Archives for the month of: May, 2014
The Coo Palace

Picture by CKD Galbraith

Castle Haven, locally known as “The Coo Palace” is an Edwardian dairy built by the Knockbrex estate by the coast at Corseyard. As it’s about three miles from our house towards the beach, visitors often spot it and ask what it is. Built for the finest dairy cows on the estate at the time, the building was once home to 14 cows and the dairyman (who lived in an apartment in the tower). It’s been empty for decades now and, despite some temporary repairs to the roof of the tower, is in a bad way. It’s A-listed and officially on the buildings at risk register. Now, however, it looks like there may be plans afoot to bring this dilapidated building back to life. You can read the estate agent’s particulars here.

The Holiday Property Bond are in the process of buying the dairy and have plans to convert it into holiday accommodation for their bondholders. The current plans are for 21 apartments, created from renovating the existing buildings (the tower will be kept as a viewing platform) and some sympathetic new builds on the site. The company and their architect invited the community council to a site visit last week and held a public meeting in the village hall to show their plans and discuss the scheme. The plans seem like a viable solution to saving an otherwise collapsing building and, like all small rural communities, Borgue could benefit from the extra income and jobs the development will create. I wonder if the visitors would fancy buying in home baking and handmade “ready” meals…?

Over the last couple of weeks our house martins, the unofficial welcome party to our arrival last August, have come home to roost. A couple of their old nests were relocated after the repairs to the fascia and guttering but they seem to be very happily building new ones and renovating the old ones.

Every morning, from our bathroom window, we’ve been watching a pair hard at work with strands of dried grass and mud, supplementing the existing nest and preparing it for fresh eggs. Two other nests are under construction either side of our bedroom window. The construction process seems to be that they start out by creating a golf-ball-size lump of material as the core and then weave out from there to make a suspended hollow in the gap under the eaves.

They certainly seem to be enjoying the sunshine and showers, swooping and diving all over the garden as the rain falls to take advantage of confused flies and midgies. They are a whirl of activity, constantly flitting between nest and lawn at incredible speed and gobbling up anything that comes along on their flight path. Anything that decimates that many bugs must be a boon, especially with peak midgie season coming up and no harsh winter to wipe them out.

We think there are also some swifts nesting in the eaves. Swifts don’t really bother making nests, laying eggs on bare surfaces, or creating a hodge-podge of feather and debris. The swifts prefer hunting at dusk, in the gap between other birds feasting and the bats coming out for their midnight feast.

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Much to the kids’ delight we finally unpacked all their toys from the garage this week and moved them into the playroom. We still have a couple of wee jobs to do in here (putting up pictures, reattaching the shutters, covering the window seat and making a play table) but it’s pretty much there and looks really great, especially now it’s full of toys and life. As you can probably tell, Arthur particularly enjoyed posing for the photos!

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The cupboard has gobbled up all their reading books with room for more and the painted floor makes the room feel light and bright while still being easy to clean. The walls are in Farrow and Ball’s Dayroom Yellow and the floors are Ecos Organic Paints white floor paint. The best thing about both products is they have no smell. When you are constantly decorating, as we have been, you really appreciate not having to breathe in nasty paint fumes. I really notice it now when we’re using standard paints and varnishes. 

Kester can’t believe there’s all this stuff to play with and is enjoying exploring for himself, We’ve put most of his toys in the chest in the middle of the floor with some more in the bottom layer of the storage unit so they are easy for him to access.

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By a happy accident, the white plastic ice-cream tubs they give away at Cream O Galloway for re-use fit the second layer of the storage unit shelves perfectly. So, in exchange for a small donation to red squirrel conservation, we’ve given several tubs a new home and they now store stickle bricks, Barbies (they fit perfectly in the 6L tubs), Barbie clothes, toy cars, Happy Land characters and animal toys. Smaller, squarer open tubs house foam shapes, pipe cleaners, feathers, ribbons, thread and other crafty bits and bobs. Reduce, reuse and recycle.

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So, another room almost done. Although the point of having a playroom is that we can close the door on chaos at the end of the day, the way it’s set up makes it really easy for the kids to tidy up after themselves. Even after the excitement of its debut outing and rediscovering every item in the unit, it took less than ten minutes and not much chiding from Mum to get it all tidy again. Fingers crossed it lasts!

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A busy week of work on the garden and house. Despite rubbish weather, our WWOOFing family got stuck in to the outdoor jobs. As a result we have now cleared the old compost pile and created all of our 16 vegetable beds with most of them planted up. We also have on completely full wood shed and the other one well on its way. Serge was a whizz with the chainsaw so got through a huge amount of the wood in the field. We also potted up our tomato plants with the girls. We have 19 plants in total, all now in their final pots and ready to grow in the sun room. Hoping for a bumper tomato crop later in the year.

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We’ve also made some more progress indoors. Matt has painted the floor in the playroom and made this very cute dressing up rack from salvaged timber. We’ve also got hold of the first pallet we need for making a potting bench and I made an art display board from more salvaged wood, chalkboard paint and bulldog clips. We’re hoping to get the playroom finished and full of the kid’s toys by the end of the weekend. Woo – another room down.

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Charles Jencks, landscape artist, architectural theorist and philanthropist lives near Dumfries at Portrack House. Once a year, he opens his garden, The Garden of Cosmic Speculation, to the public in aid of Scotland’s Gardens and Maggie’s (the charity founded in honour of his late wife) for just one day every year. Not surprisingly, it was very popular with around 2,000 visitors over the course of the afternoon, including a few camper-van loads of circus-skill fanatics in interesting leggings.

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The 18th century manor house (substantially extended and altered by James Barbour in 1879) is in an idyllic spot but Jencks and Keswick’s vision has made the surrounding gardens quite remarkable. We only had a couple of hours to spend here and the day was dull but the gardens are amazing to explore with fascinating details everywhere you looked and stimulation for all your senses.

Arthur’s favourite was the garden of six sense (not the ones you think) and mine was the Octagonal folly (a library) and the potting shed. Major potting shed envy.

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The gardens aren’t all artifice and manipulation either. There were some gorgeous old trees, including a beautiful magnolia effectively obscuring one of the house’s windows and a gorgeous woodland walk. Given the time of year, the paths were strewn with masses of bluebells.

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It’s the kind of garden I’d love to have but am never likely to have the eye, time or money to do. Still, we can dream and it’s always good to see gardens tackling the same soil and climate conditions with such aplomb. They might even have persuaded me on the dubious merits of rhododendrons.

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Whee!

A bit of a hiatus on blogging of late, mainly due to having Arthur’s birthday and a family of WWOOFers to occupy us. Arthur had a lovely birthday and, despite the disappointing May weather, is enjoying his new garden play park! Here’s some pictures of the day, including fun and games in the garden.

For those not in the know, Arthur is dressed as Super Arthur Badgery (his superhero alter-ego), despite the supposed castle theme.

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Hunting for dragon eggs.

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What time is it, Mr Dragon?