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

34 thoughts on “Storybook charm: England’s thatched cottages

  1. Pingback: Storybook charm: England’s thatched cottages — Oh, the Places We See . . . | regiannelly

    1. Oh, the Places We See

      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. gallivance.net

    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

    1. Oh, the Places We See

      Don’t know why, but I didn’t remember that you lived in London. How cool! I’m just trying to find a low-cost flight so I can return for a week or two. So much to see, so little time. (And money!)

      1. gallivance.net

        Rusha, now is a good time to be in England. Even though the weather can be cool and rainy, the prices are lower and there aren’t nearly as many tourists. In fact, we’re going to be there in a few days. ~James

  3. settleinelpaso

    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.

    1. Oh, the Places We See

      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

    1. Oh, the Places We See

      You are so lucky to have seen villages in England. I can only dream of roaming the countryside. What a great country — and seeing it for a few days is just not enough! Have a great spring! Rusha

  4. Green Global Trek

    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

  5. Andrew

    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.

    1. Oh, the Places We See

      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!

  6. Linda Arthur Tejera

    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!

    1. Oh, the Places We See

      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!

      1. Linda Arthur Tejera

        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!

    1. Oh, the Places We See

      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.

  7. lulu

    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.

    1. Oh, the Places We See

      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!)

  8. ourfrenchoasis

    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!

    1. Oh, the Places We See

      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!

    1. Oh, the Places We See

      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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