Water reed is almost certainly one of the oldest thatching materials used and it is reasonable to assume it has been used as a roofing material for as long as man has been utilising structures to shelter in.
Water reed is typically found in rivers, estuaries and harbours where the water is tidal. It is usually cut once a year in late winter/early spring, and although water reed was originally cut by hand, it is now cut by machinery.
The vast majority of water reed used for thatching in this country is Continental Water Reed which is sourced from countries such as Hungary, Romania, Austria, France and Poland but can be imported from as far afield as China. In the UK, water reed is traditionally associated with Norfolk hence the term ‘Norfolk Reed’.
Water reed has in the past been produced in many coastal areas around the UK, and in our own area it was produced on Southampton Water, Beaulieu River, Lymington River, Keyhaven, Christchurch Harbour and Poole Harbour. However, nowadays most of this is only produced in small amounts, if at all.