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Thatcher to reveal secrets about the traditional craft for Norfolk Day

PUBLISHED: 18:34 23 May 2018 | UPDATED: 18:34 23 May 2018

Thatcher Nick Walker working on a house in Suffolk. He will be taking part in Norfolk Day.
Byline: Sonya Duncan
Copyright: Archant 2018

Thatcher Nick Walker working on a house in Suffolk. He will be taking part in Norfolk Day. Byline: Sonya Duncan Copyright: Archant 2018

Archant 2017

It has been an admired feature of rural buildings for many centuries and involves a skilled pair of hands.

Norfolk Day LogoNorfolk Day Logo

And despite advancing technologies in many areas of life, the art of thatching has remained relatively unchanged.

Thatcher Nick Walker working on a house in Suffolk. He will be taking part in Norfolk Day.
Byline: Sonya Duncan
Copyright: Archant 2018Thatcher Nick Walker working on a house in Suffolk. He will be taking part in Norfolk Day. Byline: Sonya Duncan Copyright: Archant 2018

One person carrying on the tradition is Nick Walker, 38, from The Street in Geldeston, who will be talking about the skill for a special Norfolk Day event on Friday, July 27.

The master thatcher will be at the Thatching Open Day, hosted by the Churches Conservation Trust, at the Church of St John Maddermarket on Pottergate, Norwich, from 10am-4pm.

Thatcher Nick Walker working on a house in Suffolk. He will be taking part in Norfolk Day.
Byline: Sonya Duncan
Copyright: Archant 2018Thatcher Nick Walker working on a house in Suffolk. He will be taking part in Norfolk Day. Byline: Sonya Duncan Copyright: Archant 2018

Mr Walker, who took up thatching eight years ago and now has his own business, said: “I’m truly old school with the way I do thatching.

“I love working with natural materials. I find it really interesting.

Thatcher Nick Walker working on a house in Suffolk. He will be taking part in Norfolk Day.
Byline: Sonya Duncan
Copyright: Archant 2018Thatcher Nick Walker working on a house in Suffolk. He will be taking part in Norfolk Day. Byline: Sonya Duncan Copyright: Archant 2018

“I love the heritage aspect of buildings.”

He works with straw, reed and sedge - a form of marshland grass - from Framlingham, Walberswick and Catfield Fen.

Thatcher Nick Walker working on a house in Suffolk. He will be taking part in Norfolk Day.
Byline: Sonya Duncan
Copyright: Archant 2018Thatcher Nick Walker working on a house in Suffolk. He will be taking part in Norfolk Day. Byline: Sonya Duncan Copyright: Archant 2018

The father-of-two, who grew up in Brooke, close to Poringland, described the natural materials as “versatile”, “eco-friendly” and “sustainable”.

“You can use it on cutting edge modern buildings and historic buildings.”

Thatcher Nick Walker working on a house in Suffolk. He will be taking part in Norfolk Day.
Byline: Sonya Duncan
Copyright: Archant 2018Thatcher Nick Walker working on a house in Suffolk. He will be taking part in Norfolk Day. Byline: Sonya Duncan Copyright: Archant 2018

Mr Walker is one of 22 members of the East Anglia Master Thatchers Association and said the region has between 100 and 200 working thatchers.

The former Framingham Earl High School pupil has worked on nearly 100 structures ranging from a duck house and the new Enterprise Centre on the grounds of Norwich’s University of East Anglia to an 11th century church in Uggeshall, near Beccles.

He added: “It is a privilege to work on churches where generations of thatchers have previously worked before.”

The 38-year-old said: “My main equipment is my hands. Some roofs can be virtually thatched with your bare hands.”

Other equipment he uses includes a ladder, flat-headed paddle called a leggett, mallet, copper rings, knife and an electric drill.

He added it was a physical job, which involves working in rain and hot sun as well as lifting up 45 pounds of reed or straw onto a roof in one go.

“It is not just my job but my vocation.”

Norfolk Day thatching event

A charity will be raising awareness of the plight of two historic thatched church roofs at a Norfolk Day event.

The Thatching Open Day at the Church of St John Maddermarket on Pottergate, Norwich, on Friday, July 27, will be hosted by thatcher Nick Walker and the Churches Conservation Trust (CCT).

It is raising awareness for St Margaret’s Church in Hales and St Gregory’s Church in Heckingham, both built in the 12th century, which need urgent repairs to their thatched roofs, damaged by birds.

Some £25,000 is needed for both churches which are owned by the CCT.

Simon Wiles, south-east community fundraiser for the CCT, said: “Inside the churches there are good examples of medieval wall paintings. The rain gets through and it can damage the paintings which are irreplaceable.”

■Email details of any Norfolk Day events to norfolkday@archant.co.uk, tweet @norfolk or message the Norfolk Day Facebook page.

Norfolk Day shop

An online shop has been launched selling Norfolk Day marketing material which event organisers can display on the day.

The shop is selling a four-pack of flags, four-pack of A3 posters and 20 balloons at £4, while 5m of bunting is £7.50.

Celebration packs containing all of the above are available for £15.

Norfolk Day takes place on Friday, July 27 and is intended as a day of fun in which individuals, community groups and businesses are encouraged to get involved by hosting or participating in events.

The initiative was launched by the EDP and Norwich Evening News in partnership with BBC Radio Norfolk and has the backing of business and community organisations who are planning events for the day.

Details of events will be revealed in the newspaper, online and via social media.

To order Norfolk Day materials, visit the Norfolk Day shop.

Estimated delivery time is 28 days.


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