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Norfolk Reed Cutting

Original drawings by Neil Smalley ...

specially commissioned drawings by Neil Smalley
specially commissioned drawings by Neil Smalley
specially commissioned drawings by Neil Smalley
specially commissioned drawings by Neil Smalley

all about Norfolk reeds .......

For centuries crops of reed have been harvested from the Norfolk Broads as part of a productive rural economy and conservation activity. It has been used mainly for thatching houses, churches and barns etc. However, the industry was in decline in the Broads since the second World War until it reached a crisis at the turn of this century, with only a dozen cutters operating. It is now enjoying a revival of use due to Broads Authority and EU investment.

With the use of cheap imported reed and most of the remaining cutters approaching retirement it was felt that the decline was inevitable until November 2001 when one of the commercial cutters campaigned to rejuvinate the industry. Grants were awarded and action to reverse the decline began. There are now young cutters working in the industry and there has been an increase in the area of fenland managed commercially from 200 to 400 hectares (approximately 25% of the fen resource) *.

Reed cutting is essential for conservation ensuring that the open landscape of the Broads does not become woodland and scrub. It provides a natural habitat for wildlife and plants and is a sustainable product of the environment if well managed. The bundles of reed were often cut by hand scythes and hooks making the work labour intensive. Nowadays, reed and sedge cutters often use pedestrian-driven reciprocating mowers to harvest their crop but during high tides and vulnerable sites hand tools are still used.

Bundles of reed are tied and cleared from the fenland (often by boat) to sell to local thatchers and fencemakers. According to the Broads Authority “the rejuvenation of the commercial reed and sedge industry is an ongoing process, but one that has support of the cutters themselves, the Broads Authority, English Nature, local conservation organisations and the wider public. Through a process of initial grant investment and initiatives to identify more options for income the industry will recover and continue to make a significant and valued contribution to fenland management”.*

Commercial cutting of Norfolk reed continues to develop and areas are cut in a single wale (annually) or a double wale (every two years) to sustain our heritage and allow for wildlife habitat. A number of initiatives had been introduced to ensure that the industry thrives. With the new Environmental Stewardship scheme which offers incentives to land managers for commercial reed and sedge cutting and the formation of the Association of Reed and Sedge Cutters the prosperity of this rural heritage is likely to secure a stable future. To learn more about reed cutting in Norfolk visit ..
www.reedcutters.norfolkbroads.com

The benefits of commercial cutting is that materials are removed from the sites avoiding the need for burning or piling making it more environmentally friendly. Small size machines and areas being managed by one or two people ensure there is a low level of disturbance to nature and more awareness of sensitive surroundings is evident.

The revival of local commercial cutting will mean that you can benefit from a natural sustainable fencing that will give years of practical and visual pleasure.

* quoted from Broads Authority
Bright future for Broads reed cutting industry
article 21/02/2005

 

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