Hugo - The master thatcher
“I’ve worked extensively with both traditional wheat straw and water reed, from spar coat roofs to new builds and everything in between”.
I don’t think I could have picked a more perfect day to catch up with Hugo and a more perfect location, St Mawes village. It was a late autumn morning and the sunshine felt like a late August day. I guess just the sort of day that a craftsmen such as Hugo works well on. Cornwall isn’t generally a county you’d associate with thatched properties but if you look in and around some of our small coastal villages, there are quite a few. Clearly good for Hugo’s business.
Thatching is one of those trades that is very much “old school”. I’ve always thought of it as an old boys choice of employment. These days, that’s not the case. Young blood is finding its way into the industry and giving thatching a bit of a revival. Hugo is one such example.
He decided that he wanted to get into thatching after working with a general builder for a number of years. He enjoyed the roofing side of building but really liked the idea of doing something more traditional. He asked a few other thatchers about what was involved and they all tried to put him off. Unperturbed, he persevered and eventually managed to twist the arm of Mike Pawluk's, one of the South Wests most respected and skilled thatchers into meeting him. It turned out that both of them went to the same University (QMW). A small world isn’t it. Shortly after, Hugo managed to get an English Heritage bursary scheme and went on to work with Mike full time. Mike retired 5 years ago so it was at that stage Hugo carried on thatching and has been running his own business ever since.
Watching a true craftsmen at work is a real pleasure. What could be perceived as a dying art is far from it.
I returned to St Mawes a few days later to see the finished roof that Hugo had been working on. Stood outside of the house were a number of people commenting and admiring just how lovely the cottage looked.
A quintessential Cornish chocolate box cottage in every way.