Newsletter | January 2016

Thatch Advice Centre Newsletter

Happy New Year to you all!

This Newsletter has been a struggle due to the dreaded flu virus knocking us all for six but, now on the mend and hoping you are all healthy and looking forward to a great year whether living under, working on or just interested in thatch, thatching and thatched roofs.

Interesting that a lot of the enquiries since our last newsletter have been on grants, things growing on roofs and fire safety.  Things which were all planned for this newsletter.

In this Newsletter:

  • What is growing on your thatch?
  • Thatch Tale – Sparking Scaffolding
  • Grants
  • Fire and Rescue Services
  • Famous Thatch  – Anne Hathaways Cottage and more……Click on the title to show the details.

Question Time

What is growing on your thatch?


Thatch is a natural material, and as time progresses it wears and deteriorates.  The quality of material, skill of the craftsman who applied it, aspect of building, breathability of roof and proximity of trees can all play a part in its longevity.

A new roof is smart, no lines or ‘wrinkles’ denoting ageing – which many of us can identify with –  but as time progresses it will start to degrade. This is normal but its speed of degradation depends on the factors above and once it has started to degrade, its composition makes it a good growing medium for other vegetation.

Your roof may be Water Reed, but most ridges are in straw and many roofs are either Combed Wheat Straw or Longstraw.  The straws are produced in a way that removes the corn from the ears but it is not an exact science and some grains may remain.  These grains, under the right conditions (and this winter has been an exceptionally wet and warm one so far) can germinate.  Enquiries to us about new roofs with grass growing out of them have been higher than usual.  It is not grass but sprouting grains.  They may die off with a frost but may also need further intervention.

Similarly the conditions for moss and lichen have also been favourable. Moss and lichen on thatch coat work usually grow on the lee side of a property and are generally removed by the thatcher when a ridge is replaced.  This may not be advisable if your roof is fragile and often a thatcher will advise against it on an old roof as it can do more to speed the deterioration than leaving well alone.  It is down to experience.

In Europe ridges are generally tiled.  In some places they are placed upside down and flowers planted in them but this idea does not seem to have caught on in the UK.

We have a picture below of a roof under a fir tree which had reached the point where a fern was growing out of it!.

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Thatch Tale

Sparking Scaffolding


 A story from, we believe, Dorset.

When a roof is re-thatched, scaffolding is required as part of Health and Safety regarding working at heights.

The property had been scaffolded ready for thatching and work had commenced.  Unfortunately, the scaffold poles were too long and were interfering with the eave (lower edge) of the thatching.

When asked to reduce the height of the scaffold poles, the scaffolders decided to use an angle grinder.  Subsequent sparks set fire to the thatch!

Moral of this tale is simple.  Don’t use an angle grinder on scaffolding under thatch or you may set it alight!

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Fire and Rescue


Sadly our hardworking Fire and Rescue Services have had to deal with more thatch fires over the last few months. Please read our latest article for more information.

With changes to the Fire Service happening regularly we hope you understand that keeping up to date with what is going on takes time. Your help in letting us know of changes to your local fire stations contact details is appreciated so that we can keep our information up to date and help everyone appropriately.

Remember that prevention is the best option so have a read of our Thatch Fire Safety Leaflet, the Burgoynes Forensic Report on the causes of over 100 thatch fires and our recent article and join us all in the fight against thatch fires.

We continually are in contact with many Fire Services in promoting these important messages on fire safety, so join us on social media and help spread the word.

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Historic Thatch


We touched last time on Historic England but let us not forget other government organisations listing and preserving our thatched heritage.

Historic Environment Scotland Cadw (Wales)
Department of Environment Northern Ireland
Heritage Ireland
Southern Ireland

From straw, to heather, marram or broom, many thatching materials and techniques have been employed over the centuries and there is a vast amount of information available if you know where to look and who to ask.

We also understand that looking after our heritage needs to be affordable, insurable, sustainable and that the skills and knowledge of thatching must be preserved.

Speak to the older and retired thatchers, not only are their fascinating stories but they have a wealth of knowledge which, when passed down,  may make a huge difference to the life of an old thatched building in your area.

