A.G Cottrell & Son

Dorset Master Thatchers

Wheat straw or water reed?




Our firm strongly advocates wheat straw on Dorset properties for a number of reasons:


-Wheat straw is the traditional material that has been used in Dorset for centuries. For this reason it is recommended by local councils to be used on listed buildings (where appropriate).


-It is grown by local farmers and is not imported from abroad, unlike water reed, 95% of which is imported from countries as far away as Turkey and even China. Using locally grown wheat straw helps supports the farming industry.


-Typical roofs in Dorset are made out of coppiced pole rafters as opposed to cut timbers. Since wheat straw is a lighter material it does not put so much weight and stress onto the roof structure.


However we do thatch in water reed where it is appropriate.


Some common misconceptions…


• People often believe that Norfolk reed lasts longer and is the best reed to use.

This misconception comes from the fact that thatched roofs in Norfolk last longer than those in Dorset. This is not because of the Norfolk reed; it is because of the roof pitch and weather.


In Norfolk roofs have a steeper pitch than roofs in Dorset, allowing rainwater to run off quicker. Also in Norfolk the climate is dryer with less rain compared to the climate in Dorset.


• People often believe that water reed lasts longer than wheat straw in Dorset.

In our opinion water reed will only out last wheat straw on a steep roof that has no features (i.e. windows/valleys). Since many of the cottages in Dorset have features there is no real difference between the life of wheat straw and water reed.


Traditionally, the only roofs in Dorset that would have been thatched in water reed were those that were close to reed beds, for example, some houses near Radipole Lake in Weymouth.


Ultimately it is the quality of the thatcher’s craftsmanship that determines the life of a thatched roof.