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gower brewery stories - gower lavender soap company

Gower Stories: Gower Lavender

GOWER STORIES 

PENINSULA LIFE • OUR HERITAGE 

Gower Lavender

 

Gower Lavender is a melody of all things in varying shades of purple pulled together under an ever present haze of lavender. Purple pen pots, purple aprons, purple soap moulds, purple spatulas and purple labels. It’s an industrious but mellow affair of soap making, hand cream pouring and product refining. 

A redbrick, lavender lined driveway leads to an unsuspecting garage in a quiet housing estate overlooking Mumbles. Sunlight streams in the open doorway and dances across fresh bars of soap airing on the drying rack. The shelves are packed full of products in their various stages of creation and bunches of dried lavender spill from every corner. 

Gower Brewery Welsh Ales & Beers stories - gower lavender soap company  Gower Brewery Welsh Ales & Beers stories - gower lavender soap company

We’ve come to meet with Rae Howels, founder of Gower Lavender, and her good friend Noemi. Originally from Barcelona, Noemi works alongside Rae a few days a week producing all things lavender and lovely. With purple hair, lilac hoodies and matching aprons, the women seamlessly blend into their workspace. Sitting in the sunshine on the driveway, a cold beer in, we chatted about their purple world and how it all came about.

Gower Brewery Welsh Ales & Beers stories - gower lavender soap company

"We started growing and harvesting lavender in 2017. It took a long time to set this up. I went on numerous soap making courses, spent ages perfecting my recipes and making sure everything was safety tested. When I was just getting started, everyone wanted to be my friend whilst I was trying out all my new soap and scent ideas.

Gower Brewery Welsh Ales & Beers stories - Gower lavender soap company  Gower Brewery Welsh Ales & Beers stories - Gower lavender soap company

I used an amazing local designer who made our packaging for me and we launched about 5 or 6 months before COVID. Which could have ended us really as we had just about got out into local markets and shops. But it turns out it was a good time to be in the hand washing business! Everybody wanted soap and hand cream. We also coordinated a really brilliant scheme with the NHS and loads of people came on board with us to help gift a whole load of soap to the NHS to say thank you for everything they were doing.

So, we grow lavender on the Gower Peninsula; we have a field in Murton, and Lunnon. We’ve also worked with the National Trust to grow their lavender above Fall Bay near Rhossili. So basically, if there is lavender on Gower we know about it or were involved in it in some way - in short, I’m a lavender fanatic!

Gower Brewery Welsh Ales & Beers stories - gower lavender soap company

We harvest the lavender and make things out of it. Beautiful things like soaps, hand creams, lavender hearts out of recycled welsh blankets and soap shavings and we’re always developing new products.

One of the big things for me in setting up the business was that it should be eco-friendly. It’s a planet-first business, so every decision we make, we think about the cost to the planet before we think about anything else. 

Gower Brewery Welsh Ales & Beers stories - gower lavender soap company  Gower Brewery Welsh Ales & Beers stories - gower lavender soap company

 

I’m worried about the current state of our planet and wanted to do something community based that was practical. Previously, I was a journalist. Oftentimes the stories are focused on miserable things; people's pain and trauma. After losing my job, I didn’t see a future for myself in journalism anymore as the industry has changed so much. 

I was given the space to think, to ask myself what did I really want to do, what do I love? And the answer was lavender! I mean, who doesn’t? The business grew from there really. I really love it! I love the creativity that’s involved in this business. Journalism was often so negative whereas this is all good, all positive and still is hugely centred around people which I also love. I get to chat to everyone at the markets, get to know them, and cultivate relationships with other small businesses on Gower too. 

Gower Brewery Welsh Ales & Beers stories - gower lavender soap company  Gower Brewery Welsh Ales & Beers stories - gower lavender soap company

We’re also so lucky to be based on Gower. To have access to the range of landscapes, beaches and enjoy the lifestyle we do. I would never ever leave. My husband is from Yorkshire but we chose to settle here because it’s just so beautiful. Why wouldn't we?

It’s more than just the beautiful places, it’s the people. The numerous businesses you can work with; I love being part of that network and wider community. People now recognise me as the Lavender Lady and they know me. I just love that, I feel part of something. It’s also such a friendly place to settle and you don't have to go far before you find someone that you know."

Gower Brewery Welsh Ales & Beers stories - gower lavender soap company

You can pick up Gower Lavender’s soaps in our Gower shop here at the brewery as well as her newly published book of poems. Rae also refers to herself as a ‘soap dealer’ as her neighbours regularly knock on her door asking for a fresh bar. We asked Rae to describe her life on Gower in three words: 

 

Purple. Outdoors. People.  

 

Gower Lavender is most definitely a people business. Rae has two daughters who are often seen at markets alongside her in their purple hoodies as well as Rae’s sister and nieces. Noemi, who Rae met at a local antenatal class, continues to work part time with Rae in production and at markets with her daughter, whereas Rae’s husband is one of the directors of the business. 

Amongst the haze of lavender and varying shades of purple, this family business continues to grow and flourish much like their namesake on the fields of Gower.

Gower Brewery Welsh Ales & Beers stories - gower lavender soap company

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