Thatch Advice Centre Newsletter No. 22

Welcome to our Thatch Community everyone. Having coped with the atrocious wet winter here we are now wishing everyone the best in dealing with COVID – 19. Please stay at home and stay safe folks. Anyone helping out at this difficult time, well done and thank you. This newsletter has plenty of original content and something for everyone, whatever your thatch interest.

Quite a lot of thatch purchasing/selling enquiries recently, along with too many pest problems (see below) and moss conversations.  Generally quiet on the thatch fire front (thanks to a wet winter?) and some interesting discussions regarding regulations/guidance etc., which we are mentioning now and planning to give you detail about in the future.

So here’s our Spring 2020 Newsletter #22. Updating you on what has been going on in our world of thatch. There is a great variety of topics covered in this issue; from our website additions, social media items and updates on other important topics.

In This Newsletter

Updates to our Website
Updates from Previous Newsletters
(HETAS, Thatching Apprenticeship, Dorset Model, Moss & Lichen, Woodburners, The Tithe Barn Trust)
Working Together
Health and Safety: On-line courses with Free Trials
Social Media Update
Caption Competition Winner
New Competition – Finial Fun!
Be more Social
Thatched Tale – Bees in the Roof!
New Associates on the Thatch Directory
Positive Feedback from our Thatch Community
Checking Your Thatched Roof
Information and Understanding
Federation of British Chimney Sweeps
Thatch Pests
Jelly on Thatch
Bird Guards
Our Social Media – in case you missed it

Next Time…..

Click on the title to show the details.

Updates to Thatch Advice Centre Website

We have written several helpful articles on a good variety of topics. Click through to read them.

Historic Environment Scotland (HES) – Working with Thatch
We promoted a free one day event as part of their Master Builders’ Days.

Woodburners and Safe Storage of Logs
It is not just what wood you buy, it is how you store and use it safely.

7 Points to Consider on Thatched Roof Condition
Just because a roof does not look pristine, does not mean it is not serviceable. Similarly, a new roof which looks fabulous is only as good as how it performs.

CAT Architectural Project: Thatched Pavillion
Fascinating project at the Centre for Alternative Technology – the Hairy Hut!!

Visiting Hardy’s Thatched Cottage
A famous thatched property and in addition, another great use for thatching straw!

10 Attributes of a Good Roof Thatcher
What makes a good roof thatcher? Some of their interesting characteristics are discussed.

The Country Gentleman’s Association is a long standing insurer of thatched properties. The Thatch Advice Centre were asked to write an article for them on what we do. A great opportunity for working together.

Top 3 Questions asked by Specialist Thatch Insurers
Interesting and useful information from some of our specialist thatch insurers on their Top 3 questions.

Help with Health and Safety
Information and Free Trials. See more on this topic below.

Thatched Roofs Article for Listed Property Magazine
We were asked to write an article on Thatched Roofs by the Listed Heritage Magazine (LPOC) who were doing a feature on roofing in their March/April 2020 Issue 129. Happy to help and more working together for the good of thatch

Thatch Finial Fun
New Competition – more info below.

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Updates from Previous Newsletter

HETAS have at last removed their old “Chimneys in Thatched Properties Information” which had been available to all website visitors. We have already had calls from people looking for the HETAS information on thatch. At the time of writing, there appears to be a Technical Note, exclusively available to HETAS Registrants. We have been sent a copy and will be giving it some careful consideration – along with other interested parties who have apparently not yet given input – before making comment.

We hope that any changes are for the better and address some of the many issues which we have identified through our multitude of discussions with homeowners, installers, thatchers and chimney sweeps etc.

Thatching Apprenticeship:
Down to the nitty gritty of sorting out costings and funding now. Those interested in providing training and assessing have been identified and the potential providers are soon to be in the important position of quoting. This is not a quick process as it has to be right. The members of the Thatch Apprenticeship Group are to be applauded for the work done so far. Credit to them for their ability to work as a team of master thatchers from across the country in coming up with a scheme worthy of taking the trade forward in a sustainable and all-inclusive way. We still have more thatchers as well as those with apprentices asking to be included, so we feel that it is progress indeed. Will keep you posted.

