We spend the summer months of June, July and August harvesting English freshwater bulrush scirpus lacustris, schoeneplectus on the River Great Ouse in Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, the Nene in Northamptonshire and on the River Ivel in Bedfordshire. We are carrying on with a tradition that goes back many centuries.
Our team of cutters include my partner Ivor, his nephew Giles, my brother Davey, who ventures down from Scotland each year, me and my dog Molly!
The bulrush is cut from 17ft long punts using rush knifes, a slim scythe-shaped blade 3ft long fixed to a 6ft handle, enabling the rush stems sometimes up to 10ft in length to be cut from the river bed. Each days' cut is transported back to the farm and stood up against a 500m hedge to allow sun and wind to dry the rush over a few days. We cut up to 2 tonnes of rush a day. In the summer of 2011 we harvested 2,300 bolts of rush.
During the drying process the weight of the rush is reduced to a fifth. The variation in weather during this process naturally produces extraordinary and beautiful shades of colour. Prolonged sun gently bleaches to warm honey tones. During windy weather the colours have a more vivid green/blue hue. There are no chemicals used in any part of the process. It is entirely natural.