black spots then it is no longer useable. If only a few rods have black spots, pull these out to stop the mould spreading. The rods will need to be dried.

If rods are greasy, the bark is shredding or they squash easily, it may be possible to thoroughly dry the willow out before re-soaking. Any mould (not black spots) will need to be wiped off first.

Please remember that repeated re-soaking will cause the willow to lose its colour.

How do you know if willow is over-soaked?

The telltale signs that willow has been over-soaked are;

  1. The rods are greasy to the touch
  2. The bark shreds easily
  3. The rods are mouldy
  4. The rods squash when pressed
  5. The rods have black spots

What can willow be soaked in?

The amount of willow and the length of the rods will determine the most suitable options. Our weavers soak large quantities of willow, so metal troughs are our preferred method. For smaller amounts, a heavy duty soaking bag is ideal. Simply choose the size required.

Other options include a paddling pool, water butt, drainpipe (capped at the end) or an old bath. There are a few important things to remember;

  1. the soaking vessel should be clean
  2. the water (ideally cold) should be clean
  3. willow contains tannins and these can stain
  4. the willow must be submerged. It may need to be weighted down to stop it floating
  5. the willow will need to mellow after soaking

Why is soaking brown/buff/white/lantern/steamed willow rods important?

Soaking and mellowing willow makes it flexible and easy to bend. If these processes are not correctly undertaken then the willow will kink or snap as it is woven with. Green (fresh cut) willow does not require soaking or mellowing as the rods contain enough moisture to make them flexible. Semi-dry willow may require some soaking and mellowing.

Why is there willow left over after completing a DIY structure?

Don’t worry if you have some willow left over. The kits always contain surplus rods to cater for any weaving mishaps! These can be used to create additional cover in your structure or make something else with them.

When should a living willow structure be trimmed?

Living willow structures can be trimmed at any time of year. It can be easier to see what you are doing after the leaves drop in late autumn/early winter.

When should living willow be planted?

February and March are usually the best months for planting. Willow should not ‘sit’ in cold ground. Living willow should be planted by early to mid April.

When are living willow kits available?

Living willow kits are seasonal. They are usually available from early January to late March.

What are the tissue paper pack sizes?

White wet strength tissue paper is available in various pack sizes – from 10 to 500 sheets.

The coloured run resistant tissue is also sold in different pack sizes – from 25 to 500 sheets.

Can coloured tissue paper be supplied in a specific colour?

Yes. Up to 20 different colours are usually in stock and these can all be bought separately. The minimum order size is 25 sheets.

What is the difference between red and black PVA glue?

Red PVA glue can be washed out of clothing when dry. It has very strong bonding properties and is ideal for lantern making. Red PVA glue is particularly harmful if ingested, so young children should be carefully supervised when using this product.

Black PVA glue provides extra durability on flexible surfaces and can be used in advanced art techniques. It provides a stronger bond than Red PVA glue and is safer for young children to use. However, black PVA glue is non-water soluble, so it will NOT wash out of clothing. Mixed 50/50 with water and the glue will dry clear and provide a waterproof barrier.

Can craft products/kits be supplied in bulk?

Yes. Musgrove Willows is happy to fulfil large trade orders. Please contact us to discuss your specific requirements.

Is willow artist charcoal available in different sizes?

Yes. Our artist charcoal is usually available in a range of sizes; from thin (3-4 mm thick) to jumbo (20+ mm thick).

Where does the artist charcoal come from?

The willow artist charcoal has been made and graded on our Somerset farm – all with willow grown in our fields. The Musgrove family has been burning charcoal for many decades.

What is the best way to preserve an outdoor willow sculpture?

Non-living willow sculptures benefit from an annual treatment of boiled linseed oil and turpentine. This should be a 50/50 mix and can be applied by brush or with a spray bottle.

Which soaking bag should be used?

This will depend on the size and quantity of willow that needs to be soaked. All our soaking bags are heavy duty. The following width soaking bags are usually available;

6″ Soaking Bag

This is 2m long bag and the smallest size bag stocked. It is ideal for beginners and those who only need to soak a small handful of willow (around 250 grams). Rods up to 5ft in length can be accommodated in this bag.

10″ Soaking Bag

This bag is 2m long and can accommodate up to 2kg of 5ft willow.

10″ Large Soaking Bag

This is 2.5m long and each bag can accommodate 3 – 4kg of willow of up to 7ft in length.

12″ Medium Soaking Bag

This soaking bag is 2m in length. Each bag can accommodate up to 4kg of 5ft willow.

12″ Large Soaking Bag

The largest soaking bag stocked. This is 2.5m long and each bag can accommodate 5 – 6kg of willow of up to 7ft in length.

 

Will the willow in a bundle all be the same length?

No. When hand sorting the willow a foot marker is used to determine the length of the rods. A bundle of 6ft willow will contain rods of between 5ft and 6ft in length. A bundle of 5ft willow will contain rods of between 4ft and 5ft and so on.

Why are there marks on some willow rods?

Our willow is grown on the Somerset Levels – home to a wide variety of wildlife and changeable weather. Willow is grown here in an environmentally friendly way, so occasionally rods will get nibbled by insects or bashed by wind and hail.

Why is willow boiled?

The boiling process softens the bark and allows the tannins to be released from the willow. This changes the colour of the willow rods and allows the bark to be stripped. Years ago, the stripping was done by hand. Now, specialist machinery makes this task a great deal easier. Green or brown willow is boiled to produce buff willow.

Why are bundles sold in foot lengths?

This is the traditional way to sell willow. Measuring and grading willow is all done by hand here. Unsorted bundles are placed in a barrel sunk into the floor and rods are then pulled out from the longest to the shortest. A machine is yet to be invented that can improve on this method!

