Many people believe that synthetic materials must be stronger, lighter in weight and more flexible than natural materials and that if something from nature has not been replaced by a manmade product yet, then it’s only matter of time. But this isn’t the case for willow.
Used for hundreds of years, willow would have been grown extensively in many parts of England from the Somerset Levels to the Norfolk Broads. It was traditionally used (and still is) for making baskets, screens, coracles (traditional boats) and even for putchers (a specially woven fish trap).
Willow is light in weight, flexible and strong. It can drop to the floor but still ‘give’ and in so doing, protect the contents it is carrying which it is why it was used for carting bottles and food.
Today, it is still used for the wicker basket that hangs under a hot air balloon - when it hits the ground, it gives just enough to protect the people in it but not so much that it breaks.
There is no synthetic product yet developed that will do quite the same job.