Happy 2019 everyone.
Already a quarter of the way through this year and loads of great things to tell you since our last Newsletter. Thanks to all for your interesting enquiries, contributions, assistance, responses to queries, invitations, requests for articles and generally joining in with us.
Here’s Newsletter Number 20. Here our next newsletter which went out at the end of March 2019
Since the last Newsletter
Improving thatchers’ training has been high on our agenda, along with continuing to spread the Thatch Fire Safety message.
Responding to enquiries, attending exhibitions, conferences and meetings and, of course, working with our friends and associates for the benefit of thatch. It has never been so busy! From the good stuff to the disappointing, it’s all part of what’s been going on in the thatching world. Please read on to find out more.
We are keeping our New Year resolution of writing blogs/articles on our website and have also been asked to write articles for others. All this is important in helping people understand more about thatch. Join us on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest for regular thatch info and topics of interest.
In this Newsletter:
Click on the title to show the details.
Updates to Website
Thatch Advice Centre Competition – pictures update
LPOC – VAT petition – reduce to 5%
Test your Alarms – It is Important
Thatch Fire Event
Listed Properties and VAT – Government response
Thatch Fire Seminar – November 2018
Coppicing and Thatching
Talking about Chimney Fires
Conservation and Heritage Journal:- Thatch Advice
Thatch fire statistics to 2017/18
GOMCS 2019 Trade Exhibition
Clean Air Strategy, Woodburners and Thatch
Social Media Interest
Since our September newsletter, we have posted, shared and promoted regular thatch related topics, as well as acknowledging those who share our messages, advice and interests. Social media is a great way to let you all know about new pages, articles and associates on our website, as well as information on thatch fires and for reminders, both regular and one offs. #ThatchAdvice
Remember to tag us and share/RT as we can be more ‘social’ if you do!
Did you notice our #ThatchThursday now includes Q&A, our Associates, and Thatch of the Month as well as some lovely thatch pictures.
See below some of the varied topics we have posted about over the past 6 months.
#TestitTuesday reminders and #ThatchThursdays are not listed but they do have their own Pinterest boardsThe reduce VAT on Listed Buildings Petition (with LPOC updates as they became available).
- Farmer preparing for growing thatching straw
- Some great safer chimney advice from our chimney sweep friends, and others, including birds nests in chimneys, don’t stack combustibles around woodburners, don’t put off sweeping, Burnright and bird guards
- Taish Mriri Anndra – Drying rushes for thatching
- Thatch Insurers – helpful and/or relevant posts and articles
- Carbon Monoxide – alarm testing advice and information on detectors
- Requests for services – a visitor with a thatched building at risk
- Being interviewed about Thatch Fire Safety advice on BBC Radio Solent
- 150 year old thatch holiday home for rent – in Japan
- The black and white challenge – pictorial fun.
- Promoting clear access for the emergency services with the importance of sensible parking
- Sheeting on old thatch which is leaking
- Valiant Fireside giveaway
- Dutch Thatch Architecture
- Lorry crashes into a thatched building
- 12 days of Christmas posts – thatch related pictures on ridges, design features and windows.
- Steam thrashing in Scotland in the early 1850s
- Bird Guards and Chimneys
- Burnright with DEFRA regarding Clean Air Strategy
- Welsh Longhouse Restoration
- 1956 Vintage Fire Engine with ….. an old thatch rake on board
- Historic Environment Scotland – blog on Thatched Buildings Past, Present and Future
- Burns night and the Thatched Burns Cottage
- Stove thermometers – Importance of checking woodburner/multi-fuel stove is burning at optimum temperature for cleaner burning, less deposits and better heat production.
- Cheshire Fire and Rescue – great video guide on keeping the chimney clean
- Woodburner or open fire survey
- Harvesting in Riveresdal by Cape Reed
- The Engine Shed – Thatched Post Office
- Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre – Only building in London allowed thatch since Great Fire in 1666
- Weald and Downland Open Air Museum – in top 10 best living museums (and there’s thatch!)
- Our article in the Heritage and Conservation Magazine
- Fire and Security Matters Magazine – Fire Risk in Thatched Homes – good article with understanding of up to date fire safety message
- Thatch Fire Statistics update with some real thatched roof fire statistics
- Cob blocks – from our friends at Heritage and Lime
Updates from Previous Newsletter
Reducing VAT – The LPOC have received a response from the Government; no change to VAT, not surprising but also not what everyone wanted to hear. They are not giving up though so… onward.
