Cover-up operation to protect village's heritage

WORKERS are on top of the job at historic Leyden's Cottage in Denholm.

They are giving the roof of the 18th-century home its first re-thatch in 60 years – and when work finishes they will have laid around three tons of prime Tayside reeds.

The roof was stripped back to the timber sarking to allow David Brooks and his workmates to put down 10 layers of weather-beating reed bales. That will leave a waterproof covering around one foot thick.

Poet and language expert Dr John Leyden was born under the cottage's thatch in 1775 and it is still occupied.

Heading the thatchers, 39-year-old David is from the nine-strong company of Peter Brugges of Manchester.

And far from a dying trade they are in great demand.

He told TheSouthern: "A lot of people think thatched roofs are a thing of the past, but they are still very popular. Devon, Dorset and Cornwall are the main areas – but their popularity is coming back.

"In the many new villages that are springing-up, developers are opting for thatched roofs as a way of returning to the past.

"And some householders are removing the slates and replacing them with thatch instead. And there are grants to encourage people to make the change."

David has been in the trade for 12 years.

He told us: "I wouldn't say it is really difficult, but does demand a bit of skill. And when a cottage is finished you get tremendous satisfaction."

And although most his work is south of the border – the reeds come from the north. He explained: "We use a lot of reeds from the Tay. They are excellent and in great demand"

Leyden Cottage had its ridge re-turfed by the same company in 1985, but the last total re-thatching was in 1944. A roof normally lasts 40 years.

Dr Leyden was the son of a shepherd who went to Edinburgh University at the age of 15 and qualified in divinity and medicine. He learned over 40 languages.

He helped Sir Walter Scott collect ballads, became a judge in India and died aged 36 years on an expedition to Java.