Thatch Advice Centre Newsletter No. 23

Welcome everyone, both returning and new friends, to our Autumn 2020 Newsletter.  Testing times since our last one in March, so we sincerely hope that you are all well and coping with the ‘new normal’.

We may have mentioned that here at Thatch HQ, we have started keeping bees which is fascinating, and we also tried our hand at growing vegetables during lockdown, with varied success.  Both these hobbies fit in well with our other interests of thatch, countryside crafts and good food!
 
Things have certainly not stood still in our world of “all things thatch”, even though we have obviously not been out and about so much.  Our enquiries continue to be surprisingly numerous and varied; definitely some interesting new “thatch” related topics and some updates on old ones too.

Lockdown seemed to encourage everyone with ideas and plans for changes at home. Ideas that actually came to fruition, rather than being left at the bottom of the “to do” list.  We are happy that our experts have been called upon to help, from insurers to surveyors, architects, chimney specialists, material providers and, of course, thatchers to name but a few.

We have some great things to share with you in this Newsletter. It’s exciting to explain what we have been doing; the website updates, new articles and even future plans. There is also some important information for those of you maintaining listed thatched properties too!

Your wonderful emails, responses, feedback and social media engagement are so enjoyed and appreciated, as it makes all our time and effort feel so worthwhile, so thank you all.

In This Newsletter

Updates to our Website (Articles and Pages)
Updates from Previous Newsletters
(HETAS, Thatching Apprenticeship, Dorset Model and Building Regulations, Health and Safety, Jelly on Thatch, Federation of British Chimney Sweeps)
LPOC – Listed Property Grant Scheme
Thatched Roof Fire Numbers
Selection of Enquiries Received
Feedback from our Thatch Community
Finial Fun Picture Competition Winner
New Thatch Picture Competition – “Thatch and Gardens”
Thatch Tale
New Associates on our Thatch Directory
National Coppice Federation
Interesting Social Media topics we have shared
Insurance matters
Social Media friends and followers #workingtogether
Win a Security System
Smoke Alarm Renewal
2020 Straw Harvest in East Anglia
Thatched Roof Fires – How you can help us to help you?


Next Time…..

Click on the title to show the details.

Updates to our Website (Articles and Pages)

Finial Fun Picture Competiton and Gallery

We have been keeping very busy indeed. Click through for more information.

Launch of Finial Fun Picture Competition

Historic England Survey. We were asked to help “To assess the impact of the Coronavirus on the businesses & skills that underpin the heritage sector”.

Our Newsletter 22 put up on our website for those who missed it.

We were also asked to promote Historic England’s Emergency Fund

“11 Alternative uses for thatching materials”

Article (with great pictures) on The Christ Church Visitor Centre, Oxford. Thanks to Purcell Architects. Heritage, architecture, construction and skills all combined in this fascinating project, including thatch of course!


The new Federation of British Chimney Sweeps. Who they are & what this industry alliance will be doing. We are proud of our long relationship with the sweeps & what they are achieving. Working together for thatch fire safety now and in the future for sure.


Purchasing Thatching Materials and the Law. Based on recent enquiries related to thatched roof problems and discussion on who purchased the materials.

The Dartmoor Trust. Fundraising for projects that do good for Dartmoor & a vast collection of local historic photographs in their archive, many of which include thatch.

Thatched Roof Maintenance, including some very useful information and tips on keeping an eye on your thatch. Hopefully it is not as bad as the picture!


Our new Finial Fun Gallery For your enjoyment and inspiration.

Following on from our last flashback Friday, “Thatch Maintenance and Cautionary tales” Advice and points to bear in mind when repairing thatched roofs

Do you know what a Crannog is? They were thatched! There are great reconstructions of them in the UK and Ireland with Visitor Centres too! Thanks to the Scottish Crannog Centre and Craggaunowen (Shannon Heritage) for the excellent pictures.


Listed Property VAT Grant Scheme from our friends at the Listed Property Owners Club Read more about the plan to reduce the cost of maintaining listed properties.

