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…
…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.
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.
The grain was fed by gravity from the drying floor to the main mill…
…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…
…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….
…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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
…but we took neither and walked back up the river …
…to the bridge near the mill.
There were more flowers to brighten our day…
…and butterflies too, though once again an orange tip male fluttered past, teasing me by dashing off as soon as I raised the camera.
Less colourful plants were interesting too.
For a fairly dull looking potato field, the margins held a lot of interest.
We crossed back over the Tyne…
…walked back through the mill buildings….
…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.
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.