Going through the mill

Today’s guest picture comes from our son Alistair and shows Matilda rising above herself.


As the guest picture suggests, we did not spend all day on the beach today.  In fact we didn’t spend any of the day on the beach today as for all of the morning and some of the afternoon, a typical east coast haar provided us with a cold and grey day, all the more annoying for the fact that we knew that there was some fine weather lurking only a few miles to our west.

The haar was mild enough to let Matilda and her parents walk through the town to the local sports centre, where Matilda bounced around enthusiastically while Granny and Grandpa had a relaxing morning in the cottage.

It burnt off after lunch and Matilda and her parents went off for more fun, this time in the excellent public play park while Granny and Grandpa got out their car and drove off to visit Preston Mill.

Preston Mill gained some fame a few years ago when it featured largely in a television series called ‘Outlander’ but as we had never seen the programme this was wasted on us and we had come to see the mill for its own sake….and to visit the nearby building, intriguingly called the Phantassie Doocot.

The mill is extremely picturesque in a dilapidated sort of way…

Preston mill (7)

…but the waterwheel is still working at a very gentle speed and some of the machinery in the mill works too.   We paid a modest sum and got a tour of the mill from a knowledgeable guide.

The present mill dates from the 17th century and thanks to fairly regular flooding from the River Tyne (not that one!) whihc feeds the mill pond, it has constantly needed repairing.  It finally stopped operating as a working mill in 1959 and was given to the National Trust for Scotland.  It is now a ‘visitor attraction’.

Our tour of the mill buildings included the mill and the drying kiln beside it.

Preston mill (8)

The kiln is separated from the mill to avoid unnecessary fire risks.  In the old days, the miller had to carry the sack of oats up the external stone steps on the right of the building to the drying floor but we were able to cross into the building by the handy bridge.

Preston mill (5)
The kiln had ovens on both sides to match the wind direction of the day and a big cowl to draw the hot air up through the drying floor.

The grain was fed by gravity from the drying floor to the main mill…

Preston mill (6)

…where it was lifted to the upper floor by ingenious bucket belts based on a Liverpool design.

We went back into the mill and admired the various drives on show; belt, eccentric cam and Archimedes screw…

Preston mill (4)

…and we learned to our surprise that the big teeth on the driving wheels are made of apple wood which made them easier to replace if the waterwheel jammed and stripped the teeth from the cogwheels.  The wheel is only allowed to operate at one sixth of its proper working speed as a full speed operation might bring the whole building down.

After our tour, we said goodbye to the mill….

Preston mill (3)

…and set off to view the Phantassie Doocot, crossing the River Tyne on our way.

I had highly coloured visions of what such an interestingly named dovecot would look like, but the reality was a rather prosaic building at the far end of a large potato field.

potatoes Preston mill (2)

The farmer had left a good sized margin round the field though and our walk down took us through a constant display of wild flowers.

wildflowers Preston mill (3)

The doocot was more interesting when we got to it, with an unusual tapering cylindrical body and a horseshoe shape at the top, with a collar to protect the birds from the prevailing wind.

Collars like this are commonly found in the south of France and indicate that the builder of the doocot probably had connections there.

Phantassie Doocot

It is no longer used as a source of meat but we were told that pigeons still nest in it.  We had to take this on trust as we didn’t see any pigeon activity.

However, as we walked round the other three sides of the field to get back to the mill, we did see some frantic house martin activity.

swallows Preston mill

There was a small flock of them busy collecting mud from a damp patch in the field, presumably to go into nest building.  They scattered as soon as we got near them though.

Our walk took us back to the river where we were offered a choice of crossing by ford or bridge…

ford and birdge Preston mill

…but we took neither and walked back up the river …

River Tyne Preston mill

…to the bridge near the mill.

There were more flowers to brighten our day…

wildflowers Preston mill (2)

…and butterflies too, though once again an orange tip male fluttered past, teasing me by dashing off as soon as I raised the camera.

butterflies Preston mill

Less colourful plants were interesting too.

wildflowers Preston mill

For  a fairly dull looking potato field, the margins held a lot of interest.

potatoes Preston mill

We crossed back over the Tyne…

Preston mill (2)

…walked back through the mill buildings….

Preston mill

…and drove home having had a really good holiday outing.

Matilda and her parents just beat us home, having had a lot of fun at the play park themselves.

Even with the sun out, it was a pretty chilly evening so there were no late strolls to the harbour or the bridge and the flying birds of the day are two very fuzzy house martins from the Phantassie Doocot field.

flying swallows Preston mill

Note:  It turned out that the Phantassie Doocot has no relation to fantasy at all but is named after the farm, Phantassie Farm of which it is part.  I have tried to find a meaning for Phantassie in vain but it could possibly mean a glass cup as phan can mean a pane of glass and tassie is a cup.






Published by tootlepedal

Cyclist, retired teacher, curmudgeon, keen amateur photographer.

11 thoughts on “Going through the mill

  1. That was all very interesting, illustrated by excellent photographs. I liked the fact that the farmer left such a splendid strip for all those wild flowers to grow and delight us.

  2. We just happen to be watching “Outlander” and saw the mill in an episode last night. What fun to see it in one of your posts.

  3. What a lovely day, though I guess you might have liked to have been more active in the morning. Thank you for your etymological explanations. I hadn’t even recognised ‘doocot’.

  4. So smart to have the mill separate from the kiln! I imagine that was experience gained the hard way somewhere else. Very picturesque–thanks for the photos.

  5. I learned a new word today: haar – what a lovely word! Interesting too to pick up the tit-bit about the use of apple wood.

  6. Looks like a great day – the mill photos are brilliant. It’s interesting how they used the applewood teeth – wood is so versatile and our ancestors used it well. I believe that John Harrison’s early clocks were made of wood.

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