Breckland Society – Our article covering info on the fascinating chapter (5) in the Breckland Studies Journal – written by one of our Associates – regarding the decline of thatch in the East Anglian Brecklands.

Breckland Studies Journal

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Updates from Previous Newsletter

HETAS

We have been told that “Questions will be asked on the content of HETAS’ updated technical note and how it has incorporated the new research and knowledge”.   Areas which were expected to be updated /improved upon will be monitored in view of actual installations and the responses to the questions will be awaited with interest.

Thatching Apprenticeship

Work continues on this exciting apprenticeship.  More thatchers have signed up with an interest in involvement either as trainers, assessors or with apprentices to join.  The progress was slowed due to Covid restrictions and thatchers’ workload in the summer, but has continued regardless.  There is a lot to do to make it right for thatching, sustainable and to meet the government requirements but so far it is exceeding expectations from all sides. 

In a recent government survey, they have shown commitment to supporting their apprenticeships, by increasing payments to employers hiring apprentices in England.  This is another reason why this apprenticeship is so important.

Dorset Model and Building Regulations

There is no update on the Dorset Model nor any other building regulation options at this time.  Insurance queries over non fire resisting barriers have been raised and we await updates from those concerned with interest.  Things can be a bit frustrating but understandably so.  Sometimes the chicken has to come before the egg!  In the meantime, we continue to look at these things e.g. building regulations, recent research, insurance requirements and common sense based on proof.

We work towards offering good advice whilst navigating these often ambiguous situations, which do not always sit together in a logical way or as simply as would make sense!  This is especially so in the case of listed thatched buildings.

Health and Safety

Courses to help thatched business owners (and others) build up their knowledge with regard to Health and Safety have been so useful.  Thanks to Jaybee Safety for their on line courses which, during these difficult times, have been so convenient. 
 
Thatchers and our other Associates have had to update their Health and Safety policies, to incorporate Covid, because if you are working you need to be up to date.

Jelly on Thatch

We have received more information from some of the owners/thatchers who have experienced these situations.  The more cases we know about, the better we can understand how to deal with it.  Keep communicating folks and get in touch if you need to.

Federation of British Chimney Sweeps

It’s getting to that time of year when, if you have a working chimney, you need to make sure it has been swept/checked before you use it.  Our friends at the Federation are definitely working hard to share their knowledge and expertise on chimney sweeping (and associated chimney related issues)

Jelly on Thatch

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LPOC - Listed Property Grant Scheme

LPOC – Listed Property Grant Scheme

The LPOC have been working hard over the last few years in an attempt to reduce the VAT on listed property maintenance. This of course includes many thatched properties. They have now come up with a potential VAT Grant Scheme and we are helping to raise awareness. #workingtogether

If you want change, contact your MP and share the news. Read more about it.

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Thatched Roof Fire Numbers

A recent look at thatch fire numbers with Historic England, means that we can confirm the number of thatched roof fires in 2019 was 48.  This includes all thatched properties, both listed and not. 
 
Great work by Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service in promoting the up to date advice.  They had ZERO THATCH FIRES in the main 6 month burning season October 2019 – March 2020.  They have been proactive in understanding the causes and ways to deal with risk.  Previously, we attended their excellent conference on Thatch Fires with important speakers including the Fire Protection Association on their research, NFU Mutual and Historic England. We were more than happy to provide a supply of our Thatch Fire Safety Leaflets for this.  The Fire Service have since made a great effort in educating homeowners in their area, which has obviously paid off.  Well done to all concerned. 
 
An interesting thought – The cost of education compared to the cost of attending thatch fires or paying out on insurance claims.

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Selection of enquiries received

We decided to have a look at the scope of enquiries we have received over the last 6 months.  Some things we get contacted on regularly, so are adept at assisting with, others are more challenging and we often call on our variety of Associates to help.  Here’s a list of some of the topics covered.

