A view from the riverbank at Hamoon of rushes

RushWorks is the result of my long-standing interest in the uses of our native plants and in basketry. It was originally set up as a community project to revive the craft of rush cutting and rush work in North Dorset.

On moving to North Dorset in 1998 I had been pleased to discover considerable stands of club rush (Schoenoplectus lacustris) growing in our local river, the Stour, and to learn that rushes had been cut in particular places along it for basketry, matting and chair seating for centuries, a practice which came to an end in 1964 when the last rush-cutter died.

Having had the good fortune to help with the publicity for a book about the economic value of Britain's wild plants* , I had become aware of the impressive work of Felicity Irons and her company Rush Matters, based in Bedfordshire and her continuation and reinvigoration of the ancient rush-based industry that had been centred on the River Ouse.

Inspired by her example, my idea was to set up a community project to revive rush-cutting in this part of Dorset, and with experience of basket-making (from courses in Bedford, Dorset and Somerset), to reintroduce the skills of rushwork to children in particular.

Research and consultation with schools, businesses and people from a variety of backgrounds, revealed considerable interest in the aim of the project. In consultation with The Environment Agency, The Dorset Wildlife Trust, local farmers, landowners, angling associations and others, permission was given for the river to be accessed and rushes cut in several locations.

Drying rush

Following the successful application for funding from the Dorset Chalk & Cheese LEADER + programme (an EU initiative) and the Dorset Area of Outstanding Beauty (AONB), RushWorks was founded in April 2006. Based in two converted cow sheds at Gold Hill Organic Farm, Child Okeford, it operated as a community project for some two and half years. Numerous workshops for adults were held here and a large number of local schools were visited, enabling children of all abilities and ages - from primary to sixth form - to experience the joy of working with rushes.

Now based in Sturminster Newton, I teach or run workshops on application (see Learning RushWork).

I am a member of the Basketmakers' Association and Basketmakers Southwest

* "Britain’s Wild Harvest", HDV Prendergast & H Sanderson, R.B.G.Kew/The Countryside Agency, 2004