Villaines Les Rochers

Villaines les Rochers, a few kilometres south-west of Azay le Rideau in the department of Indre et Loire, takes its name from cave-dwellings, many still inhabited, which have been hollowed out from the rock.

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But Villaines has another claim to fame - its production of hand-woven baskets, which involves more than 80 families in the industry today. The craft is regulated by a cooperative, which has been in existence since 1849.

The traditional material for making these baskets is osier, which is a labour-intensive crop, and requires attention all year if it is to be of sufficient quality. The plants are cut in the winter and have their hard outside layer removed in the spring before being used in the weaving process.

Many other materials are now rivalling osier in the production of baskets, but Villaines still grows many old types of osier and willow, in its Salicetum.

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