THATCHER Bob Armstrong from Downton has been named The David Stewart Lifetime Achievement award winner at The Balvenie Masters of Craft 2012, an awards programme which recognises, honours and celebrates highly-skilled craftsmen and women around the UK.

Now in their second year, the awards judges received hundreds of entries from across the UK.

One of the judges, TV presenter Kevin McCloud said: “For the second year running, we have been blown away by the quality and quantity of the entries. There is such force and passion behind craftsmanship right now and I am delighted to have been part of the process once again.”

Bob Armstrong has been a thatcher for 51 years, learning the craft from his father. At the age of 66 he can still be found up a ladder making, crafting and mending roofs in much the same way it was done more than 100 years ago.

Lead judge, The Balvenie Malt Master David Stewart, after whom the award is named, said: “Being my 50th year with The Balvenie distillery in Dufftown, Banffshire, Scotland, near Speyside, this year is very special to me.

“Bob Armstrong has established a reputation over a wide area of the south of England for quality workmanship on all types of thatched roofs that is second to none and he thoroughly deserves this award.”

It was Bob’s partner, Claire Fremantle, who entered him for the award.

Bob said: “I never thought I’d win it and when I took a call from one of the judges I thought it was just to ask me some questions.

You could have knocked me over with a feather when they told me I was the outright winner.

“What an honour, and terrific recognition of my hard work over the past 51 years.”

Bob worked for many years with his father on the Longford Estate near Salisbury and also on the Cranborne, Landford and Kingston Lacy Estates.

“Dad was a hard taskmaster – I started working as a young teenager for £1.50 a week. And he was a perfectionist and never shy of telling you when you’d not done something well enough for him.

“We’ve had some laughs over the years, but it is hard work, so it’s always good to receive recognition. We had a grand night in London – I could hardly believe it. The ceremony itself, at The Savoy, was great fun.”

Most of his work now comes by recommendation from former clients.

He works with wheat reed and water reed and occasionally long straw, which has largely died out in this part of the country.

You can find Bob at wiltshire where further information about himself and his craft can be found. He can also be contacted on 01725 513009.