  • New Thatch Design issues
  • Insurance matters (More on this below)
  • Listed Thatch and Chimneys
  • Fire Safety options
  • Leadwork advice
  • Renovation work on thatched properties
  • People interested in growing thatching straw
  • Lime products for chimney maintenance
  • Thatched roof inspections for purchasers and insurance purposes
  • Finding various trades and specialists to work on thatched properties
  • Flies, bugs and other organisms on and in thatch
  • Vermin problems
  • Queries on grants
  • Pottery project
  • Iron Age roundhouses
  • Fire investigation questions
  • Copper wire information
  • Green Energy Scheme
  • Bird problems
  • Looking for thatching materials for thatching and other purposes
  • European thatch roof problem
  • Information for fire risk assessment

    We don’t get bored and it’s very rewarding being able to support people.  Did we mention that we love your great feedback?

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Feedback from our Thatch Community

Just a snippet of some of the great comments we and our Associates have received on our help and advice.

“Wish had found your site months ago when we first bought our house!”
“Help has been amazing, thank you so much.”
“You have such a knowledge, thank you for sharing.”
“Love your website, has been a great help.”
“Your experience and enthusiasm are refreshing.”
“You’re a superstar, thank you so much it has been most helpful.”
“All the information on your website is invaluable.”
“If we buy this house, I should keep your number on speed dial.”
“Knowledge was impressive and helped us in making a difficult decision”


Thank you for fabulous feedback!  Such responses are so appreciated.

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Finial Fun Picture Competition Winner

Congratulations to Kristina Dolan for her winning entry into our Thatch Finial Fun Picture Competition. Your £20 voucher is on its way to you!

All the entries and more are on our Finial Fun Gallery.   If you want to add one of your pictures to the gallery we would be more than happy to do so.   Just email it to us and let us know if and who, you want it credited to, and we will do our best to get it added promptly.

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New Thatch Picture Competition – “Thatch and Gardens”


Pictures of thatched buildings are beautiful in their own right but add a great plant or tree or even angle from the vegetable patch and it can look even better. We look forward to your entries for our “Thatch and Gardens Picture Competition”, and will probably do a lovely Gallery of them in the same way we did the Finial Fun Gallery. If you want any entries credited, let us know. They may be used/shared by us but we will always make sure you are mentioned.

So folks, it’s free promotion for a master thatcher, home owner or tenant, visitor, estate agent, gardener or photographer or anyone! Help us to help you while we enjoy some fabulous pictures too! This competition will run until September 2021 with a £20 gift voucher as a prize. Happy Snapping.

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Thatch Tale


In difficult times, smiling and laughter are good medicine. We joined in with the International Joke Day on 1st July. Here was our effort!
Did you hear the joke about the thatched roof?
Awww, never mind… It’s over your head!!

Why are thatchers so nosy? They are always eaves dropping.

Free thatching……. On the house.
We also included a lovely thatched picture (from Scotland) to take your mind of the quality of the jokes!!

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New Associates on our Thatch Directory

County Insurance Services with over 35 years’ experience with thatch and listed properties.

 

Top Hat Chimney Sweep covering Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambs and Essex – Member of the Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pest Solutions Oxfordshire Ltd.  Pest control and woodworm treatment specialists. They deal with all kinds of pests and offer free advice.

Keir Hamilton Surveyors. RICS regulated Chartered Building Consultancy specialising in the residential sector with a particular focus on the older property market (1500’s – 1890’s).

Home Sweep Home – 6th Generation Chimney Sweep in Surrey.  NVQ Qualified, Members of NCSSA and APICS, Josh is also registered with HETAS as an approved sweep.

Association of Professional Independent Chimney Sweeps.

 

 

 

 

 

Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps. Follows on well from our information on Federation of British Chimney Sweeps and the sweep organisations which are part of it.


National Chimney Sweeping Safety Association.    Also part of Federation of British Chimney Sweeps

The National Association of Chimney Sweeps.  Part of the Federation too!

