Thursday, 26 May 2016

The Day Of The Doocot - (Part 2)

Part 2 of my 'doocot' quest, today I covered more doocot's & cycled less distance but still a great day out on the bike around my haunts.

Getting my bike gear together I had a couple of swallows which kept coming into my kitchen looking for somewhere to build their nest after their epic journey from South Africa, amazing little birds & I love watching them in flight.

The closest doocot to my home which is around a mile away.
"Thurston doocot"
Thurston lands were Lindsay property in the 13th century, then passed through several other hands. A member of the Hunter family, who took ownership in 1745, soon made extensive additions to an earlier house. The mansion is gone along with a large two-chambered lectern style doocot.
A second doocot, however survives adjacent to a 19th century steading. It occupies the upper part of a square tower of dressed red sandstone, with a pyramidal slate roof topped by a metal pennant. A plaque identifies it as being of 19th century date. There are doors to the upper & lower levels on the south side, and narrow window openings on the other three sides at doocot level, blocked up with stone or wood.
A broad alighting ledge runs round a little below the eaves, and above this on the south side is a row of 12 flight holes. The roof rests on a plain projecting eaves cornice. In the 1960's, Bailey & Tindall noted that there were 156 nest boxes made of brick & tiles & all accessible from the floor, but this could not be checked during more recent field work.
Although some of the sandstone is quite eroded, the doocot is externally very attractive & in reasonably good condition.

Leaving the doocot behind I took a little trail I know down into the Thurston glen, always a beautiful wild & natural place to cycle through I just hope that the caravan park doesn't take it over like they have further downstream filling it with caravans & little perfect manicured roads which spoils the natural beauty that this place has.

Continuing onwards & climbing over stile into the grounds belonging to the Brunt, here the glen is used for both the purposes of livestock grazing during the summer months & in the autumn & winter months using the hills on either side to flush out pheasants into the air for the guns on the valley floor to shoot the game birds from the sky.

Climbing the wee hill up to the Brunt steadings & I was shocked to find the place stripped back to the bare walls. I did mention in a previous blog post that the building looked as if they were about to be transformed into housing but I was surprised at how quickly the work was being carried out.
Anyway as you can see I have pinched the bottom couple of pictures from Google as I couldn't see the gable end due to the scaffolding & I couldn't find my own pictures of the gable end of the steading with the slab of stone with the 3 flight holes cut out of the stone, often farm buildings had pigeon lofts to accommodate pigeons & just like the purpose built doocots they had the same function to have a steady supply of meat through the winter months.

Off road again & up the farm track around & up to the top of Brunt Hill, just like yesterday the sun was beating down & it was roasting. 

From the summit of Brunt Hill there's normally great views but today there was a haze limiting the views in the far distance.
A little French partridge who thought I couldn't see him/her & was frozen to the spot, all the better for me though so I took advantage & grabbed a photo.

"Spott doocot"
The Spott estate was named after it's original Norman owner, Elias de Spot. Later it passed throught the hands of several well known families, the Humes, Douglasses, Murrays & Hays. An older house was extensively modernised in the first half of the 19th century.
The handsome lectern doocot, probably from the 18th century, is in a field close to the entrance lodge & about 500m from the mansion. A new owner of the estate fully restored the doocot a few years ago, although the parapet finials were not replaced. It's random rubble walls sit on a plinth & are uncharacteristically dark for East Lothian. They carry a stringcoarse on the gables & north rear elevation which terminates in a high parapet. Crowsteps top the gables & internal dividing wall, and the slate roof is interrupted by a horizontal row of 12 flight holes. The symmetrical south front has 2 entrances , each fitted with new doors, and 2 rectangular air vents are sited immediately below the eaves.
The frontage is fitted with a modern rhone & downpipe & two metal tie-rods.
In the 1950's Niven Robertson reported 1422 stone nest boxes, and each chamber had a potence.

Doon Hill looking very colourful just now more so with the bright yellow oil seed rape field on it's lower slopes.