Dorset Model Updates:
Thanks to Mr Heaton, District Building Control Officer, Dorset Council, for the following update:

“Building Control continues to work with the thatching industry and monitor the Dorset Model guidance document; however fire safety is currently facing a major review following the tragic Grenfell Tower fire. The current regime for testing of materials looks set to be addressed in phase 2 of the report along with several other areas.

In view of the importance of the report, it is necessary to await its contents and take one step at a time. We will keep you informed of progress.”

Moss and Lichen:
This wet and warm winter has seen a prevalence of moss growth on thatch. The perpetual question of moss removal by thatchers or chemicals has been raised on a few occasions but the consensus seems to be that both these options only remove the surface growth and it will regrow. Anyone with any long term useful information on product use and its effect on thatch and the moss growth is welcome to get in touch. There have been specialist products on the market for many years but in our experience they have never really been utilised. This may be down to cost or the perception of what they do or do not do to the roof. You know us – we like proof so let’s watch this space.

Woodburners are not being banned. When it comes to thatch risk and insurance, they are higher on the scale than an electric or gas fire. However, we are pleased to say that for those looking to purchase appropriate new appliances, HETAS have confirmed that you should look for those which are Eco Design Compliant.

What and how you burn and using your appliance correctly (Burnright Campaign) is still paramount to thatch fire safety and has benefits for the Clean Air Policy too. Please make sure you have told your insurer if you are installing a new woodburner. New regulations on the sale of wood is also happening and we will keep you posted.

The Tithe Barn Trust
Phase One of the Landbeach Tithe Barn restoration project, including the thatching, is completed. Well done to everyone involved for a magnificent effort in gaining the Heritage Lottery funding and making great progress on this Cambridgeshire site. Sadly, an event celebrating the completion of Phase One has been cancelled due to virus precautions and government advice. Phase Two of the project will involve fundraising for electricity, running water and toilets on the site.

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Working Together

In addition to all of the above, we have been busy:

Writing the requested article for the Country Gentleman’s Association – It was about us and what we do, along with some important Fire Safety information.
Giving a presentation on Thatch to 150 delegates ….. At the Hilton Hotel in Burton upon Trent.
Attending the Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps’ 2 day Exhibition in Kenilworth.
Being part of the Natural Building UK event at Futurebuild in Excel London.
We think working together is so important so we can share knowledge to help more and more people.

A lot of organisations are starting to use our Thatch Fire Safety Leaflet on their websites, as well as distributing printed copies at their events. We appreciate their asking and sharing the information. #WorkingTogether.

More organisations are also joining our Thatch Community which is a great way of increasing our knowledge/skill base.

We deal with such a range of enquiries that our Associates and their extra special expertise and experience is invaluable. The old adage is ‘it’s not what you know but who you know’ – so thanks to all our Associates whom we have called upon in the last few months; everyone appreciates your contributions.

From the other side, even a mortgage broker asked for advice on thatching material etc. on a Grade II listed property in Norfolk. The diversity of our visitors is amazing and we welcome you all.

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Health and Safety Online Courses - with Free Trials

Health and Safety is everyone’s responsibility

We have written an article providing some useful information on Health and Safety issues with help from our Associates at Jaybee Safety. This includes important links to a brilliant offer of free trials of specialist on–line H&S training courses. Thanks to Jaybee Safety for these relevant courses which will be of interest to many of our subscribers. Some of the many courses offered are:

Working at Height
First Aid Refresher
Risk Assessment
Please spend a few minutes reading and understanding how it could benefit you. The free trials give an excellent idea of how easy it is to gain a certificate in important safety areas. We have completed several courses and found it straightforward and beneficial. Let us know what you think.

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Social Media Updates

We hope that you and your family are healthy and coping with the stresses and strains of these unprecedented times. Social media is one way we can stay at home and keep in touch with everyone easily. It gives us the opportunity to share experiences (both good and bad) and #workingtogether we can be supportive and stay positive.

News. The Thatch Advice Centre are now using Instagram! and we love it.
This is in addition to our Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest accounts – so come join us.

If you have missed out, we have a list of some (not all!) of the interesting “thatch” related topics we have shared along with useful links. (see below under Our Social Media – in case you missed it, section).

These topics are in addition to our regular Test it Tuesdays, Thatch Thursdays and the information and links to our articles (above).

Facebook Website Email
Facebook Website Email
Twitter Pinterest
Twitter Pintrest
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Caption Competition Winner

Congratulations to Edward Parker from Cambridge, the winner of our autumn 2019 caption competition.