Fireboard Problems – We are still being notified about problems with fireboards and damp issues. Seems to be primarily the Magnesium Oxide boards which have caused the problems on certain installations. Due to the sensitivity of these situations, this is all we can really say at this time. Our recommendation is to take care on what barriers you use under thatch, make sure they are fit for purpose and that your insurers know about it, as well as thinking about the ventilation of the building. Be aware of the difference between a fire barrier and fire resisting barrier as they are often confused.
Burnright – This campaign is a year old, is going very well and works well with the Clean Air Policy. Both these initiatives have messages which also benefit the Thatch Fire Safety Message. Education is so important, on what and how you burn, and we are pleased to continue to share this important and useful information.
Specifications – Our helpful advice is worth a read. Still being contacted with problems where thatching work has been undertaken with nothing in writing from either side. This is not recommended, as all may be fine until there is a problem.
Chimney Safety Week: Disappointment – Reaction received from the NSMT with the comment: “The guide is on the website and in hard copy format. There are no plans to revise the document in the foreseeable future”. This, sadly, did not actually answer the questions raised regarding their information, despite comment on inaccuracies by Historic England. We are still hopeful that sooner rather than later, everyone can accept and promote all the up to date information to the benefit of thatched properties. The response from HETAS has been more encouraging; see below.
HETAS Thatch Guidance
HETAS have been helpful in communicating regarding their Thatch Guidance. Momentum is slower than we would like but the Thatch Advice Centre, known for their tenacity and perseverance, are pleased to have received the following helpful update regarding the HETAS Thatch Guidance.
“HETAS Training & Technical Support Manager Mike Harvey advises that ‘HETAS are finalising content for their updated Thatch Guidance taking into account further research carried out by Dr James Glockling of the Fire Protection Agency.”
Progress indeed. We await the update with interest and will obviously be informing everyone when this Guidance becomes available. It is truly hoped that it will help resolve the situations the old information had been creating and thus save us a lot of time in dealing with such queries.
Caption Competition Winner
Congratulations to J Smith from Surrey for their clever caption to our competition picture. Well done; your £20 gift voucher has been sent.
The top 3 were hard to choose between so here are the two runners up, no particular order:-
“I can’t shout any louder as I am little horse”
……..Being sung to the tune of The Wild Rover…….
And its now Neigh never,
Now Neigh never no more,
Will you ever again take my straw,
No never, no more.
With regard to damage, our advice is wide ranging. A lot of the ideas are based on experiences rather than there being a single solution for the problem. Dealing with pesky birds is, therefore, often a bit of trial and error, possibly because the birds vary in what deters them. We are not sure if birds damaging thatch is a growing problem or just that more people are contacting us about this topic.
If anyone has any additional suggestions to contribute please get in touch. All help is gratefully received the more we share and work together the better.
Please do not confuse bird problems with rat problems. Rats can be so very damaging to a thatched roof and must be dealt with very promptly. See our cautionary tale on rat problems below.
How thatching material is cut, stored and produced is only part of the ‘how long does a roof last’ story. It is not, and never will be an exact science to determine thatching material longevity as there are a variety of factors which affect its lifespan including but not limited to:-
- growing conditions
- aspect of property
- quality of thatching
From all of our discussions with many straw farmers, reed growers, thatchers, homeowners, builders and conservation departments it appears that the common ground is that everyone wants the best material available, applied well and at a cost-effective price.
It is, therefore, hard to apportion blame when roofs fail. ‘Is it even worth trying to do so?’ we have been asked. We do know that the more information we have the more we can understand what makes materials perform well. It has been suggested that climate change is affecting the longevity and that is opening an even bigger can of worms! We will be interested to hear views or anything of value you feel you can contribute.
The research being done by the National Thatching Straw Growers Association(NTSGA), funded by Historic England is showing to be an interesting exercise and we look forward to sharing results with you in the future.
GOMCS – Exhibition
Wonderful to again be invited to attend the Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps’ Exhibition. This year it was being held at the Q Hotel in Kenilworth, Warwickshire.