The doocot that started of my appreciation & love for these amazing buildings.
"Bourhouse doocot"
Bourhouse is a small Jacobean-style mansion built in 1835 for Major-General Carfrae of the East India Company. The presence of the 18th century doocot& walled garden suggest that there must have been an earlier house on the site.
The double lectern doocot is in a semi-wild garden area 300m from the mansion. The random rubble walls, with a single encircling stringcoarse, are extensively harled on the back & on the lower gables. A low parapet with 3 capped finials crowns the north wall, from where falls the steeply pitched roof flanked by regular crowsteps capping the outer gables & centre party walls.
The roof is bisected by a continuous row of 34 flight holes pierced in paired (rotting) horizontal timber facings.
At some stage a low ceiling was was inserted to convert part of the building into a cart shed or gig-house, although in the right hand chamber at least this ceiling has now gone. As part of a conversion, wider arched doorways replaced the originals. There is a rectangular air vent above each doorway & a pointed-head one in each gable, each fitted with a vertical bar, probably to prevent entry birds of prey intent on harrying the pigeons.
There are thought to have been originally 1402 stone nest boxes. The lower rows were filled in during the conversion, & about 475 remain in the right hand chamber, the other not being accessible. 

Onwards to the next doocot & just along from Bourhouse there is a cool wee country cottage with loads of crafty bits'n'bobs in the garden, the owners even have an honesty box to take & pay for eggs.

The surrounding countryside at the moment just looks amazing, green & yellow, cheese & onion everywhere.

More pedalling along quiet country roads towards my next destination, arriving at Pitcox I take another farm track off road again into the grounds of Biel estate.

Of all the doocots that I know around my local vicinity this one here is by far my most favourite, although it's badly damaged & in very poor condition it's location is just amazing. The doocot  faces south & the view down the hill onto a large crescent shaped grass field with the Biel burn a divide for the hill on the other side which is covered in mature trees is an absolute sublime view & every time I come to this doocot I always have the same thought going through my head that I'd love to transform this old doocot into a house & owning the grass field below where I could have my own fly fishing pond, a huge poly tunnel for my chilli plants, vegetable garden, orchard & have loads of animals such as pigs, goats, more hens & maybe even a pet donkey !
"Biel doocot"
References to Biel go back to the 12th century. It came into the hands of a branch of the Hamilton family, later Nisbet-Hamilton, in 1647. An early tower house was altered & extended in stages from 1760.
The 17th/18th century doocot double lectern doocot sits on a plinth in a field at the top of a bank above a narrow haugh, about 500m from the mansion. The stonework is particularly attractive consisting of random rubble, red & honey sandstone, lightly pointed with matching gravelly mortar. The south facing doorway to each chamber has moulded facings & a relieving arch & above each is a small round air vent.
There are two stringcoarses encircling the building, the upper one in the front serving as an eaves cornice.
The two chambers are in very different condition. The west chamber is bounded by a gable & a partition wall which breaks the roof, both descending from the briefly returning rear parapet in 9 broad steps. It's roof has partly gone as has the wooden row of 12 flight holes half way up. Part of the upper rear wall is also missing, exposing some of the nest boxes. Most of the original complement of these remain, set on a 500mm plinth, just over 1000 of stone with 50mm ledges. Unusually for a rectangular chamber, a potence beam is propped up against one wall with a single ladder attached, although they are surprisingly short in relation to the height of the chamber.
The east chamber,on the other hand, has completely lost it's roof & the rear & gable walls are reduced to only 2.3m, the front wall to about 4m. Only about 360 of the original 1000 nest boxes remain.

When I first entered the doocot I startled a couple of pigeons, as the slapped their wings to leave the doocot I looked up at them only to see a beautiful barn owl take flight at my presence too, I was gutted that I never had my camera ready to catch a picture or two of it. Amongst the copious amounts of pigeon poo were dozens & dozens of owl pellets, these are the remains of the owls meal & parts which the owl can't digest such as bones, fur, teeth etc, the owl spits these out in a tightly formed pellet.. 
As you can see on the above two pictures the first pellet which has a rodent skull, bones & hair in it & the second of just some of the pellets which littered the doocot floor, these are the dark thumb sized dark patches on the floor.

I set off for the edge of the field which Biel doocot stands & on the edge of the woodland I sat for half an hour eating, drinking & dreaming at this view thinking if only I had the money !

So snapping out of my wishful thoughts I entered into the woods towards my next doocot which sits on the next former estate of Belton not too far away but it took a little longer bush whacking through the woods.