Well done to Edward for his clever words:

“Brian the Bricky visited the pub next door before coming to work on the chimney…..”

He has won a stove thermometer and wood moisture meter kindly donated by Valiant Fireside.

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New Competition – Thatch Finial Fun!

Send a photograph(s) of an interesting / attractive / quirky thatch finial.

There seems to be a resurgence in interest in these lovely and often inventive toppings to thatched roofs so we thought it would make a great competition (don’t forget to include your name and address).

The winner will be drawn at random from all the entries (maximum 4 per person) and will receive a £20 gift voucher. Might be a great opportunity for a page on finials on the website which could promote those who want to be mentioned and will showcase the versatility of thatch in a different and very aesthetic way. More info…

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Be More Social

If you want to be more social:-

  • Send us a picture of you testing your smoke or Carbon Monoxide alarm (wearing branded clothing if appropriate!) and we will use it on one of our Test it Tuesday posts.   Our organic post reach of over 10K achieved recently might be a further incentive to send us a pic and join this important campaign.  You don’t have to be an associate just one of our social media mates or subscribers – free promotion by us on a very good campaign.  #workingtogether
  • Send us a lovely thatched picture that we can use – for which you will be credited. 
  • Enter our Thatch Finial Fun competition.

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Thatched Tale – Bees on the Roof!

As amateur bee keepers, some of us at Thatch HQ were approached by a pest control Associate who had a client with a bee problem.  We were asked if we could remove a bee colony from the thatch on a gable end of a tall property in November! 
It was amazing that the whole colony (and the wonderful new white comb) was attached to the wire and thatch (none of them had moved to the safety and warmth of the loft via the arris rail).  Bee suits on, poly hive and frames ready, lightweight bag to put comb and bees in and up the ladders to get it down. 
We had been told it was very unlikely they would survive due to it being too cold.  We got them all – transferred to the hive and, although we didn’t see her we knew we had the queen by the bees’ behaviour.  Safely at home in the garden of Thatch HQ, fed fondant over the winter, unbelievably they have survived. We look forward to seeing what this colony will do this year.  The experience was interesting to say the least… Thatchers, Beekeepers and Pest Controllers working together to save the bees.

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New Associates on our Thatch Directory

Tom Chalk – Master Thatcher

Tom Chalk Thatching









Katie Foster, Meon Valley Chimney Sweep

One Broker Insurance

Specialist Insurance For Your Thatched Property

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Positive Feedback from our Thatch Community

Excellent, thank you for your help” – S White, potential purchaser
“Most Perfect Website on Google” – C Smith – Berkshire
“This website is very good” – D de Vere
“I can’t believe you people do this – it’s fantastic! Thanks for all your help and advice. You have been amazing!
” – Mrs Neale
“Very helpful, thanks a lot. You are so passionate about thatch; it’s great!” – Mr Annear
“Thanks for calling and giving me some excellent advice” – S White
“You have been very helpful. Thanks so much!” – Mark, Salisbury

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Checking Your Thatched Roof

Even if your roof has coped with this horrendous winter it will be a good idea to check its condition.  Long periods of wet weather and violent storms may have made some areas of the roof a bit more vulnerable than usual. 
Our article on thatched roof condition may be helpful.  Gulleys down the roof e.g. in valley, or ridges slipping, broken spars and cement/lime flashings cracked or moving could identify that some remedial work may be in order.  Ask you thatcher or send us a picture so we can get someone to give you some advice.  Happy to help.

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Information and Understanding

We are very careful that any information which we share comes from a valid source and, if necessary, can be substantiated.

Information should be clear and provide understanding, as with all things, education is so important so that people can make informed decisions.  It is a shame that we are finding that confusion still abounds and understanding of up to date information is muddled – a case of “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing”?  We will continue to stand up for the people who are really looking after thatched properties and trying to navigate the tide of ambiguity which they are told by myriad of sources.
When you read something or are asked something about thatch, what is your understanding of it?  If it is not clear, ask again and make sure you understand the information before you agree to anything.   
For example:-

We continue to strive for clear information and helping people to understand situations, for the good of thatch.

Education is key. Knowledge is power.

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Federation of British Chimney Sweeps

So much has been going on recently which has affected the chimney sweeps and what they do. Clean Air Policy, scares about woodburners, wood quality and wood sales to name a few.