This two day event (1st and 2nd March) was open to everyone. As usual, this was friendly, well organised and well attended. It was great to be able to share the up to date Thatch Fire Safety advice, discuss chimney safety and many other associated topics at such an interesting and informative trade exhibition.
See here for our article with information on other exhibitors, speakers and events over the two days. Sadly we were unable to stay for the second night and attend the Gala Dinner. Fingers crossed for next year and thanks to everyone for making us so welcome.
Sadly we cannot attend all events we are invited to and have to prioritise our time and resources. Thank you to all those who have invited us and rest assured we will stay in touch as we continue to work together for the benefit of thatch, the thatching trade and our heritage.
Master Thatcher – what does it mean?
How many times are we asked this question?
There is no overall governing body for thatching.
Historically, the term Master meant someone who is experienced and/or is training someone to take on the trade (as a Master Man). Based on recent queries, we want to clarify that the term Master Thatcher is now used by any and every Thatcher who chooses to do so, there is no distinction or qualification attached.
There are organisations around the country which thatchers can join (often paid membership) as well as independent thatchers. From our experience there are variables in all. We pride ourselves that we are happy to communicate with all thatchers for the good of thatch. Please read our information on this and make an informed decision on any ‘Master Thatcher’ you employ.
Thatching Apprenticeship being Developed
The Thatch Advice Centre are pleased to have been instrumental in the new Trailblazer Group who are working on developing the new Government Apprenticeship for Thatching. With representatives from across the country and in communication with as many thatchers as possible, it is sincerely hoped that by working together, with the trade, a funded, and inclusive to all, apprenticeship can be developed which will take the craft of thatching forward. To create a more stable future for all concerned, ensuring our listed buildings continue to be maintained and new thatch applied by those with the appropriate knowledge and skills is essential.
This training needs to be relevant and sustainable and those currently involved have a lot of experience to offer. This apprenticeship is to cover all thatching works, from heritage thatch to new buildings and everything in between. For those who have been thatching for longer “An update and improvement on the days of Knuston Hall training” is how some are describing it. We will, of course, keep everyone updated of progress.
Anyone wanting to be involved are welcome to get in touch (email please). From wanting to be an apprentice, already being a trainee and wanting to get a qualification, or wanting to be involved in the process in some shape or form, we would love to hear from all of you. There is still a lot to do but progress has been impressive so far. It is important to share this with all thatchers so, if you can, please help us by spreading the message to those who may not be on our emailing list.
Thatch Tale - Rat problems
Rats are a known pest which can cause considerable damage to a thatched roof. It is therefore important to be careful to reduce the chances of rats causing problems to thatch, both when it is on the roof and when it is being stored.
This cautionary tale is one of care with use of rat poison. Poison was used and put down in thatching straw on a job. Sadly this poison was found and ingested by the property owner’s dog, who consequently died. No one wanted this outcome but it shows the importance of careful and appropriate positioning by competent people.
In the past gin traps were used for rats but, unfortunately, they caught farm cats who would end up three legged. We’re glad that these are no longer legal.
When a local pig farm closed, it was then noticed that the village was then infested with rats. It appeared that with no pig’s food to nibble on the rats moved from the farm into the village.
Perhaps it is a case of where is the Pied Piper when you need him?
Thatch Fire Safety Progress
Spreading the up to date Thatch Fire Safety message is making brilliant headway. From the excellent Event at Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue (including speakers from Historic England, NFU Mutual and the Fire Protection Association) to attending the Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps Exhibition and Futurebuild at Excel London as part of the NBUK area. Promoting the up to date Thatch Fire Safety message is always on our mind and it is building momentum.
Educating people in the proven causes, up to date research and then how to understand and reduce the fire risk is our aim. It may take time for things to change and improve but it is starting to happen now which is so encouraging.
Our article on thatch fire statistics is worth a read.
At the time of writing, so far this year (2019) there have been 10 thatched roof fires and last year there were a total of 31.
These numbers although still not wanted are not as worrying as some statistics being bandied about. Fires in thatched properties are different to fires in thatched roofs. We have spoken to Historic England who are so helpful in this regard. Currently, the Fire Service incident recording system does not include heritage or fires of special interest (e.g. thatched roofs). Working to enhance the quality and relevance of recording of information on such fires will improve the ability to understand and advise.