Over the wall into a horse field.

Down by the Biel burn it was nice & cool out the direct sun & the smell from the wild garlic covering the woodland floor was amazing, very strong & pungent. 
My friends & I used to fish up here all the time when we were bairns & I always remember seeing my first what I can only think was a vampire bat which was feeding from a grazing cow in the grey dark a bit further upstream.

Strong smelling wild garlic everywhere on the woodland floor.

"Belton doocot"
The original tower house of the ancient Belton estate passed through several hands. It had virtually disappeared beneath subsequent additions by the late 19th century & has subsequently been razed.
The random rubble double lectern doocot is tightly hemmed in by the encroaching foliage from the woodland & lies some way from the house site. A stringcoarse runs along the gables & briefly returns along the rear. The gables are crow stepped as is the party wall between the chambers which breaks the roof. The original roofing has been replaced with corrugated iron sheeting.
The single door on the front gives into two chambers, the left-hand having housed a gas lighting plant since before Niven Robertson's visitin the 1950's which probably accounts for the insertion of a modern window. All it's nesting boxes have been filled in. It's east facing roof is submerged in ivy. The right-hand chamber has lost the lower part of it's corrugated roof & the wooden row of flight holes which ran across the middle of it from gable to gable is dilapidated. About 400 of it's original complement of nearly 777 nest boxes remain, set on a plinth 0.6m high above floor level.
The crow steps are barely recognisable as such, but otherwise the walls are in fair condition.

From Belton a short ride along the road & I then went back into the grounds belonging to Biel estate.

Through the trees now & then I could see the Biel doocot poking through.

On the way back home now & the every other field seems to be oil seed rape this year emitting it's strong floral smell.

Up along the railway path then under both the railway & A1 dual carriageway.

Through the trees & once into the clearing I met a couple of council workers strimming the pathway, a great job in this weather out in the sun, in the countryside & getting paid for it.

Passing by these poor sorry looking old houses at Little Pinkerton.

The last doocot of the day & this one is in somones garden so I could only get the one picture of it poking above the wall (top picture) the bottom two are courtesy of Google images.
"Meikle Pinkerton doocot"
Pinkerton estate was once the property of the ducal family of Roxburgh, but there is no trace left of any residence earlier than the present late 18th century or early 19th century farmhouse of Meikle Pinkerton.
The doocotstands in the garden behind the farmhouse. Although cicrcular & tapering it's walls do not have the usual convex elevation of the beehive style doocots. Also while the walls are very wide at the foot they narrow with height to give a cylindrical interior. it is probably therefore much later in date than the typical beehive doocot & likely to have once been a windmill base, converted to new use, as suggested by John Hume.
The partly rendered rubble walls roughly coursed have a high stringcoarse above which are the remains of what was once a ring of 17 flight holes below the eaves. The  former conical slated roof is missing.
There is a doorway on the east side & a window nearby. The floor is sunk. Most of the original 762 stone nest boxes remain & the potence is present but no longer in situ.

Last wee bit to go & nearly back home riding along the edge of the A1 in a sheep field, a better alternative than cycling along it, and before I know it I was back home all hot & sweaty looking forward to a nice bath after my post ride coffee.

While drinking my coffee it popped into my head that there were another couple of doocots local to me that I'd completely forgot about, so after having my bath I jumped into my van & drove to them to complete this blog post.
"Stenton doocot"
The tower at Stenton is in fact free-standing, being all that's left of the 16th century church. (A later church now stands close by in the graveyard) This is the only church tower still used by pigeons. There are 6 flight holes with ledges in a wooden panel inserted into an arched aperture on the south side & five groups of twelve wooden nest boxes.

"Hailes Castle doocot"
Hailes castle was founded by an Earl of Dunbar in the 13th century & passed through several hands before falling to Cromwell's troops in 1650. Subsequently nest boxes were built into the ruin & in some cases incised into the walls & about 300 remain.

So there you go, just some of the many doocots near to me where I live, now that Iv'e covered the ones closest to me I think I'll chuck the bike into my van soon & take a trip around some of the other doocots a bit further from home.
I hope you enjoyed Part 2 of the...

..."The Day Of The Doocot"...

Thanks for tagging along.