How KS Thatchers Grow the Finest Thatching Material for Your Roof

Sun falling behind the horizon as a new crop of thatching straw dries natrually in the great outdoors - just as it has done for thousands of years

Sun falling behind the horizon as a new crop of thatching straw dries natrually in the great outdoors - just as it has done for thousands of years

In the previous blog post, we discussed the single most important factor affecting the lifespan of your thatched property: the materials used

Today, we are going to go into more detail about how KS Thatchers produce what is arguably the best thatching material this country has ever seen, right here on our farm in the Test Valley. 

To produce wheat straw of this quality, it is necessary to begin with the soil. 

Before we even grow the wheat, our fields are grazed for four years, alternating each year between grass and clover. The old term "grow behind sheep" means rotating the ground between grazing and crops to provide the optimum natural quality when harvest time rolls around. 

You'd think that after four years of preparation for every field, we would be impatient to sow the wheat straight into the soil. But you'd be wrong. The first crop that is sown is mustard, which once it has grown, is then ploughed into the soil. This is an essential step that gets rid of the 'biddy bugs' - wire worm, daddy long-legs - that can cause crops to fail or become weak due to their larvae being present in the soil. During the growth of pasture, wire worm especially can often be present in the soil. The mustard crop, ploughed into the soil, effectively removes these while at the same time providing even more nutrients to the soil that has been enriched over the previous four years. 

We then sow the wheat - a special, traditional, long-strawed variety grown for the stalk not the ear. Think that this will be the final product that goes on your roof? Nope! The first growth is grazed off by sheep, which strengthens the straw, and 'waxes' each stem of straw which gives it extra resilience. This centuries-old method not only provides a good feed for the sheep, it strengthens the final product. It also means that instead of growing to shoulder height as would otherwise be the case, it instead grows slightly shorter overall (to just above waist height) and stronger. 

The straw is finally harvested during July - earlier than most other harvests - using traditional methods. That is a subject for the next blog post. Keep tuned in for more updates from the golden fields! 

In the meantime, if you require a price or some free advice, we are here to help - or give us a call on Romsey 01794 388500.


Harvest time at KS Thatchers

Harvest time at KS Thatchers

Do You Live in a Thatched Property? Here's Something You Should Consider

A recently completed project in the Test Valley, Hampshire, England

A recently completed project in the Test Valley, Hampshire, England

Every thatcher will tell you that they're "the best." Maybe they have the most skill, the most experience, the best method, the best team, the quickest process, or the cheapest price. In some area at least, they are likely to excel. 

What not many thatchers will discuss with you is something that we consider the most important factor of all when it comes to how long your thatched roof will last: the materials used. 

A thatcher is only as good as the material he uses.

The sad fact is that as soon as your newly thatched roof is finished, the elements will begin their gradual process of wear and tear.

The sun will beat down on it.

The rain will beat down on it, too!

The wind will pick at the edges and in winter, ice will form on your roof and then thaw out. Snow and hail can also damage the thatch, even if we don't seem to get it so often these days. 

The vast majority of the thatching material that is available on the market is mass-produced, using chemicals and limited crop rotation. This speeds the growing process and keeps costs low, but it doesn't produce material that will be resilient over the longer term on your roof. 

When I speak with thatched property owners in the Test Valley, they often enquire: "Can I see a project you have done recently?"

My reply is always: "Wouldn't you rather look at something we did 30 years ago?!"

The reason for this is simple. Because we organically grow all of our own thatching material, on our own farm in Hampshire, we have complete control of the process from start to finish. We spare no effort in ensuring that the quality is as high as it is possible for a natural product to be. 

That's why we have projects that were completed 30+ years ago that are still performing their task of protecting the property and the occupants so well.

There will be another blog post soon going into more detail about how we produce the materials, but if you have any questions or if you would like a free estimate to thatch your property in the finest materials this country has ever produced, please do get in touch - we'll be happy to help you!