In this months (March 2014) Suffolk Norfolk Life Magazine on page 27 you’ll find an illustrated feature I worked on with a real Norfolk character.
I spent a couple of days working with and chatting to Wally Mason, one of the few remaining reed cutters on the Norfolk Broads. It was a wonderful insight into his work, his life and indeed what it takes to work as a reed cutter. Although it was bright blue skies, let me assure you, it was anything but warm…. I actually think it was the coldest I had been on a job!
Below is a snippet from the article
“The Broads were truly alive back then” he says ” When I was working on my own I would be out about 5am, rowing up river it would be complete silence until about 6am when nature would start to come alive” looking wistfully across the island towards Burgh Castle he continues “It would be about 7:30am when you would hear the odd farm tractor cough and splutter as it started up, shortly followed by plumes of smoke and a whistle or two as the steam train passed by at Strumpshaw” “It was magical”.
As we open the flask of tea two Cormorants dart across the sky, which holds our attention for a while before I am nudged and Wally points out a Bittern which is sitting amongst the reed on the water’s edge. It takes my eyes a moment to focus on the rather special and shy bird. Having not seen these secretive birds so close, I feel rather lucky. “it’s part of what makes this job special” he says, which I can really believe. There is no doubt about it, the scene and the life of a reed cutter has a somewhat magical and romantic feel about it, sitting here, drinking tea and watching nature play out in front of us is very special, but alas it is not long until I am reminded just how tough it can be.
Casually picking up two bundles of reed and manoeuvring them onto his head, Wally encourages me to do the same, so following his instructions to the tee, I bend down and hoist the single bundle upon my head, struggling with my footing and just about managing to lift the reed up and above, ready to walk. I have no doubt this isn’t a job which can be taken lightly.”