12 Tons of Cork!
26th March 2012
Over 6 tons of cork (of a 12 ton consignment) has just arrived in Blaenau Ffestiniog from Portugal to be used by sculptor David Nash in a major new work in the forthcoming exhibition at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew, London, later this year.
David Nash aquired the cork bark during the spring harvest in Portugal last year. Although machines have been tried, it is still the traditional methods of men with axe's that are employed to peel the cork from the trees. About 75% of the world's cork originates from these vast cork forests in Portugal, but the industry is in decline. Very few young men are learning the skills, and as plastic bottle stoppers are becoming more widely used by the global wineries, the tradition of cork harvesters, going from one forest to the next to cut the cork, may not survive much longer.
Cork being harvested last year in Portugal.
A cork harvester in the tree cutting the bark with a very sharp axe. Cork Oak's have two layers of bark. When the weather conditions are right the tree 'sweats' between the layers and it is possible to peel away the top layer. The skill is to use just enough force with the axe to cut through the first bark layer without damaging the second. Cutting too deep will be harmful to the tree. Each tree is harvested in 10 year rotation to allow time for the cork to re-grow.
Cork farmer Phillip Mollet pulls out some examples of the cork that he's supplying to David Nash for the Kew sculpture.
Today half of the consignment has arrived at Hughes Specialised Transport's lorry yard in Blaenau Ffestiniog. Here the cork is being transferred from the containers they arrived in to especially built pallets that will be used to transport the cork for fumigation. Because the sculpture is destined for Kew Gardens, and it's made from plant material, it is very important that strict measures are taken to ensure that no disease or parasite is introduced into the botanical collection at Kew.