PUBLISHED in HICKLING HERALD
Hickling Reed and Thatch - Ann Louise Kinmonth
Reeds are as much a part of the Hickling landscape as the water and the sky. For men in Hickling after the Second World War, cutting reed in winter and sedge in summer was an important part of the cycle of work on the land. One such reed cutter, Jack Aldred, became a thatcher and talked about his life to the ‘Voices of Hickling’.
Jack was born in 1928 in Martham. He worked on farms with horses and cows, and harvested sugar beet and corn.
When this work dried up in the 1970s, Jack cut reed and sedge by hand on the Hickling and Horsey Estates along with other ‘voices’, including Norman Belson, ‘Newks’ Newman, ‘Doddo’ Sheppard and Harcourt Warnes. When mechanisation came in, Norman said that three men, with a Mayfield scythe, could collect 22,000 bunches in a day.
One summer, Jack helped a friend repair thatch on Council properties at Somerton. He had no formal training. “I learnt as I went – more or less – as I’d seen it happen in the village.” Thatchers were in great demand at the time. “They used to call up to me from the bottom of the ladder, ‘When you goin’ to come down and do mine?’ God, I thought, hold on a minute, I ain’t done this one yet. ’Cos they all knew me, you see. They said ‘Jack, when you comin’ out to mine?’”
Photo by Ann Louise Kinmonth