The reed: an ecological material

Four family entreprises purchase the reed harvest and pay the binders. 10% of the bundles become "matting" and brooms ; 90% finds itself on the roofs of herders' cabins and Dutch, English, Brittany and Normandy houses. 

"Takes two about a fortnight to cover 200m2," explains Pascal Bouchité, foreman for the entreprise Perret & Fils, in Camargue (France). The Camargue method is to mount the "manons", small faggots 10 cm in diameter, like a staircase. We start at the bottom and work our way up to the rooftop, where we pour a bit of cement for watertightness. For the thatched cottages of Britanny and Normandy, the reeds are placed flat, like a rug." Each is attached five times to the other and the insulation is perfect. 

"It's a fabulous material, light and extremely robust, water-resistant. It protects from the heat as well as the cold and lasts for about 30 years. It's the birds and the Mistral wind that damage it. "Living under a reed roof is very pleasant," confirms the tenant of a herder's house. "Obviously, you can't have barbecues and cigarette smoking in the area, and it is better that there are not too many surrounding trees, to let the roof breathe. What's fabulous, is that there is life in the roof : birds make their nest there. I can hear them cheeping, twitching, warbling, true bliss."

"From the waters of the marshes to the rooftops of the houses, reeds are a living and fragile matter ; it is without doubt what gives it so much charm." confirms André Calba.

Even if now his bread and butter come from elsewhere, he can not completely abandon the reeds. He bought a "matting machine" from an old craftsmasn and sells several square meters of reed mats to private individuals, to protect their terraces and pools from the sun.

"It's difficult to bring yourself to leave the reeds and the reed marshes in Camargue (France) once you've spent so many years of your life there, he states, a trifle nostalgic. "The reeds were gold." A vein that has been exhausted and sees die out one of the oldest professions in the Camargue (France), the reed-cutters of the marshes.

Construction of the roof of a rancher's cabin

Laying the reeds on the roof of a rancher's cabin

The sagne (reeds), a 100% organic material

Mat-making machine

Traditional fabrication of reed mats

Reeds in the Camargue

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