Heather thatched compost toilet

 

Thatch

 

The first heather thatched building to be built for over 100 years in County Durham now houses a compost toilet.  This new building is situated on the edge of the car park and has got to be the poshest outdoor toilet in the country by far!


Heather thatched roofs were commonplace in the dales when heather was available in abundant supply. If you needed a roof, there was no alternative to thatching with ‘ling’, a long heather which grows on the moors.  For centuries, heather was seen as a low-cost and readily available material in places such as Teesdale, the North Yorkshire Moors, Northumberland, Ireland and Scotland.  In the South of England, straw was used instead.  Heather was known locally as ‘black thack’ or ‘ling’, it has a wilder look than straw roofs because of different techniques used and the nature of the material.  This roof material was then soon replaced by slate which became a cheap alternative in the 19th century.


Heather thatched roofs are now a rare sight to see, and the last remaining heather thatched roof in County Durham is Levy Pool Farm near Bowes, a 17th Century property owned by Peter & Susan Coverdale, who own Cross Lanes Organic Farm and run a historic property restoration business.  The family have been renovating the property putting it back to its original condition knowing that the roof was unique in the area. Mr Coverdale then had to rethatch his house after a fire in 2005.


Peter Coverdale decided he wanted to use the traditional material for the roof of the new outdoor toilet at Cross Lanes, as this has got to be the only new build in Teesdale and the North East to have a thatch roof.  The thatched roof was put on by a specialist master thatcher from York, Mr William Tegetmeier.  In total, ten tonnes of heather taken from Whitby area was used.    The modern composting toilet is housed in a beautiful local vernacular style building incorporating stone gables of local reclaimed sandstone with front and back elevations in traditional oak framing with traditional lime plaster panels.  Many of the beams are also genuine medieval timber that has been collected over the years. The steeply pitched roof with overhanging eaves is ‘black thatch’ or heather thatching, which creates a great domed stack over the stonework.


Several properties in Teesdale still had thatch within living memory.  The Red Lion in Cotherstone had the last heather thatched roof in the village but  was destroyed in a fire in 1936 and there is a picture of a thatched house in Bridgegate, Barnard Castle. 

 

Local paper the Teesdale Mercury have features an article on this.


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