A pioneering plan to increase the area of Broads reed beds used for commercial cutting in order to address the decline in the ancient industry, has been announced by The Broads Authority.
Broads reed beds to return to commercial use
Currently there are just 19 commercial reed cutters on the Broads, but the authority is to survey all Broads reed beds with a view to extending the areas cut and bringing neglected beds back into production.
Andrea Kelly, the authority’s senior ecologist, said: “We know there are almost 2,000 hectares of open fen on the Broads and, with the help of landowners, our aim is to extend commercial reed beds from 15 per cent to 25 per cent.
She said landowners, who would still have a duty to manage protected sites had already been very positive about the initiative and were beginning to employ the local cutters to undertake all sorts of wetland work.
The Broads Authority has already trained new reed cutters through a Heritage Lottery funded scheme and addressed the issue of availability of work by providing them with scrub clearance contracts outside the cutting season. Efforts will also be made to expand the market by looking for opportunities to sell lower-grade reed for thatching outbuildings.
Broads Reed and Sedge Cutters Association chairman Richard Starling praised the authority’s new initiative”.
He said: “At the moment, thatchers have little choice but to use imported reed owing to the limited availability of UK reed. Sadly, traditional and sustainable reed bed management ceased on many sites in favour of rotational cutting and burning.
“If other parts of the country followed the authority’s lead we would be less reliant on imported reed. “