We are pleased to announce that the sweeps have taken control of their destiny and made a great move forward in joining their trade into a unified voice The Federation of British Chimney Sweeps has been set up (it is an alliance of the main chimney sweep organisations). This will benefit the sweeps and consumers and industry stakeholders. Government will appreciate a direct route of communication. We feel this alliance deserves more promotion, so we will soon be writing an article with more detail on this important development

We are so thrilled that we will be involved with them going forward, promoting them and their expertise with joint collaboration and support. More #workingtogether for the good of thatch and chimney sweeping.

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Thatch Pests

This warm and wet winter seems to have caused a lot of problems with pests.  From rats getting into thatched roofs (see picture above) to birds pulling out straw.  Ideas on ways to deal with these are still changing, for example the decision to now remove netting from the Avebury Barn to try deal with their bird problem.  Will be interesting to see how it works. 

If you have any suggestions for dealing with thatch pests, please let us know!

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Jelly on Thatch

We have been approached regarding a problem with “green jelly on thatch”, along with supporting pictures.  It is believed to be a form of  Nostoc algae and we look forward to learning more about it.  We look forward to hearing what a botanist has to say. 
Anyone with more experience of this, please get in touch, we will credit your expertise if you wish, or will add your story to our list of special thatch situations.  Amazing how interesting this file is becoming.

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Bird Guards

Black dove pigeon flying between storm clouds.

One of our callers had had a rook down their chimney in the early hours of the morning.  Although it made a mess, the bird was lucky and was released.

Our friends at the Guild of Master Chimney sweeps explained that it is believed that over one million birds die in chimneys per year!  Not only is that a tragedy for the birds, it is also a thatch fire risk and, if the chimney is blocked, a carbon monoxide poisoning risk. 

We were pleased to be invited by our chimney sweeping friends to promote a new and very sensible initiative; National Bird Guard Week.  9 – 15 of March this year – but don’t let those dates stop you from joining in, as birds are still looking for nest sites.  Bird guards for thatch are an issue we are often contacted on.  
A bird guard that is easy to sweep, which does not cause sparks to be projected down to the thatch, and does not easily clog is recommended.  In our experience, insurers can often ask for something which is not so easy to find!  Remember that a chimney that is not in use can have a capping cowl to stop birds getting down it too.  Get in touch and share your bird guard solutions or maybe your bird guard inventions?  More #workingtogether.

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Our Social Media - in case you missed it

As promised, some of the great thatch interest we have been sharing:-

National Coppice Week 12 – 20 Oct
Ye Olde White Horse 16th century thatched pub in Spalding has closed suddenly
National Coppice Federation Weekend Gathering & AGM
2019 (12&13 Oct) in Herts.   Showing the stages of coppicing very well with emphasis on the wildlife. 
Our new Caption #Competition. A great opportunity to win a wood moisture meter & flue monitor, kindly donated by Valiant Fireside Accessories. 

Final progress report, Pembrokeshire thatch & carpentry – Saxon Hall Project
Talking Natural Homes – love this one and it is thatched!
Historic Environment Scotland Engine Shed Free one day event “Working with Thatch”  Saturday 26th October part of their Master Builders’ Programme.  
Thatching Skill.  An article on the rethatching of a Hebridean Blackhouse at the Highland Folk Museum Highland Folk Museum from Institute of Historic Building Conservation using marram grass.

Clock change reminder.
Thatching Apprenticeship Trailblazer Group update.

They even snuck in some Thatch at the National Honey Show!
A Cautionary Tale regarding “Woodburners and the Safe Storage of Logs”   

Listed Cottage in Devises to be rebuilt after fire.   

Great article from on the Carse of Gowrie Reed Beds and the last of the Reed Cutters. 
Remembrance Day
The Lamb – A Pig – and Thatch!
We supported BBC Children in Need.
Tesco van on top of thatched cottage?  

Roof workshop in Michigan – January 11th and 12th 2020 –  

Another update from the Thatching Trail Blazer Apprenticeship Group. More great thatchers have signed up as trainers and assessors. 

Reminder for our Our latest Caption Competition.    

Offer to join our ever growing Thatch Community on our bespoke thatch specialists Thatch Directory Categories listed here
Centre For Alternative Technology’s Thatched Pavillion project.  Some great ideas put into practice to make the Hairy Hut.
Festive Thatch pictures, including our fabulous admin team out for our Christmas lunch and supporting Christmas Jumper Day.

