Trip to Norfolk
Spent a couple of days recently in Norfolk, which of course is famous for its water reed or Norfolk Reed as most people know it by and which grows on the Broads. The villages of Woodbastwick, Ranworth and Wroxham are worth a visit and are so close to the Broads.
Also and less known, Norfolk is the only place in the UK or Ireland to produce sedge which is used for the capping on the ridges – mainly of water reed roofs. This is a very durable material which easily outlasts the hazel fixings which hold it in place on the apex of roofs.
As a Company we travel down and collect the sedge which as with the reed is loaded onto flat bottomed boats and transported to the Staith or landing area where we collect it; the smell of fresh sedge is wonderful, although its razor sharp edges means it has to be handled with care.
Norfolk thatch buildings are generally very steep and the County boasts several thatched churches and also massive thatched barns – some of which have been converted into private residences and holiday lets.
Most water reed used in the UK has for a long time been imported from countries such as Poland, Austria, Turkey and more recently the Ukraine and China. The Thatchers Standard magazine, in a recent article said the Broads can only produce about 15% of the annual UK demand for reed.
It is good to see that Graham Craig is still cutting Reed on the banks of The river Tay near Perth in Scotland. The larger size of foreign Reed beds means that a commercial set up is more cost effective and the other important factor is the availability of plentiful cheap labour.