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National Coppice Federation

Sadly, National Coppice Week is not happening this year, for obvious reasons.  However, how great to be asked to contribute to the National Coppice Federation’s Newsletter – “Cleft Stick”.  We look forward to our planned collaboration with them for the future too.

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Interesting Social Media topics we have shared

We have included a great range of interesting topics our social media for you to enjoy, for instance:-
Robert Burns Birthplace Museum sent us an email and a great picture “Thatcher D Brooks adds the final sheaf of wheat to the roof of Burns Cottage in Alloway” “done in Maris Huntsman Wheat”.

  • Our Associates at Jaybee Safety reduced the prices on their on line H&S Training Courses e.g. Manual Handling £20 (you still have free trial option!).  Plenty of great courses to choose from too.  A welcome help in these difficult times.  Why not improve your H&S skills while working from home?
  • A lot of thatched properties have intriguing post boxes which is perhaps part of their interesting history!  Happy to receive more thatch and post-box (or telephone-box pictures) – you will be credited of course!
  • Lots of enquiries about thatched property insurance at the moment so our Thatch Directory Associates are busier than ever.
  • Thatch fire in Banburyshire. No info on cause…. yet, but please be aware, thatch roofs are very dry at the moment… Please be sensible.  Our up to date Thatch Fire Safety Leaflet is a free download on the website and worth a read. Reduce the risks folks. Helpful article from Banbury Guardian.
  • UK’s smallest and oldest council house is thatched! Interesting article from Echo Essex.  We understand there are three of these lovely Dutch cottages – two on Canvey Island and this one.
  • Monday Motivation From one of our Associates – Mice nests and chewed heads between the coats (past the fixings in most places, down to the base coat).  Lot of maintenance to do and bait blocks to be applied.  Thatching skill is not just putting material on the roof but applying understanding and knowledge to whatever situation confronts you.
  • Good Thatch News – Owner hoping to restore 400 year old cottage after fire in 2017.  Northwich Guardian
  • Apparently, Britain’s most expensive thatch for sale – £5.25m. Wow! The Sunday Times
  • Rare Thatched Dumfriesshire’s A-listed Cruck Cottage – The Cruck Cottage Heritage Association reopens, with limitation. Bit more good news folks.
Plenty of thatching work going on. Thanks to @EdwardEllwood for the pictures he sent us!
Wednesday Wondering…What’s your favourite thatching material?
  • A Combed Wheat Reed (Devon Reed, Combed Wheat Straw)
  • B Longstraw
  • C Water Reed (Norfolk Reed)
  • D Something else; heather, sedge. Alang Alang – tell us?
  • E Love them all
    We are definitely an E but, from the picture below, Tia is obviously a C!
    Which are you?  Let us know.

    We might be doing some more of these Wednesday Wonderings – Look forward to seeing your responses…

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Insurance matters


We get a lot of enquiries on insurance matters, from roof inspections to assisting with rebuild costs or finding an insurer to cover a particular situation.  The specialist thatch insurers on our Thatch Directory cover many of the issues on which we are asked for help.  We recommend that you contact several insurers to find the policy that best fits your requirements.

If you have insurance issues, don’t give up, get in touch.  Sometimes it’s not what we know but who we know!

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Social Media friends and followers #workingtogether

It’s so encouraging to have made a lot of great friends through social media, and we continue to make more!  We have been including some of our past information for our newer followers and also as useful reminders for the longstanding ones!   Keep an eye out for the Throwback Thursday and Flashback Friday posts.  Our regular new website articles are always promoted on social media too.

If you follow us and have relevant content, why not tag us.  We are strong believers in #workingtogether for the good of thatch.  Share the #TestitTuesday reminders and anything else which may be relevant to your friends and followers, we are happy to do the same.

Don’t worry if you don’t do social media, we will let you know in the next Newsletter what’s been going on so you won’t miss out. (see above)

Remember we are on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest.

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Win a Security System

One of our new Insurance Associates, One Broker, are holding a competition to Win a Home Security System.