Pleased to have finished preparing an important thatch presentation, ready for January.
New Year’s Eve Eve! Found ourselves at a restaurant with a thatched bar!!  Cheers folks!
Not what we want to be sharing!  “A man who tried to stop fire destroying his thatched cottage roof is in hospital.”    Norfolk Fire & Rescue Service

New Year Resolution. More taking/sharing pictures & writing blogs/articles on relevant/interesting thatch related topics. 

Burns Night.  Picture of Robbie Burns Cottage being re-thatched several years ago by one of our Associates.

A service is to be held at a thatched clifftop church on 29th Jan at 7 pm marking the 70th Anniversary of its re-dedication.  All Saints and St Margaret’s Church in Pakefield was restored after the roof and more was destroyed in WWII by bombs.  Fascinating story and pics.
“The blaze…  is believed to have started in the chimney“.   Another thatched roof fire!

National Apprenticeship week.  The Institute for Apprenticeships’ Thatching Apprenticeship is progressing well. 

Give a ‘Hug of Heather’ this Valentine’s Day, help the National Trust Scotland with a hug of heather for the thatched roof of the recreation of a turf house at Glencoe.
Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps Exhibition 28th & 29th Feb. Pleased we made the video highlights from last year too.    Plenty happening e.g. presentations, Van of the Year, Charity Raffle . Rodtech UK Brewer Cowls Burn Right Chimney Skills Training OFTEC HETAS Valiant Fireside Accessories and many more…….
Interesting project to follow – Butser Ancient Farm. Stone Age Project
Wonderful Wednesday – Hardy’s Cottage is being rethatched and visitors can see the craft in action.
Centre for Alternative Technology postgraduate courses & MSc
Good News. Fire contained in the chimney of a thatched cottage last week.  Reminder to read our Thatch Fire Safety leaflet for more essential advice.

Pleased to be part of the Natural Building feature at Futurebuild 2020. 
We loved this Talking Natural Homes article.
Wednesday Wondering. Did you know it’s British Pie Week 2 – 8 March 2020?  Any idea what was in our pie?  & what’s your favourite pie?
Avebury Barn bird damage problem – now they are going to try removing the wire netting.  What do you all think?
As part of our Test it Tuesday campaign, we are promoting the National Bird Guard Week 9th – 13th March.  Estimated that over a million birds die each year in the UK after becoming trapped inside chimneys! And you don’t want them nesting there either!  More on the Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps website.
National No smoking day – What a good idea.
Our new Associate insurers said “There’s still time to enter One Broker’s competition! If you own a thatched property or otherwise unique home?
WIN an Argus home security camera system!”Enter here  (This competition is now closed).
Staying positive with some thatch great news. Friends of Landbeach Tithe Barn have completed Phase I of the restoration, which included thatching of this wonderful thatched barn. BBC News
Wednesday Wondering – How is everyone doing?
Hoping you are all coping in these difficult times.   Family, friends, work, businesses.  Please do your best to stay at home and help our struggling NHS and other support services.  Another picture of the popular cottage (last time with the daffodils!) to keep the spirits up.
We also love sharing old photos of thatch, as well as some great thatch pictures over the months.

Don’t forget our recent thatch with lovely daffodils and blossoms for Mother’s Day.


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Next time

Updates to our Website
Updates from Previous Newsletters
Social Media Interest
Competition Winner – Finial Fun!
Thatch Tale
Thatching Straw Harvest
 Listed Thatch Maintenance

and more……

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The content of the Thatch Advice Centre Newsletter is circulated to its subscribers and is copyright.  These contents may only be reproduced with the permission of the Thatch Advice Centre.

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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.

Thatch Directory Categories - A - P

·  Architects
·  Builders
·  Building Surveyors
·  Chimney & Flue Specialists
·  Chimney Sweeps
·  Electrical Engineers
·  Fire Safety Products & Supplies
·  Garden Buildings
·  Health and Safety
·  Insurance
·  Leadworkers
·  Master Thatchers
·  Preservation & Pest Control

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Thatch Directory Categories - Q - Z

·  Quantity Surveyors
·  Reed & Straw Dealers
·  Scaffolding
·  Security
·  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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