Combed Wheat Read
From its arrival in Oxfordshire in the 1960s, Combed Wheat Reed has become the most prevalent thatching style in the county.
This material is dressed into place with only the butts of reeds on the surface. It is fixed to the roof with hazel spars driven into the existing thatch, which should have been stripped to a sound base coat,and topped off with either a block/patterned or flush fitting ridge. It was adopted wholeheartedly by local thatchers and by the start of this century had all but entirely replaced it predecessor, long straw.
Good quality Combed Wheat Reed laid well should last 25-30 years with a new ridge being needed at about the 12-15 year mark.
In the 1920s East Anglian Style Water Reed thatching arrived in Oxfordshire. A fashion in architecture and the ability to move bulky materials by rail saw many new thatched houses being built throughout the country.
Water Reed is attached directly to the roof timbers and because of the rigidity of the material, it can be used to form very sharp shapes and follow complex roof designs.
Unlike straw, Water Reed is not flexible enough to be wrapped over the apex of the roof, so Sedge is used instead. Sedge is a marsh grass that grows next to Water Reed. It has many qualities to please a thatcher; it is long, flexible, durable and sheds water quickly, however the edges of the leaf are razor sharp.
Water Reed is the longest lasting of the thatching materials lasting 50 years+ with the Sedge Ridge lasting up to 25 years. However poor quality Water Reed can rot out alarmingly fast.
For hundreds of years thatchers in Oxfordshire have made their roofs with threshed wheat straw, soaked and pulled into organised wads then fastened to the roof with hazel spars twisted into staples. With its thick multi-layered coat, soft sweeping shapes and tussled appearance this ancient style of thatching is known as Long Straw.
This local Long Straw style has virtually disappeared from the villages of Oxfordshire and surrounding counties, a generation of thatchers has been replaced by one that has rarely encountered Long Straw at all. However, there are still retired thatchers who remember the Long Straw methods that were used locally. Perhaps most interestingly, because of the build up of layers of old straw in a spar fixed thatch we have hundreds of examples of historic coats preserved within our roofs.
If done well Long Straw should have a similar life span to that of Combed Wheat Reed.
Quality materials and craftsmanship are everything!!!