Investigating Dunans Bridge: Checking the underlying structure of our Thomas Telford-designed A-listed structure

By Dixon-Spain

Barty in a supervisory role

This week the bridge is being investigated – carefully, slowly and with due regard for its age, possible infirmaties and status.

Our structural engineer, Steve Wood (David Narro Associates) , Heritage Consolidation, the contractors, our QS Gordon Brown (Brown & Wallace), our Planning advisor, John Paton (Paton Planning & Development) and of course our architect, Robin Kent (Robin Kent Architecture & Conservation), along with the scaffolders had a day working on and planning for the bridge – as well as the rest of the site.

Of course we took lots of photos, see below, and the initial conclusions were very interesting.

Safety procedures
Support for the second trench
Beginning the second trench
The t-shaped trench
Another view of t-shaped trench
Overhead of the t
From the right, showing the rib
Overhead from the left hand side showing a "Telford" rib

In the second trench (this sounds SO like Time Team) we discovered an extraordinary structural indicator that would, if confirmed by historical experts, mean that Thomas Telford did indeed design and build the bridge (there’s no extant paperwork). Needless to say Architect, Structural Engineer, Heritage Consolidation and ScottishLaird are all very, very excited.

We’ll post more via our Lairds and Ladies newsletter later next week!

The Drovers and the Laird: Premiered today on Dunans Bridge for an Octogenarian Laird of Dunans Castle @TWTC

By Dixon-Spain


It was bound to happen at some point: the two companies working so successfully side-by-side at Dunans would eventually get together and create a theatrical piece for our Lairds and Ladies.

Well, today marked the first performance of a specially commissioned play ‘The Drovers and the Laird’ by the The Walking Theatre Company, written by my lovely/their very own in-house play-wright, Sadie Dixon-Spain, and performed by Rebecca Bloom, Janis Marshall-Reilly and John Love.

The play begins in 1715 and tells the tale of the arrival at ‘Dounens’ of the first Fletcher. Rob Roy MacGregor makes an appearance as does the lovely Anne McNabb, however more than these snippets I will not reveal because next year we’re going to put on several performances of the play for our Lairds and Ladies.

Rebecca Bloom (front left) and Sadie Dixon-Spain (front right) with other members of The Walking Theatre Company a couple of years ago!

When you ask? Well the dates are not confirmed, but we think four or five weekends through the summer, and each will be available to our Lairds and Ladies well in advance to enable travel plans.

We’re also developing “command performances” for very special Lairds and Ladies – more on the website soon.

You may also be wondering why the picture of woodland at the top? Well, the party asked not to have photos taken on the day, so our only option was a long distance shot of the opening scene – on the bridge, in the sunshine. I can attest that there was lots of laughter, but the performers and audience are not really visible at all. Oh well. Next time we’ll get Jean Donaldson of Powan to take some crackers!

Burning stumps: After a year of seasoning the remains of the larches, we decided it was time to clear them …

By Dixon-Spain


A quiet Sunday, lots of brash and some stumps. A great way to develop a proper thirst over the course of a day.

With bonfire expertise provided by the inimitable Bruce Allen and labour by myself we burned through three and made inroads into another three. By the end of the operation access into the woodland at the top of Dunans policies was properly enabled.

The pints of Highlander were especially welcome that evening. Now all I have to do is put in the culverts!

Fabulous 3D fly-by of Dunans: Laser survey creates a stunning movie of the castle and house

By Dixon-Spain

The work by AOC to create a detailed laser survey of the castle has borne fruit in the most spectacular fashion. This fly-by generated by the data shows the level of detail that the technique has captured. We’re delighted because this represents a really detailed dataset from which drawings and plans can be elaborated – and all enabled by our Lairds’ and Ladies’ support.

Thinking about Christmas? We’ve a New Groupon UK offer from the 13th September!

By Dixon-Spain

We’re always delighted to work with Groupon, and this offer is no exception. There will be an opportunity to take up this offer until 2nd October, so plenty of time, and nice and early for Christmas!

Groupon offers like this have proved particularly important to the restoration project as they have brought us to a much wider market in the UK, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand. Without Groupon for example we would not have been able to move forward with the Conservation Plan as quickly, nor provided the match-funding for the restoration of the bridge.

For more information on what we are planning we have books, a Lairds and Ladies site, as well as the Dunans Castle Limited site.

(And for those of you who wonder about the technology which underpins our endeavours, we use a self-hosted WordPress blog, the wp e-commerce plugin and some very nifty proprietory addons to both – which enable both these offers and our other online operations.

We’re always innovating technically of course, and that’s one of my skills – I find the manipulation of mysql, php, css, etc. to make us a more efficient operation endlessly fascinating … for example, I have just realised that when entering voucher codes into our database, creating individual queries for each code is much more efficient – reducing input time from three hours to half an hour – more time to concentrate on the restoration project!)

Gloriously Sunny September Sunday at Dunans

By Dixon-Spain


We’re awaiting the arrival of contractors for the investigatory works on the bridge, a meeting with the architect, and the reports on laser and bat surveys. In the meantime I am writing the business plan the bridge in order to consolidate the funding application to Historic Scotland. Its concentrated desk work, and for relief I took a walk in the pasture at the back of the castle yesterday, these photos are the result.