Which willow is suitable for outdoor work and sculptures?

Green, brown or steamed willow are ideal choices as these all still have their bark on (giving protection against the elements). Non-living willow outdoor sculptures and fencing should  be treated annually with a 50/50 mix of boiled linseed oil and turpentine.

Which willow is suitable to make indoor sculptures or lanterns?

Buff willow is perfect for these projects. (Musgrove Willows also sell lantern willow and DIY lantern kits.) Tissue paper and masking tape should stick easily to smooth, buff willow rods. A buff rod is lightweight, flexible and strong, so fairly large-scale structures and sculptures can be constructed with it.

What size are the willow bundles?

A traditional Somerset bundle measures 1ft in diameter and 3ft 1″ to 3ft 2″ in circumference around the butt (bottom) end.

How long should willow be soaked for?

Soaking isn’t an exact science as there are lots of variables to take into consideration. The weather, water temperature and the length of time that the willow has been stored will all play a part.

Ideally, willow should be soaked in cold water. If you are in a hurry, warm or hot water will shorten the soaking time (as will soaking willow on a hot day). Mellowing is important. Mellowing is allowing the willow to ‘rest’ after soaking by wrapping it in hessian or a blanket overnight. (If the willow has been soaked in one of our soaking bags, carefully tip out the water and leave the willow in the bag to mellow.)

Do not soak your willow for too long or it may become greasy and/or split. This could render it un-useable. Soaking times for many varieties of willow are detailed on this site.

 

How many willow rods are in a bundle?

Willow is sold by weight, so the type and variety will determine how many rods are in a bundle. E.g. A green willow rod contains more moisture than a brown one, so it will be heavier and there will be fewer rods in a bundle.

Are all willow rods the same thickness?

No. As a rule of thumb, the longer the rod, the thicker it will be. The butt end (at the bottom) is the thickest part of the rod. The variety of willow also plays a part in the thickness of the rod. As a very rough guide, the middle of a 6ft rod will be around the same thickness as a pencil.

What is white willow?

High quality green willow is freshly cut in winter and ‘pitted‘ (left to stand in water until the sap rises in the spring). The willow is then stripped of its bark (without boiling) to leave a white colour rod. The willow is dried the same day it is stripped and stored in the dark to prevent yellowing. White willow is not paper white – it’s a little cream in colour.

What is steamed willow?

Brown (dried) willow which has been placed in a boiler for a few hours to colour the bark a chocolate/black. The willow is then removed from the boiler and dried. Steamed willow is often used for adding colour and texture to baskets. It can also be incorporated into outdoor sculptures and hurdles. Steamed willow needs to be soaked to make the rods pliable.

What is buff willow?

Buff willow (also known as stripped willow) is a golden / orangey colour. To achieve this finish, willow is boiled for several hours and then stripped of its bark and dried. Buff willow is often used in basketry and other craft work. It requires soaking before use.

What is brown willow?

Any variety of willow that is dried with the bark on. Brown willow is suitable for outdoor sculpture work, basketry and hurdles as the bark provides protection from the elements.

What is semi-dry green willow?

This is the stage between green (fresh cut) and brown (dry) willow. Semi-dry willow may require soaking.

What is green willow?

Any variety of willow that is freshly cut and flexible. Green willow can stay flexible for up to 6 weeks.

When is the best time to plant living willow?

December to early April. For more information, please read our blog on planting living willow cuttings.

What is living willow?

Living willow is ready for planting. Depending on the variety, it can be used to make various outdoor structures and/or help to prevent soil erosion. Musgrove Willows also stock a range of DIY living willow kits.

How are fence panels delivered?

A specialist courier is used to deliver panels. When ordering, please inform us of any potential access problems. Large orders will be delivered on a pallet(s). Panels can also be collected from our farm. If you would rather collect, please select this option when ordering.

Is garden edging available in different sizes?

Yes. There are two standard sizes available on the website. Bespoke garden edging can also be made. Please contact us for a quote.

What is the best way to look after willow fence panels?

Treat regularly with a 50/50 mixture of boiled linseed oil and turpentine. This mixture can be applied by brush or with a spray bottle. Treating panels once a year will greatly extend their life and keep them looking beautiful.

What is the minimum size panel?

The minimum size panel made here is 2ft x 2ft (61cms x 61cms)

How heavy is a panel?

A 6ft by 6ft panel (either framed or ribbon) can be carried by an adult.

Can you see through a willow fence panel?

While the weave allows a little light and wind to pass through, our willow panels provide great privacy and screening. 

Are fence panels in stock?

Our panels are very popular, so our weavers usually make them to order. Spring and summer are particularly busy times. Rest assured, our friendly team will keep you posted on delivery times.  These usually vary between 2 – 12 weeks.

All the panels are made on our farm with willow grown here.

How can a fence panel be attached to a post?

There are several different ways to attach a panel to a post. Depending on the site, they can be attached to the side or front of a post. Framed willow fence panels can be secured with 700mm screws. 

Do Musgrove Willows sell fence posts?

No. If you are erecting standard size panels, (e.g. 6ft by 6ft) 3″ by 3″ wooden posts are ideal. These can be purchased at most DIY stores or garden centres.

Do Musgrove Willows make bespoke fence panels?

Yes. Every panel is made on our Somerset farm with willow grown here.

How can bespoke panels be ordered?

The quickest way is to use our website calculator. Simply enter the dimensions of the panel(s) you require to calculate a price. The panel(s) can then be paid for and ordered online.

Alternatively, email us with the dimensions and style of the panel(s) required. A quote will then be provided. Panels will not be made until written acceptance of the quote and payment are received. Please be aware that bespoke panels are non-refundable.

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