Clinging to the moss edge

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Flanders Moss NNR

In one of the most out of the way, hidden corners of Flanders Moss there is a ruin. Just a pile of stones, mostly scattered but some still in an arranged form that shows that it was once a cluster of buildings. It lies across a boundary ditch to what is Flanders Moss today, on the edge of a part of the wider peat bog that unfortunately got planted up with conifer trees in the late 1960s. The rubble of stones is now completely over-shadowed by a maturing spruce crop, some of which has been blown across the ruin. It doesn’t look much but there are hints that it might once have been a more pleasant place to live.

It was maybe a bit of a damp place to live, situated between the boundary stream and the flood-prone Goodie Water. The sagging of some of remnants of layers of stone suggest that the wet foundations of clay may have moved when the floods reached the farm. Pre-plantation, a couple of big old ash trees still present would have shaded and sheltered the small farm when the next nearest trees were hundreds of yards away. They now stands cowering under the conifers. The dressed stones of what must have been a bridge across the ditch now lie scattered and broken. A threshold stone still lies where it was once crossed, and maybe sat upon, many times a day. This is the remains of the steading of Pollabay. The echos of its past life are hard to hear but they do beg the questions: who? why? and how?

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The sagging of old walls

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Old bridge stones lying by the boundary ditch

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An old hearth stone

A delve into the history books and records reveal a bit of its history. Pollabay was once a small farm associated with the larger farming unit of Blaircessnock lying to the west. There would have been a bridge across the Goodie, perhaps before the river was dredged deep, leading to Lower Tarr farm in the north. On early OS maps of the 1800s it is shown as being roofless and therefore uninhabited but sometime after that it was renovated and became a working farm. A Flanders Moss oral history project carried out in 2009 captured the memories of some of the older local people and Bertie Dougal of Mid Borland farm at the time could remember that a local farmer called Dan Fisher had been born there. According to Bertie, the Fisher family moved from Pollabay about 120 years ago, about 1900, and it may have fallen into ruin from then. It was always a small farm, probably barely big enough to support a family even in those days so when better tenanted farms became vacant farmers moved up the ladder. Pollaby was probably always a msrginal place to live, physically and economically.
Standing on the edge of the steading  it is hard to imagine it as a working farm with lives lived there and harder still to imagine that there were arable crops grown on either side of the Goodie Water on what is now peatland-edge wetlands. The Fisher family would have had a closer connection to Flanders than just about anybody has these days, living and working on the damp edge of the wide expanse of peat. These ruins mark a social change that is a blink of the eye in the life of Flanders Moss but it is still important to remember the past connections of people with the moss, as this colours our view of it today.
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An aerial view of the Goodie Water with the old farm ground of Pollabay lying to the right of it (the pale grass between the straight line of the Goodie Water and the purple of the deep peat. ). The ruins lie hidden in the plantation.

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