Reedbeds across Pembrokeshire have been a key resource for Alan Jones, a master thatcher in Wales, and this year he celebrates his 30th year of taking cuts from these areas of wetland.
It was 30 years ago almost to the day when Alan took on his first job, thatching the roofs of the reconstructed Iron Age village at Castell Henlleys, with reed from Newport estuary. To say that he has come a long way since then is an understatement.
Recent works have ranged from thatching roofs on a film set for the recent Russel Crow movie, ‘Robin hood’, on a bird hide near a lake next to Ty Mawr Lime in Breconshire (for one of the Prince’s charities) and more prestigiously, on a roof of a royal household in Wales with reed from Newport estuary, Ritec fen and Teifi Marshes nature reserve. Straw for the ridge of this building came from Builth Wells.
Alan said, “I have been in reedbeds all over Europe and given practical advice to reserve managers throughout the UK. I am delighted with the quality of reed coming from reedbeds within Wales and I work closely with organisations such as the Wildlife Trust of South & West Wales, Pembrokeshire Coast National Park and the Countryside Council for Wales”.
Alan has also been working with the Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment and has been a key mentor and training provider for the Foundation over the last two years. Although Alan’s main aim is to ensure that he has enough reed to accommodate the projects he undertakes on new build or eco homes, these reed harvests also help maintain and enhance the reedbed environment.
“Without these annual cuts, reedbeds would soon dry out due to the build-up of dead matter and revert to woodland. Reed grows back every year and actually become stronger after repeated cutting” says Nathan Walton, Wildlife Trust Officer for Pembrokeshire. Nathan also adds, “Alan is a key player when it comes to managing this environment and the reed’s use in Alan’s occupation is also a sustainable use of a natural resource”.
Presently much of the reed used for thatching in the UK is imported from Eastern Europe and China. This seems totally unjustified when we have this resource on our very shores let alone the carbon footprint importing it creates. Alan is also increasingly involved with growing old varieties of wheat as this is the traditional material used in thatching, as straw is a bye product from food production.
Along with taking reed for thatch, Alan will soon also be increasing his cuts so as to provide a biofuel for using in a biomass boiler to be installed at the Welsh Wildlife Centre in Cilgerran.
Sites that have benefitted from reed cuts include Teifi Marshes nature reserve, Ritec fen and Newport estuary. The next cut taken from the later will be his 30th from this site. Alan is also a professional carpenter, has built many timber framed structures and mostly works on historic buildings and museums across the UK. Dafydd Driver, a newly trained fellow thatcher, works alongside Alan who has traded under the name of Pembrokeshire Thatch and Carpentry Services since 1982.
Notes to editor:
The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales is one of 47 Wildlife Trusts across the UK, and the largest of the 6 in Wales. It is the largest charitable organisation working exclusively on all aspects of wildlife conservation in South and West Wales. Registered Charity Number: 1091562. www.welshwildlife.org
The Wildlife Trust works for a better future for all kinds of wildlife across South and West Wales. Our mission is to protect and improve habitats and wildlife in our local area as well as helping people to enjoy and understand their local wildlife.
We achieve our aims by:
Acquiring and managing nature reserves – we currently manage over 90 nature reserves throughout South and West Wales (including Skomer and Skokholm islands). From ancient woodland to wetland, wildflower meadow to marsh, reed bed to heathland, they contain a rich variety of species, many extremely rare. These nature reserves form a land holding equal to approximately 4,000 acres. Of these reserves10 lie within Special Areas of Conservation and Special Protection Areas, seven are National Nature Reserves (NNRs), 40 are Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) and five are Scheduled Ancient Monuments.
Acting as wildlife champions – by advising on policy and planning, campaigning on wildlife issues, and protecting wildlife beyond our reserves. We provide habitat and species management advice directly to those managing land and we also work with key partners and local people to promote habitat enhancement and restoration.
Helping people understand, protect and celebrate their environment – the Trust promotes the view that people from all sections of society should have access to wildlife and the natural world for enjoyment, learning, and well-being. We invest in the future by helping all ages to gain a better understanding of nature. Our work with schools and our junior club, Wildlife Watch, is enjoyed by hundreds of children.
Pembrokeshire Thatch & Carpentry Services has been in business since 1982. Specialists in thatching traditional vernacular styles, historical reconstruction of thatched roofs and preservation of listed buildings, experimental archaeology, museum and interpretational work.
Further information can be found at: http://www.thatchingwales.co.uk/