When you step into the world of Wookey Caves in Somerset, England for the first time, the scene is breathtaking and a little bit eerie. Legends speak of a witch who was turned into stone, and she can still be seen today. Guides take tourists through narrow tunnels and into spacious caverns, then they take a detour into the Victorian world of making cotton paper. Visitors might be surprised to make this abrupt leap in time if they did not have their brochure to tell them what to expect.
You might have been thinking about prehistoric times and geological formations while delving under the ground, but you re-emerge in the 19th century. There is a water mill on this site which has been used for centuries in various capacities. Today, it provides power to a workshop where stationery is created out of cloth.
Turning wood pulp into thin sheets to write on and for creating envelopes is a relatively modern invention. At one time, it was common to tear strips of fabric, soak them, and press them flat using many pounds of pressure. The mill at Wookey Hole still continues to make attractive stationery which is used for special occasions by royalty, and which can also be purchased at the gift shop.
This tourist attraction in Somerset is not the only place where consumers can find such elegant sheaves. Ecologically friendly companies in many industries are looking for ways to reduce their consumption of raw materials. Stationers are among these responsible firms, and they have taken another look at Victorian manufacturing methods, though they use modern technology instead of water mills.
A number of retailers sell cotton paper at retail locations and online. They use recycled materials to create products partly or completely out of recycled cotton. This material also produces sturdy archival paper which can be used for printing digital photographs and art work.