Storybook charm: England’s thatched cottages

A true storybook cottage in The Cotswolds

A true storybook cottage in The Cotswolds

Not many household adornments ooze more charm than cozy thatched roof cottages, and there’s no better place to find them than in England.  A recent article in the Wall Street Journal called them “chocolate box cottages” because a photo of one them would be adorable to adorn a box of chocolates.  Made of straw or reed, thatched roofs are said to provide a cooler summer and warmer winter for residents who can pay up for what is now a luxury topper.  And, according to that same article, thatched roof homes have not only held their value, but risen in price considerably.  But during the Bronze Age when thatched roofs came into their own, thatching was just what you did to use what was on hand.

Neolithic thatched cottages at Stonehenge Visitor Centre, Salisbury, England.

Neolithic thatched cottages at Stonehenge Visitor Centre, Salisbury, England.

We first encountered thatching at the Stonehenge Visitor Centre where Neolithic cottages stood out back, a working demo, so to speak, that invited onlookers to move in close and take a look.

A couple of thatchers busy at work caught our attention, and we noted that the craft resembled basket weaving (well, sort of) since they seemed to be weaving the reeds under and over a foundation of sticks.

When you get up close, it sort of resembles basket weaving, don't you think?

When you get up close, it sort of resembles basket weaving, don’t you think?

When we left Stonehenge headed to the Cotswolds, our driver spotted a roofer in action.  Being the ever-vigilant, ever-attentive driver that he was, he screeched to a stop, and with cameras in hand we filed out of the car to catch a shot of a thatcher on his ladder hard at work.  (Not for the faint of heart, really.) When he saw us watching, he stopped a moment to wave, and then got right back to it.

Thatcher at work in The Cotswolds

Just another day of thatching!

One house, out of all the ones we saw, seemed to have it all.  We noted it in passing, and again, our driver took a U-turn so as to park right in front so we could catch this beauty. Not only did the roof with its patterned topper exude charm and mastery of design, the whole yard merited a second or third look. (And the concrete dogs weren’t too shabby, either!)

A storybook cottage with thatched roof in The Cotswolds, England.

A storybook cottage with thatched roof in The Cotswolds, England.

So, when in the Cotswolds at least, drive slowly.  You don’t want to miss these “chocolate box cottages.”  They really are as charming as you heard.  If you win the lottery, however, you can do more than just snap pictures as we did.  You’ll be living that storybook dream.

Thanks for touring the English countryside with us!  — Bert and Rusha

For more information:

Bloomfield, Ruth. “An Uptick in Britain’s Cottage Industry.” Wall Street Journal (January 27, 2017).  Retrieved from: http://www.mansionglobal.com/articles/52407-an-uptick-in-britain-s-thatched-roof-cottage-industry

About Oh, the Places We See

Met at University of Tennessee, been married for 47 years, and still passionate about travel whether we're volunteering with Habitat Global Village, combining work at Discovery with pleasure, or just seeing the world. Hope you'll join us as we try to see it all while we can!
This entry was posted in Destination, England, Travel and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

33 Responses to Storybook charm: England’s thatched cottages

  1. Gorgeous! We’re visiting the Cotswolds in a few weeks and I can’t wait to see the thatched roofs!

    • You will see so many, but they are all beautiful. Hopefully, you can get good pics. I was trying to capture them from the back seat of a car . . . but without much luck. Have a great time. Wish I were going back!

  2. alberttrotter says:

    amazed to see the thatched cottages…love to have a trip there

  3. Great photos Rusha, and a good memory for me. When we lived in London I got very interested in Medieval building techniques. At a time when most people lived in huts, anything that involved carpentry was quite luxurious. And it was interesting how over time techniques used in yeomen’s halls trickled down to the peasant cottages. Nice post and photos. ~James

  4. Wow! These are so beautiful cottages. I can imagine that building this is complex. The roof has to be rain-and snow-proof. 🙂 This would demand an architectural mastery. Thanks for sharing.

    • I’m just as fascinated by these roofs as you are — I still don’t fully understand how they keep you dry. But I guess they do. They’ve been around for ages. And most of us love looking at them and taking pictures of them!!! Rusha

  5. A great post, Rusha! One of the many things that I miss about home is the thatched cottages. We used drive out to nearby villages in England and see so many of these.

  6. I love these! There is something so homey and cosy about a thatch roof. Although when we lived in Nicaragua we learnt that thatch roofs are good homes for scorpions and other creepy crawlies. They also apparently require quite a bit of maintenance. Makes sense I guess…natural materials conbined with the elements. But other than that, they evoke story tale charm.
    Peta

  7. Andrew says:

    There are quite a few pubs and cottages around our neck of the woods (not so far from the Cotswolds)- they’re beautiful to look at but very expensive to maintain these days due to a chronic shortage of skilled thatchers.

    Did you know that each thatcher now has a specific finial that they put on any roofs that they’ve built, a bit like a signature? Usually some kind of animal, the guy who works near us uses a fox.

    • You bring up a great point — we did hear that thatchers have a signature, of sorts. And how interesting is that? I’m glad I don’t have to think of something that no other thatcher has created — it would be impossible for me. I’m just happy to see plain roofs, etc. All pretty!

  8. Amy says:

    Oh, so beautiful! Thank you for the tour. 🙂

  9. I never realized that thatched roofs were so intricate. But, in thinking about it, it makes since! Can’t just throw straw up there and think it’s done! The Cotswolds is what I think of when I think of England. Beautiful!

    • I couldn’t agree with you more. Now that I’ve seen The Cotswolds, that’s what I’m going to always picture in my mind as quintessentially English. It’s really gorgeous! Hope your spring is unfolding OK, and you’re not bombarded with snow. But if you are, hope you’re as dry as the folks in those quaint homes!

      • We had one more snowfall last week but it was gone by the next afternoon. I’m hoping that was the last of it! I must say, it has been a very mild winter here. Two small snowfalls. They tell me that’s not normal for around here. But I’m happy with it! But then I’ve heard the same thing said about me! LOL! 😆
        Those small English villages that are always being shown on TV shows is what I always picture. Beautiful!

  10. tappjeanne says:

    I had no idea constructing a thatch roof was so complex!

    • We didn’t either, Jeanne! We stood and watched the couple at the Stonehenge Visitor Center for a while. But I guess it’s like anything else, you can get the hang of it if you do it often enough.

  11. lulu says:

    I fell in love with the Cotswolds and am trying to convince the hubby it is a place he would enjoy visiting. I’m hoping for a return visit.

    • I’d go back in a heartbeat! We didn’t have enough time. I would want to stop more and walk rather than ride — camera in hand, of course. It’s just so lovely. (And tell your hubby, there are pubs everywhere!)

  12. Jodi says:

    wow – so beautiful and unique

  13. I love thatched cottages, where we lived in Devon, there were plenty in every village and it is fascinating seeing houses being re-thatched, it is such a skill. This made me quite homesick!

    • I can imagine it would be difficult to master this skill. And I’m not sure I could stay on the ladder. With little to hold onto, I’m thinking I might be on the ground a little too much for my liking!

  14. When we were in England, we did not see any of these beauties. But, we certainly did ooh and aah in Ireland. True Artisans. 🙂

    • Thanks, Dawn. These were truly favorites of mine, and I stopped whenever I could to look longingly at them. I guess the homeowners are accustomed to tourists taking pictures, because we surely were!

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