Mum swaps hospital beds for reed beds

PICTURE a reedcutter and a leathery face lined by all the elements of a harsh Norfolk winter springs to mind - not the fresh face of a young woman.But mother of four Kathryn Ingham has eagerly swapped hospital beds for reed beds to join the second Broads Authority-organised reed and sedge-cutting training scheme.

PICTURE a reedcutter and a leathery face lined by all the elements of a harsh Norfolk winter springs to mind - not the fresh face of a young woman.

But mother of four Kathryn Ingham has eagerly swapped hospital beds for reed beds to join the second Broads Authority-organised reed and sedge-cutting training scheme.

Mrs Ingham, 34, who yesterday began the 18-month programme as the sole female among five trainees, said: “I have keenly followed the story of the students on the first course and thought it would be a dream come true to follow in their footsteps.

“I have loved the Broads since childhood when my father took me out on his small boat and I vividly remember meeting a reedcutter during a visit to How Hill study centre at the age of 10.”


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Mrs Ingham, who has worked as a day care worker at Little Plumstead Hospital, in her home village near Norwich, for the past 12 years, acknowledged it would be tough work and she would be dependent on her husband Aubrey - a night shift hospital worker - to help look after their children aged 10, six, four and one.

“I prefer hard, physical work and I am thrilled to have got on this scheme because I did not think I stood a chance. The Broads is a big part of Norfolk's heritage and it makes you feel proud of the unique scenery and wildlife,” she said.

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Training officer Sarah Heaffey said the scheme had proved so successful in keeping heritage skills alive - with three out of five students on the first course now working as reedcutters - that the Broads Authority was already actively working with partners to seek new funding for future intakes.

As well as undertaking reed cutting in the winter and sedge cutting in the summer the trainees would be taught conservation techniques and habitat management to help them find all-year-round employment. The course also included study at Easton College, near Norwich, to help them achieve an NVQ level 2 in environmental conservation.

Ms Heaffey said more than 300 people had requested application packs for the second course and they had received 56 applications across the full spectrum from school leavers to teachers and college lecturers.

“What we were looking for in interview was a passion for the Broads and a keenness to learn about conservation,” she said.

Course tutor Paul Mace, 36, who gave up his position as boss of an accounts department to become a reed cutter, said it was the quality of life that appealed - even when the salary was £12,000 at best.

The other trainees yesterday taking their first steps on to the marshes at St Olaves, near Yarmouth, were Tom Colley, 19, and Graeme Hewitt, 37, both from Ludham, Tom Bennett, 26, from Tunstead, and James Allchurch, 19, from Ormesby.

The two teenagers, Ludham church chorister Tom and James, a volunteer RSPB warden, both said it was the fulfilment of their dream to work on the Broads.

The first two courses have been funded by a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of more than £700,000 which has also paid for a three-year training scheme for millwrights.

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