Pupils investigate hidden gem on their doorstep
Primary 7 pupils at Whatriggs Primary had no idea that their school was sitting right next to a real hidden gem in the form of Bellfield Estate.
The Buchanan family from Glasgow lived on the estate in the late 19th century and its 250 acre grounds had a grand mansion house as its centrepiece in which three sisters, Margaret, Jane and Elizabeth lived. All of the sisters were unmarried, and when Elizabeth, the last sister, passed away in 1875, the estate, mansion house with its well-stocked library and walled garden were given to the people of Kilmarnock to enjoy along with a substantial bequest.
For many years people enjoyed walks in the estate and the mansion house hosted weddings. A rock garden with pond was added in the 1930s. But by the 1970s the mansion house was becoming too expensive to maintain and it was demolished. Today only the surrounds of the walled garden remain.
The Primary 7 pupils decided that the estate’s history was fascinating and were keen to learn more about its past and its natural environment. Local historians and Fiona Samson, the granddaughter of the former Head Gardener, visited the P7 classes to support pupils in developing a Heritage/Nature Trail.
Pupils decided that the trail would consist of eight sites of interest such as the former mansion house and Redwood trees which were brought over by the Buchanan family from the USA. Pupils also visited the estate several times to determine what they would like to include in the trail before splitting into groups back at school to put their research together for their selected site of interest.
At each site, a QR Code is available for scanning which will provide the information and photographs which were researched by pupils. The QR Codes and the posts they sit on were kindly donated by Morrison Construction who built the school.
There is also a paper copy of the trail with a map and information about all sites including opportunities to bird watch and take part in a Bug Hunt. Pupils hope that visitors will be able to enjoy walks in the estate and scan the information from the QR codes to read on their phones or mobile devices.
One of the pupils who took part was Gemma Higgins. She said: “I enjoyed learning about the heritage and nature in Bellfield Estate. I didn’t know anything about its past which is so interesting.”
Fellow pupil Kieren Freeburn added: “I learned a lot about the Buchanan Sisters and their estate. I enjoyed helping to write for the trail and making the QR codes which will help share the information we researched.”
Provost Jim Todd officially opened the trail, saying: “Taking part in this project has allowed pupils to develop real life literacy skills through creative writing and numeracy exercises such as measuring the height of trees. All of the pupils who took part have achieved the Heritage Hero Award and the John Muir Award for their contributions so well done to all of them for their enthusiasm and hard work.”
Notes to editors
Photo 1: Provost Todd with P7 pupils at the launch.
Photo 14: Chloe O'Dea, Euan Wilson, Carly Deans, Callum Currie and Emily Campbell.