A Slovenian hayrack has been donated by the British Slovene Society and installed on Gillotts Field to support and promote the town’s twinning with Bled in Slovenia. The ‘kozolec’ as it is known, is a traditional way of drying various crops and materials from the land. They are now part of the cultural heritage in Slovenia and are unique structures that are not found elsewhere in the world.
Henley has been twinned with the town of Bled in Slovenia since 2013. Originally, Stephen Bennett from the Henley-Bled Twinning Association and Marcus Ferrar from the British-Slovene Society offered a hayrack to the Town Council in March 2020 that was located at the Oxford University Arboretum which was due to be redeveloped. Marcus said, “Unfortunately the original hayrack was in poor condition and falling to pieces. The guys from Slovenia came over and had a look at it and they said it was better that we make a new one and they’ve made it in exactly the same historic and traditional way from oak and spruce wood.”
The traditions have been followed in the installation too. A small branch from a spruce tree has been added to the roof to show it is finished and a small posy of a plant found growing in one of the trees nearby has been hung as a symbol of prosperity and good luck. A special roof tile with a painted cockerel will sit atop. These are added to hayracks and farmhouses in central Slovenia and are a symbol of rural life.
The Henley kozolec emulates the well-known Lah kozolec in Domžale. This will be one of only 2 hayracks in the UK. The other was gifted to HRH Prince of Wales in 1991 when Slovenia gained independence and is in Gloucestershire.
Four master craftsmen, led by Damjan Bajc, have come over from Slovenia to construct the hayrack over the last 2 days. They made the hayrack from scratch in their workshop in Slovenia. Marcus added, “We thought this position was good one, fairly near the path, so people could easily stop and sit on the benches we plan to have installed. I think when you start a twinning a relationship you arrange a visit, have some ideas, and you start to do things together that really benefit both towns. I think Henley has the opportunity to develop this relationship and I think this is the nudge to really get this started. We (British Slovene Society) plan to come to and have our annual picnic here in July and we’ll probably arrange an inauguration party at the end of April which we’ve talked to Henley Mayor (Sarah Miller) who is very keen to build the relationship. We will invite the Mayor from Bled too to come over and a government minister.”
Joe from the Town Council Park Services who has been helping with the project said, “It is an amazing work of craftsmanship, the structure has just been slotted together without many adjustments on site. When we mow the site, we will add some of the cut hay to the hayrack to keep with tradition.”
The hayrack has cost 10,000 euros and has been funded by the Embassy of the Republic of Slovenia in UK This one emulates the well-known Lah kozolec in Domžale, individual donations, TRIMO (constructor of wall and roof systems) and Robert Kuhar Corporate Design.