Buckland in the Moor, Devon: An unpromising wheat harvest results in scruffy raw material for thatchers this year, but looks aren’t everything

It began life as a cow shed. The low building at the edge of St Peter’s Church in Buckland in the Moor looks unremarkable enough – rough granite walls, a simple roof of Devon wheat – yet it is believed to be the only surviving thatched vestry in the country.

I am here to repair the roof. The church treasurer, Patrick Watson, shows me inside to inspect the damp around the chimney; he explains that the building probably began its second life as a vestry in the second half of the 19th century. We shine our torches up on to crooked hazel battens and a basecoat (underlayer) of wheat as old as the building.

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