Reed cutters start harvesting work on the Norfolk Broads

Reed cutters who claim they are scarcer than royalty have started harvesting work on the Norfolk Broads.

The harvesting season runs from Christmas to Easter, and the majority of reed will be used for thatched roofs.

Reed cutter Paul Eldridge said: "There's more royalty than there are reed cutters."

Reed harvest
Reed cutter Paul Eldridge stacks bundles of reed on the Norfolk Broads near Irstead, Norfolk (Joe Giddens/PA)

He said this winter's weather had caused problems, adding: "We're so far behind this year, we've got to carry on no matter what."

His colleague Rowan Nichols uses a machine to cut and bind the reed near Irstead, Norfolk, and he then piles the bundles on the marshes to air dry.

"Obviously we have a bit of work to clean all the reed out," said Mr Eldridge.

"It tends to take twice as long to clean as it does to cut."

He said reed harvested this week was due to be sold in May.

He estimated there are around three dozen reed cutters working in East Anglia, the centre of reed cutting in the UK, and a handful elsewhere.

But he said most reed was imported, as it is "cheaper than we can supply it".

Working on the picturesque Norfolk Broads, with cruisers chugging past on the river, Mr Eldridge said he enjoys his work.

"It's just that freedom of effectively not having a boss, being able to come in and work when you want, do when you want, and it's the joy of just being here," he said.

"It's not a bad office, is it?"

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