Country diary: thatching is a job to take your time over

South Milton, Devon: Turkish reed tends to be tough, and this stuff is like iron

South Milton village, tucked in a fold of Devon hill, is normally sheltered from the wind. But there’s scant protection from today’s easterly, which rushes down the lane, twisting the last leaves from the thorn hedges and piercing my two layers of fleece.

Perched on the back of a pickup, I’m trimming the eaves on a thatched cottage, the last job in re-roofing it with Turkish water reed. It’s hard work that leaves your forearms burning: Turkish reed tends to be tough, and this stuff is like iron. Even on a morning like this, it doesn’t take me long to get warm.

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