Hemp Growing in the UK

Hemp can grow naturally in the UK, is a valuable and sustainable product with thousands of known usages and doesn’t require huge amounts of fertiliser and pesticide. So why is very little of it grown?

A short history of hemp in Britain

Early evidence of hemp being grown and used in Britain can be traced back as far as the Roman times and beyond. Hemp rope has been found and dated to 140 AD at the Antoine Wall and cannabis pollen samples from Old Buckingham Mere, Norfolk have been placed at around 400AD. Evidence of its growing and use since then is plentiful and varied; reports of hempen rope use for the navy as well as writings advising the growing of hemp because of its many uses. Much of this rope came out of the town of Bridport, partly because it was prime hemp growing countryside, but also because it was given a royal charter giving it a monopoly on the trade. Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Dorset and Kent were the main hemp growing counties.

Current attitudes towards Hemp

Hemp is stigmatised because of its association with marijuana, despite industrial hemp (the type used to make rope, clothes or any other hemp products) doesn’t actually contain marijuana. This has meant that its growing has been controlled and licences are required to grow it. However, due to the rise in interest in environmental issues, popularity of hemp has grown in recent years. The amount of land under cultivation continues to grow and demand is increasing, including car manufacturers substituting polypropylene for hemp in door panels. And this is over sixty years after Ford first proposed the idea of making cars out of hemp! (see this video)

Why is hemp so environmentally great?

As a fibre: the growing of hemp uses a lot less herbicides and fertilisers than for cotton or other equivalent fibres and gives a soft, silky and durable thread.

As a paper: trees take a very long time to grow and then once you’ve cut them down and made paper out of them, you have to wait a long time for them to grow up again. With hemp, you’ll have a faster turnover of the product and therefore will be constantly helping lock away the carbon currently in the atmosphere quicker.

As a plastic: by mixing a conventional plastic with hemp fibres, a strong and durable plastic can be made by using up to 90 per cent bio-derived material. Zelfo is one company that currently does this and have products such as musical instruments and light fittings that are mostly organic material, saving the oil that would be going into such products.

As a fuel: either as bio-diesel or biomass fuel, hemp is carbon neutral because any CO2 created in its burning is offset by the carbon being absorbed in growing.

As a concrete: after a little research, I have even found a concrete which is made from hemp.  This material, Tradical Hemcrete, actually locks up more carbon in itself than is released in its production.  It is also renewable and, because of the insulating effect of the plant material, the necessity for cavity walls is also eliminated!

As a locally made product: if the hemp is grown and processed nearby, the energy and emissions  from transport will be lower.

What are we going to do about it?

Well, anyone who has land to spare can grow hemp.  They can get help and support from the hemp processing company Hemcore and their hemp will go into paper, car door panels and Hemcrete, amongst other things.

Anyone else, who doesn’t have land, can simply buy hemp products.  By doing this, you are helping the environment more than you can imagine!  When you do, also consider where the hemp has come from.  Hemcrete uses British grown hemp and the animal bedding from Hemcore is all British grown.  As for other products, most producers don’t say where the hemp was grown, but hopefully companies will reveal their sources in future!

Hemp for Victory Video

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7 Comments

  1. nigel rushby
    Posted 29 March, 2012 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    We are interested in growing hemp but require soome help or advice before embarking on such a task
    regards
    Nigel Rushby

  2. Posted 30 March, 2012 at 12:28 am | Permalink

    Hi Nigel. I don’t actually know anything about hemp growing myself, so I can’t really help you, but I do know of an organisation which can. They used to be called Hemcore, but are now Hemp Technology, and information can be found at http://www.hemptechnology.co.uk/.

    Good luck with your growing!

  3. Alyson Black
    Posted 23 January, 2013 at 11:19 pm | Permalink

    Hi guys,

    I would love to grow hemp for all the reasons listed above! Love the stuff and think that apart from its use in fabrics and building materials,nutrients etc its use as a healing environment (with water and light) could be a winner especially in the winter in times of low light! Could I grow a useful crop on about 3 acres? Any advice for a complete novice gratefully accepted. xx

  4. edward haddock
    Posted 28 February, 2014 at 5:39 am | Permalink

    Hemptechnology went bankrupt at the end of 2013 on their website.

  5. Michael Purcell
    Posted 31 May, 2014 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    Sadly true Hemptechnology went bankrupt in 2013 which I understand was due to it changing course with it`s hemp production business. Instead of running an automated manufacturing plant producing a variety of hemp products, they consolidated their operation and became hemp Distributors as well as manufacturers for preformed hemp insulation panels for the construction industry. Ian Mac Cathy (Sales Director)at Hempcrete was very helpful with answering my question his tel 0845 603 1143

  6. SHININA FERNANDEZ
    Posted 28 September, 2014 at 9:45 pm | Permalink

    Hello Simeon years ago I found about about hemp, I can’t tell you how amazed and sad that we have been without it for so long, the yearning I have to tell people about it, is strong. I am amazed how many people have never heard of hemp, from farmers, educated people and everyday people like myself.
    I am writing to you for guidance, if I may, I have a quest to educate people about hemp and its uses. Hopefully in 2015 I will get a place at the school of entrepreneurs in London, to focus and bring together a journey, educational tool to take out into the world. I may even get my shop, full of hemp products and
    story boards to educate people as they shop. Would like to talk to you more
    about this. Thank you Shinina

  7. Posted 30 September, 2014 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    Hi Shinina. I’m afraid I neither have the time nor the knowledge to help you. I wish you the best of luck, and perhaps someone who sees your message may leave a reply and get in touch.

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