Making crab pots out of willow

Over the last few years, Simon and I have both been involved in some of the activities run by Caravanserai, an arts residency project run by Annie Lovejoy and Mac Dunlop at Treloan Coastal Holidays along with the campsite owners Pete and Debs Walker. Treloan and Caravanserai have been hosts to everything from wild food foraging to poetry and fire sculpture, and we were delighted when they contacted us to see if we’d be interested in learning how to make traditional crab pots out of willow.

The workshop on Thursday was run by Greg Humphries, who patiently and enthusiastically took us through the traditional method of pot making, helping us at each stage of the process. Greg completed a postgraduate residency at Treloan in 2009, focussing on rediscovering traditional skills for a sustainable future, and learnt how to make willow crab pots a few years ago in Portloe as part of his research.

A number of MA students from University College Falmouth’s Arts and Environment course attended and we had a great day chatting about what we were doing and discussing the implications of sustainability. A friend and former Falmouth Marine School colleague of Simon’s, Rory MacPhee, was also there and we had the chance to catch up with him about his latest project which is very close in spirit to ours. Rory is a sculptor, furniture maker, maritime law expert and currach builder, and is currently using his boat to harvest seaweed in the Carrick Roads. Currachs are Irish skin on frame open boats, similar to coracles, powered by oar. Rory has been a huge help already with our project, introducing us to other people doing similar things to what we have planned and giving us extremely helpful advice, so it was great to see him again and exchange ideas.

Jude and Tony Tomlinson from Treloan Farm were kind enough to let use the willow from their withy bed and we spent the morning cutting enough withies to make three or four pots. In the end Simon and I worked on a pot together to save on time and materials, and by the evening we had a pot that was almost finished. We still need to make a base for it, the sides are in need of extra ribs and it’s somewhat large for purpose, but for a first attempt we’re really pleased. I hope that by this time next year we’ll have several neater, more accomplished willow pots to our name, as well as a few lobsters!

Thank you to Greg and everyone involved in making the day so interesting, informative and such a lot of fun! Also thank you also to Mary Pollard for her fantastic photos of the day; you can find these here. Oh, and we got a little mention in the Falmouth Packet too!

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10 thoughts on “Making crab pots out of willow

  1. Sarah Schofield says:

    looks like a lot of fun… I would probably take someones eye out with a piece of willow if i attempted it.

  2. justnicephotos says:

    It was a great day for willow cutting and crab pot making, glad to have experienced part of the day with you all ! Cat there is so much willow that needs cutting right now over in our Jollity garden – will take you over if anyone wants to prune away – pity to waste it ………

  3. […] Si & Cat gave it their all and Cat has written a lovely account of the day on their blog (Teach a Man to Fish – a local sustainable fishing […]

  4. Peter says:

    The willow crab pot looks great. Do you think bamboo would suffice? I have a patch of long, stringy bamboo in my garden about four metres in length. Willow is scarce in Queensland, Australia, so I was considering bamboo. I was looking at a material to make a more traditional pot than something like chicken wire to use for crabs and prawns on the Brisbane river.
    I look forward to your thoughts.
    Cheers.

    • Cat says:

      Thanks! To be honest, I don’t know enough about crab pot making to say. But I do know bamboo is used in SE Asia for making fish traps etc and is durable and easy to work with so I see no reason why it wouldn’t be perfect for the job – we reckon give it a go!

    • crabpotdave says:

      Bamboo won’t do the job, Willow is used as it bends and works easily also when it is in the sea it absorbs it’s own weight on water so that and a few bricks help to keep it stable on the sea bed.

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