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five years) he is making great progress."Thatching takes skill and I feel like I'mreally getting the hang of it. It's all aboutcontrol - if you lay one bit slightly wrongthe rest of the roof goes wrong too. Themore I do it, the more control I have."Nick is clearly very proud of hisprotégé. "He's getting on really well andit's great to witness his progress. He'sactually done some technically difficultjobs lately. Just before Christmas hethatched a hip end, which is where theroof slides down at each end connectingone side of the roof to the other. Youthatch around it so it slides down ateach end. It's a pretty tricky procedurebecause you have to turn the straw 180 degrees from one angle straight into another."Josh is honing his skills every day andis clearly well on his way to masteringthe craft, thanks in great part toNADFAS. "I'm really grateful for thegrant," says Josh. "Costs can be highwhen you're still training and NADFAS'shelp has been invaluable." AWARD RECIPIENT36NADFAS REVIEW / SPRING education centre whose thatchingschool is thought to be the only one inEurope. Here, experimental thatchedtimber roofs undergo extended periodsof 'decay' to aid the learning of theyoung thatchers studying their two-yearNVQ course. The courses are run inpartnership with Herefordshire College ofTechnology's Rural Crafts Department.Josh has been studying at KnustonHall for two years. He spends one weekout of each month training at the collegeand the rest of the time assists Nick onjobs around Northamptonshire andBedfordshire. "The college course isgreat," says Nick. "It means Josh canwork on certain features you wouldn'ttypically come across.It could be tenyears before you'd encounter a gabledormer window, for example, but atsome point you have to learn how to dothat. At Knuston he can because theyhave a big barn there with lots ofdifferent mock structures. Every differentfeature you might expect to encounter inyour career as a thatcher is there."The experience, agrees Josh, whograduates from Knuston this April, hasbeen invaluable. "I've learned no end atthe college. One thing that's been greatis meeting people from other parts ofthe country where they might havedifferent techniques. That's improved myown thatching technique. I'll quite oftenpass on things I've learned to Nick, sowe're kind of teaching each other!"So, what got a teenage boy interestedin thatching? "My boss, Nick, waslooking for someone to do a bit oflabouring for him. I watched him closelywhile I was working for him and decidedafter I left school that that was what Iwanted to do. It's something a bitdifferent to other trades - I mean it's notevery day you come across a thatcher,is it? Also, the history of the buildingsthat we work on is really interesting. Onthe last job we worked on the roof wentright down to the timberwork and wefound tons of old boxes filled with allsorts of vintage bits and pieces such asold newspapers from the 1960s."Another job we worked on was anold gamekeeper's cottage in thegrounds of a big country estate. Thatwas a really nice-looking building. Youfinish a job like that and step back andget this amazing sense of satisfaction."Josh says that three years into hisapprenticeship (an apprenticeship lasts'It's something a bit different to other trades - I mean it's not every dayyou come across a thatcher, is it?'Above:Thegrounds atKnuston Hall.The college'sbarn, picturedright, offersevery rooffeatureimaginable in order to help broadenstudents'expertise Images: © Steven Prouse