New hayrack (kozolec) in Henley, UK!
The British-Slovene Society donated a new hayrack to the town of Henley-on-Thames. It stands in Gillots Field, a place where people gather for traditional picnics.
The original hayrack came to England when Slovenia became independent 30 years ago. It was brought by Jana Valenčič as an exhibit to promote Slovenia at the Liberty department store in London, and was donated to the Ethnological Museum in Oxford after the event. The hayrack first stood next to the museum, but was then moved to the arboretum near Oxford due to issues with the construction plan. As the hayrack is part of the country’s cultural heritage, the Society traditionally held picnics there every year in early summer.
It was later removed and The British-Slovene Society wanted to build a new hayrack on a new location. The then Slovenian Ambassador in London, Tadej Rupel helped with the funds and location, Henley on the Thames, a beautiful riverside town twinned with Bled in Slovenia.
Following the advice of the museum Land of Hayracks in Šentrupert, the British-Slovene Society found an excellent carpenter, Damjan Bajc, who, in collaboration with Dušan Štepec from the museum, designed a smaller version of Lah’s hayrack from Migolica in Dolenjska. Additional wood heat treatment and a transporter who knew how to cope with the new situation were needed. To their great relief, company Trimo from Trebnje, with the supprot of British-Slovenian Chamber of Commerce, offered to help and took care of the transport and customs clearance. It was only when the hayrack was on the lorry, and a few days later actually in Henley, that they could believe that they would soon be organising their picnics under the hayrack again. A team of four Slovenian craftsmen led by Damjan Bajc also arrived from Trebnje to set up the hayrack.
Since the mission of the British-Slovene Society is to foster friendship between Slovenes living in Great Britain and the British, and to strengthen their belonging to the Slovenian nation, the picnics under the hayrack are intended for entire families, often with one Slovenian and one non-Slovenian parent. This enables them to meet other families and children get to know and play with each other. Additionally, everyone brings food to the picnics, especially if they prepare something particularly good and are willing to share it with others. Even the Slovenian ambassador always brings a treat and a couple of bottles of wine and chats with everyone. Over the years, different numbers of people have attended the picnic. Sometimes there were 40 of them, other times 80, depending on the weather and availability of people. Slovenians living in Great Britain and their friends finally have a location where they can gather again for picnics. They hope that this hayrack will help to spread the word about Slovenia and build friendships and cooperation between Slovenia and Great Britain.