Irish cottages (Irish: teachin) were historically the homes of farm workers and labourers, but in recent years the term has assumed a romantic connotation especially when referring to cottages with thatched roofs (Irish: teach ceann tui). These thatched cottages were once to be seen all over Ireland, but most have become dilapidated due to newer and modern developments. However, there has been a recent revival of restoring these old cottages, with people wanting a more traditional home. Today, thatched cottages are now mostly built for the tourist industry and many can be rented out as accommodation. Thatching is the craft of building a roof with dry vegetation such as straw, water reed, sedge (Cladium mariscus), rushes, or heather, layering the vegetation so as to shed water away from the inner roof. It is a very old roofing method and has been used in both tropical and temperate climates. Thatch is still employed by builders in developing countries, usually with low-cost, local vegetation. By contrast in some developed countries it is now the choice of affluent people who desire a rustic look for their home, would like a more ecologically friendly roof, or who have purchased an originally thatched abode. Thatching methods have traditionally been passed down from generation to generation, and numerous descriptions of the materials and methods used in England over the past three centuries survive in archives and early publications. In equatorial countries thatch is the prevalent local material for roofs, and often walls. There are diverse building techniques from t e ancient Hawaiian hale shelter made from the local ti leaves, lauhala or pili grass of fan palms to the Na Bure Fijian home with layered reed walls and sugar cane leaf roofs and the Kikuyu tribal homes in Kenya. Thatched farmhouse in Stade. Wild vegetation such as water reed (Phragmites australis), bulrush/cat tail (Typha spp.), broom (Cytisus scoparius), heather (Calluna vulgaris), and rushes (Juncus spp. and Schoenoplectus lacustris) was probably used to cover shelters and primitive dwellings in Europe in the late Palaeolithic period, but so far no direct archaeological evidence for this has been recovered. Straw probably began to be used in the Neolithic period when people first began to grow cereals, but once again no direct archaeological evidence of the use of straw for thatching survives in Europe prior to the early medieval period. Some groups of native peoples in the New World lived in thatched buildings, but most tribes lived in structures roofed with bark or skin. French and British settlers built temporary thatched dwellings with local vegetation as soon as they arrived in New France and New England, but covered the more permanent homes they soon built with wooden shingles. In most of Europe and the UK, thatch remained the only roofing material available to the bulk of the population in the countryside, in many towns and villages, until the late 1800s. The commercial production of Welsh slate had begun in 1820 and the mobility which the canals and then the railways made possible meant that other materials became readily available.
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