About The North Norfolk Reed Cutters Association

The Norfolk Reed Cutters Association is an association of members, who cut the reed in the marshes along the North Norfolk Coast from Weybourne to Holme.

Reed Cutters at work, a reed cutting machine, Cley MillThe Association was formed in October 2004 to try to tackle some specific issues within the industry.

Over recent years reed has started to be imported from abroad and this has taken a larger share of the traditional thatching market. This imported reed is cut in parts of the world where labour is cheaper and this has had an affect on prices. There has only been a 5% increase in the price of a bundle of reeds in the last fifteen years, well below the level of general inflation, making it much harder to earn a living as a local cutter.

There has also been a reduction in the number of young cutters coming into the trade.

We also recognised the need for a united front when:

  • talking with conservation bodies, English Nature and The Environment Agency;
  • applying for grant funding to help to buy new equipment and raise the profile of the trade;
  • negotiating with the owners of the marshes, such as The National Trust and The RSPB;
  • taking part in the debates and decisions which affect agricultural life along the coast;
  • marketing Norfolk reed to home owners, thatchers and the building trade;
  • providing information to the general public about the work of the reed cutters and their importance in preserving the reed beds as a unique wildlife habitat.

The Association is also looking into the future by researching:

  • new markets for reeds;
  • how to regain a larger share of the thatching reed market which has currently been lost to imports from abroad;
  • how to attract younger people into the trade, as the youngest are now in their forties and many of the older cutters are nearing retirement;
  • new uses for reeds, such as biofuels, animal feed and paper;
  • new opportunities for out of season cutting, for land management and biodiversity rather than for just the seasonal commercial crop;
  • new and innovative ways of extending the season.