Visit Willows and Wetlands Visitor Centre - near Taunton, Somerset
A warm welcome awaits you at the Willows & Wetlands Visitor Centre.
Willow is as traditional to Somerset as cheese and cider, although perhaps not so much is known about it these days. Here in the tranquil, rural village of Stoke St Gregory, in the heart of the world re-known Somerset Levels, the Coate family has been working with willow since 1819. Come and find out how willow is grown, harvested and processed before it is crafted into beautifully practical baskets. Watch our skilled basket-makers create a willow basket before your eyes.
Willow has been grown on the Somerset Levels for centuries and the villages of Stoke St Gregory, North Curry and Burrowbridge were once teaming with withy beds, withy workers and growers and basket-makers. Times have changed and now there are very few signs of this once thriving industry. However, it is still possible to see this fascinating rural craft industry alive and thriving here at the Willows & Wetlands Visitor Centre. Take a guided tour with one of our experienced guides and discover how willow is grown and harvested and then processed into four natural colours before being used for basket making. You will see how we do things now in the twenty first century as well as how things used to be in the days of our grandparents and great-grandparents.
Willow is and always has been both an environmentally friendly and sustainable crop. The fast growing willow provides food and shelter for an abundance of insects and birds and other wildlife. The Somerset Levels is an internationally important wetland area, being especially important for over wintering wading birds. All of our willow is grown on land that is designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest. It is possible to explore on foot by taking one of our Willows & Wetlands Walks which takes you through the woods to the “withy beds” and the river beyond to discover this tranquil corner of the Somerset moors.
Our fascinating museum is packed to the willow ceiling with baskets to evoke memories of a time before plastic. Sparrow traps and bee hives sit alongside theatre baskets and baby weighing scales. The sympathetic setting of the basket museum provides a natural home to this rare collection, with something to amaze, amuse, inspire and inform all ages.
In our shop you will find a wonderful selection of willow products including furniture, hurdles and features for the garden and English willow baskets, both traditional and contemporary. If you are inspired by your visit and want to try willow basket-making we have all the willow, tools and instructional books you will need to get started. Bespoke baskets are our speciality, we are proud of the skilled craftspeople working with us and are able to make almost anything out of willow.
The Lemon Tree Coffee House serves a tempting range of homemade cakes and lunches in a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere. We are also home to three craft businesses; Don Bishop Photography “Willows Gallery” as well as superb landscape photograph Don also offers photography workshops. The Withies Studio, an ever changing gallery exhibiting a range of local crafts from fascinators and furniture to candles, textiles, jewellery and more. The Leather Studio is home to Frances George, Edwards & Curwin and The Muddy Dog Company. They offer leather goods for men and women, crafted by hand in the workshop.
Information on Willows and Wetlands Visitor Centre - Visitor Centre near Taunton, Somerset
- Address - Coates English Willow, Stoke St Gregory, Nr Taunton, Somerset, TA3 6HY
- Telephone - 01823 490249
- Email - Click here to email
- Website - Click to visit Willows and Wetlands Visitor Centre website
- Open all year
- Open Monday to Saturday 9:30am till 17:00pm
- Closed Sundays
- Please contact us for Christmas and New Year opening times
- Approx length of visit: 1.5 to 2 hours
- Min group size: 10
- Max group size: 60
- TIC staff admitted free
- Dogs accepted
- Printed material in Foreign Languages - Dutch, French and German
- Marketed towards families
- Marketed towards senior citizens
- Heritage interest
- Groups Accepted - Essential to prebook. No group visits available during school holidays.
- Educational visits accepted - please contact us for details.
- Demonstrations given
- Guided tours available for groups - please contact us for details.
- Guided tours available for individuals - charges applicable.
- Guided tours compulsory for groups.
- Tea room
- Guide dogs permitted
- Parking areas for disabled visitors
- Ramp / level access
- Toilets for disabled visitors
- On-Site café/restaurant - Tea room - home-made cakes, ploughmans, tea and coffee, soft drinks. Capacity 40.
- Picnic Site
Parking & transport
- On site parking
- Parking is free
- Road directions - Nearest major road is M5. A358 from M5 jct 25, turn left at top of hill to A378, turn left towards North Curry to Stoke St Gregory. If using a sat nav please use the postcode TA3 6HY
- Bus / Route No: 51 (Cooks Coaches) - Route Description/Frequency: Taunton - Stoke-St-Gregory (Mon-Sat, not public holidays) - Proximity to Bus Stop: Outside
- Nearest Rail Station is Taunton.
- Stay at Hotels in Taunton near Willows and Wetlands Visitor Centre, Taunton