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New at TAC


We have added a few more pages in the last few weeks.

Our recent Thatch Thursdayshave covered topics such as Wooden spars, tools – Leggett, plastic spars, New Year ‘thatch’ resolutions, Thatch Construction – timber frame, cob,  brick and flint.

We also wrote our article on  concerns over recent thatch fires.

It is wonderful to receive pictures, videos and information from our thatch friends on ‘all things thatch’ to share with everyone.

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Famous Thatch


Anne Hathaway’s Cottage

We want to include everyone in promoting some of our wonderful and famous thatch properties, not just our friends on social media.

This pretty thatched Grade I listed farm house was built over 500 years ago and is a popular tourist attraction in the hamlet of Shottery just outside Stratford-upon-Avon.  It was originally a two roomed cottage but underwent extensive building work in the early 17th century which resulted in an extra ten rooms!

Anne was William Shakespeare’s wife and the cottage was her family home before she married him.

Thanks for a great picture Felicity!

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There have been a surprising amount of enquiries recently about grants for thatched properties so we have had a few very useful conversations and can give the following information, that may not be what you want to hear but, which is not surprising based on the current economic situation.

If a thatched property is in the ownership of a not for profit organisation eg charity or local authority there are more options.  You can contact charities such as Funds for Historic Buildings or the Heritage Alliance.  The Heritage Lottery fund may also be an option for such buildings eg museums and other thatch buildings benefitting the public.

For privately owned GI or GII* at risk properties contact Historic England, Historic Scotland orCadw.  In Northern Ireland there is significant government changes going on so their situation is currently uncertain.  Southern Ireland is not an area we have investigated at present.  For private owners theCountry Houses Foundationmay be able to help if there is significant public benefit in the property so it appears that if the building has value added other than being a private residence there may still be some help out there.

For privately owned GII it was suggested that people contact their local authorities but in our experience there is not spare funding available.

We know of thatchers who have offered assistance to struggling property owners delaying payments (eg until a property is sold) but this option can be a lengthy and protracted one and we would recommend taking legal advice before embarking on this course of action.

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Social Media friends

Wiltshire Fire and Rescue


This Service have been tweeting since 2009, long before us, but we value sharing Fire Safety advice and articles with them.

We hope more Fire Services and local Fire Stations will join us on Twitter and Facebook where we share a lot of great information and videos e.g.


When everyone is reminded to check their smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.

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Can you help us?


If you have any famous or interesting thatch in your area we would love to hear from you so we can share with our ‘thatch’ community.

A picture would be great too.  We are happy to give you credit  if you would like.

Or if you are a thatcher have you got any interesting thatch you would like to share?

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Thatch Directory Categories

Thatch Directory Categories – Phase I

Our site has one clear list of categories so it is easy to find help.  We are looking for proven services to join us.  References are required.

·  Architects
·  Builders
·  Building Surveyors
·  Chimney & Flue Specialists
·  Chimney Sweeps
·  Electrical Engineers
·  Fire Safety Products & Supplies
·  Garden Buildings
·  Health and Safety
·  Insurance
·  Leadworkers
·  Master Thatchers
·  Organisations/Publications
·  Preservation & Pest Control
·  Quantity Surveyors
·  Reed & Straw Dealers
·  Scaffolding
·  Security
·  Solicitors
·  Solid Fuel & Heating Supplies
·  Specialist Builders
·  Specialist Building Materials
·  Structural Surveyors
·  Thatched Hospitality
·  Thatching Supplies
·  Timber Framed Builders
·  Tools & Equipment Hire
·  Tree Surgeons

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Next Time

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The Next Newsletter

Our Next Newsletter :-

Thatch longevity
Thatch Tale
Update on previous articles
Famous Thatch
and  ……….

Spread the word

We offer free up to date advice and info on all things thatch.

Please tell your friends.

Its easy to join us by signing up from the website or following us on social media.

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Anything you want to share with us?

Thank you to everyone who has already contributed with lovely pictures, renovations and stories.

If you have any interesting or lovely pictures, a story or even ideas, we would love to hear from you.

The best way is to contact us via email   or,  just give us a ring on 02380 428058.

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