Uses of Reeds

Reeds have long been used as an important and readily available building material for thatching, from small lean-to shelters used by nomadic peoples to the roofing material for large churches. Indeed, how common this latter practice was can be judged by the fact that, in medieval Norfolk over 90% of the county’s churches were said to be thatched.

It is interesting to note that, in some areas of the country, reed (Phragmites australis) is known as water-reed, and the stems left over from harvesting wheat are known as wheat-reed. In those places, particularly in areas of the country poor in reedbeds, this material was the more typical thatching material. Agricultural improvements in the growth of wheat, in particular the reduction in stem length, has led to a reduction in the use of this wheat-reed for thatching.

You can learn more about thatching in Dorset at Rod Miller's website.