So, based on the current real thatched roof statistics above, please understand this is the number of thatched roof fires from 1000s of thatched properties in the country. It is believed the number to be around 100,000 but there are also no clear statistics on this. Reduce the risks but don’t worry unnecessarily based on such statistics; enjoy your lovely thatch.
We will continue to notify and encourage all Fire Services to understand and act on the current up to date information and advice on causes and risk reduction for thatch fires. From Fire Safety visits to literature and websites, as with other organisations these updates can make a difference. As a large organisation where funding issues are understood, helping the Fire Services to promote the best information to homeowners so that thatch fire numbers are reduced are an important issue. Not so much due to the number of fires but due to the amount of resources required for a thatch fire and the associated costs. Another area where social media and websites can be used very cost effectively to promote fire safety.
Our #TestitTuesday social media posts are growing in popularity – a recent one reached over 10.5K! This is another way that we are #workingtogether to spread useful and helpful information for free and, in turn helping our Fire Services.
Please like and share our posts to help extend the benefit, as we are not likely to pay for any promotions (unless we win the lottery!).
On the Market.com
Proud and pleased to be asked to contribute a blog for onthemarket.com.
A bit more #workingtogether for the good of thatch. Rather pleased with the result and happy to be of help to anyone looking to purchase a thatched property.
Social Media - Growing numbers
Our friends and followers numbers continue to grow, organically, which is great. We love to share with those who are truly interested in anything to do with thatch. It is a huge topic which covers continents. We use #ThatchAdvice on all posts along with other tags that are relevant e.g.#Thatch #Thatched #Thatching #ThatchThursday #TestitTuesday
As we find #WorkingTogether an integral part of what we do, we have used this phrase for several years, especially in the important work that we do on Thatch Fire Safety. Please note, as there were some misunderstandings, we were not involved in organising the recent conference of the same name, held at Hampshire Fire and Police HQ. Good title though. Although we could not attend, it will be interesting to receive feedback on this event and share anything relevant.
Social media is a great way to spread information so please Like, Love, Share and RT our posts. We have no budget for promoting posts, so all individuals’ help in doing this is gratefully received.
Building Regulations and Thatch
We understand very well which building regulations affect thatched propertiesand also how difficult it can be to meet those regulations for many homeowners. It is sincerely hoped that the review of Building Regulations will have benefits in improving and clarifying the position for thatched property building and maintenance works.
One interesting topic for the future is which products / systems are approved, as well as their relevance and any supporting tests. We continue to gather information/evidence on this subject and are happy to discuss with those who are in paid positions to influence such improvements.
It is hoped that the FPA research, current Building Control issues and our endeavours will not be ignored in any updates. However, a recent discussion confirmed to us that it may be 10 years before any changes are implemented to Building Regulations.
Until then we will continue to help people juggling those varied Building Regulation, Conservation, Fire Safety and Insurance balls. Sensible decisions have to be made based on knowledge and understanding and it is unfortunate that these balls are not always synchronised. We aim to be the sensible voice of reason explaining situations so that people can make informed decisions or plans.
Importance of Testing Alarms
It is so important for everyone to have a working Smoke and/or Carbon Monoxide alarm so therefore regular testing is essential. We hope you are all aware of our regular #TestitTuesday posts on social media. Friends and associates have started to send us pictures for this campaign. This has benefits of promoting them while helping us.
Our March #TestitTuesday post reached over 10.5K – great free advertising.
So, send us a picture of you testing your alarms and we will add you to our growing list of Tuesday Testers. #workingtogether
Feedback and Thanks
As a free advice resource, sustained by volunteers and helped by associates and organisations, all of your lovely feedback is so appreciated.
Here are a few recent comments made which make us feel that the effort is definitely worth it. Thank you for the kind and motivating words.
‘No one wants to talk about thatch and we have been passed from pillar to post, thank you so much for explaining the situation and options’
‘Good advice, we appreciate your help’
‘You do what you say you do – thanks so much’
‘Your enthusiasm and knowledge is an eye opener, as a house owner people need a resource like yours’
Another way to thank us, which is also greatly appreciated:-
Send us some pictures of thatch which we can use for the website, social media posts etc (which, if you want, you will be credited for). Or even a great picture for a future Caption Competition.
Thanks to those who has done so and in anticipation of those who will.
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Just fill in the Sign up form at the bottom of the page