Whilst discussion on thatching apprentices abound, it was only a matter of time before the conversation turned to the character and attributes of a roof thatcher. We are using the words roof thatcher because that is what they are. As we all know, roof thatchers will also call themselves Master Thatchers even though that level of expertise has often been neither quantified nor assessed. So although thatching is currently an unregulated trade with no governing body, what it takes to do the work definitely has some consistency.
Whatever a roof thatcher may call themselves, there are certain traits required to be a good one. They need to be:-
1 Physically Fit
Thatching involves lifting, walking up and down ladders, using hand tools, moving, carrying and stacking bundles of reed or straw, twisting spars. Loading and unloading materials and generally being on the move most of the day. Not a lot of sitting down on this one!
2 Good with Heights.
No good thinking of being a thatcher if you suffer from vertigo!
3 Reliable and Trustworthy
A thatcher is often working on a domestic property and so dependability and responsibility are imperative. Any thatcher who does not turn up when promised will soon get a name for unreliability and, as we all know, bad news always travels further than good.
4 Able to Communicate.
Whether it is initial discussions with homeowners, builders or conservation departments, writing a relevant quotations, ordering appropriate materials or dealing with co-workers, the need for clear conversations and correspondence is essential. You can always use a virtual assistant. However, remember its not just talking the talk, thatchers also need to be able to thatch as well as they say they can!!
5 Able to Work in All Weathers
Thatching may appear to be a romantic trade of working on a roof in the sunshine but in reality a large proportion of the time the weather plays a large part in the days work. It may be dealing with rain, wind or even sleet or alternatively wearing a hat, plenty of sunscreen and remembering to keep drinking water because it is another heat wave and the roof top is boiling!
6 Able to Work on Monotonous Jobs
A lot of the work is the same and, especially on a large roof, the work can be repetitious indeed. The ability to get on with thatching to a good standard regardless of how boring it may get is also to be acknowledged.
7 Willing to Always be Learning
With three main thatching materials used in the UK, thousands of thatched properties (a lot of them listed ones), new builds and renovations, good and bad harvests, vermin and pests and customers who like to ask for something “a bit different”, there is always an opportunity to understand more about thatching. Techniques and styles may differ by region and materials and fixings all add to the mix of knowledge to be acquired. Wisdom comes to those who are open to understanding and improving their proficiency at all times.
Thatching is considered to be part of the construction industry and adhering to appropriate standards to make it fit for purpose is essential but…. it is also a craft which allows for someone to be artistic. Whether it be the pattern on the ridge, the straw finial or an interesting dormer window there are places where individuality and flair can make the difference between a roof looking just alright, and a roof looking remarkable.
Thatchers are often working in difficult circumstances, tricky weather or on an awkward roof but they need to carry on regardless. Ability to motivate a team is always preferable.
10 An Individual of Character
Many thatchers work alone because that’s what they like to do and others like to be part of a team. Throughout time, they have often been spoken of as strong personalities with a spirit or style or their own. A temperament or quality which means that they will not be forgotten. Thatchers tend to find the customers who they gel with and such characters become renowned for their special traits. These characters have sometimes been thought of as eccentric but, as in life, it takes all sorts.
So for anyone thinking of becoming a roof thatcher, be aware of some of the attributes it takes to do a demanding and creative job – you may well be able to think of some more!
For those of you who are meeting a thatcher for the first time, understand the characteristics they may have which go with their trade. These qualities have kept and will keep our thatched buildings looking great for the foreseeable future. Just remember that no two thatchers are the same.