More details here on How to Enter (and also get a quote on your thatch insurance).

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Smoke Alarm Renewal


It is recommended that Smoke Alarms are changed every 10 years. Most insurers stipulate this as part of their policies. We remind you on social media, every week, about checking your smoke alarms (and Carbon Monoxide alarms) on our Test it Tuesdays. #TestitTuesday.

Please help us to help your friends too by sharing it. These reminders help everyone, not just those with thatched properties. Please don’t forget that time flies and after 10 years, alarms do need completely replacing.

The Fire Service can often be very helpful in this regard.

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2020 Straw Harvest in East Anglia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We asked the Chairman of the National Thatching Straw Growers Association, Paul Watkin, about this year’s straw harvest.  Here is what he said about the straw harvest in East Anglia.

“As I write this, 25th September, we are having in East Anglia a 24 hour period of rain.  I hope it won’t be a repeat of last year when between the 25th September and the 7th October we had  6 3/4 inches, 170mm.  That of course was the start of a miserable Autumn which led to a reduction of almost 40% of wheat being sown.  So this harvest our Longstraw yield was down by about 60% of our usual output.  Surprisingly the quality is pretty good considering the wet winter and early spring followed by the very dry late spring and summer.  Luckily we had some over yeared stock which means our regular customers can just about be supplied.

This year we have to sow as much as we can, with our harvesting capabilities in mind, to replenish stocks.  I am encouraging others to grow a bit more if they can this year as well as advising for potential new growers to come along.

There are many machinery enthusiasts over the country who have the equipment, binders, threshing drums etc., but never really use them.  My thoughts are that if some of those keen people could arrange with a farmer locally to them or maybe they are farmer enthusiasts, that they could grow a few acres that they could easily manage, straw stocks would build up.  A small area of up to five acres would mean that harvesting could be at the optimum time, the wheat being slightly green with the ears erect, any more, and the novice might find the crop getting over ripe.  Also having many small growers would spread the risk with regard to differing weather conditions across the country.

Now is the time to try and obtain some older taller wheat varieties for planting. Most people in this field know a grower or thatcher who will know of a source, even if an acre or two can be grown that will be a big help in keeping the thatcher supplied.”

It makes a lot of sense to us.  Thatchers also need to think about the future, and we support the idea of encouraging more people to grow thatching straw.  The market is there!

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Thatched Roof Fires – How you can help us to help you?

At our recent meeting with Historic England’s Fire Safety advisor we discussed many things, including the thatched roof fire statistics previously mentioned. Sadly, it seems that no changes will be made on what statistics are collected by the Home Office.

Home Office data has been queried in the past in relation to thatch and, it was confirmed that the stats are “fires in thatched properties” and so could, for instance, be a tumble drier fire in a thatched property with no involvement of the roof at all. There will be no checking if the property is listed or not either.

These types of statistics are, unfortunately, not useful if we are trying to improve fire safety for thatch and listed buildings because we can’t properly understand the scope of what is going on, look at causes and reduce the risks.

You can help by:-

Keeping us informed. We are working to help collect proper and relevant statistics on thatch fires. If there is a fire in your area which involves the thatched roof, please drop us an email, with the title THATCH FIRE, so we can add it to our records. It will really be appreciated. Collecting the data in terms of involvement of the thatched roof would mean that we could start to get a true picture of what is going on.
Helping us to prevent thatch fires starting in the first place. Make sure that everyone reads and understands our Thatch Fire Safety Leaflet and takes sensible precautions. It is a free download on the website so please read it and pass it on.

Thatch is not more likely to catch fire, just notoriously difficult to put out if it does. Prevention is definitely best.

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Next time

Updates to Website
Updates from previous Newsletters
Regional Thatch
Coppice work
New ideas to deter pests
Books
Competition update

And more…

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Copyright

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
·
  Organisations/Publications
·  Preservation & Pest Control

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Thatch Directory Categories - Q - Z

·  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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