Dunnottar Woods Bluebells

A carpet of bluebells catch the woodland light

Through the Lens by Andy Hall –

Now that we are in May, my photographic thoughts turn to the bluebells that will appear in Dunnottar Woods at the end of the month. It is a special time of year.

In this example, the key feature is the vivid colour of the carpet of bluebells. It is important, therefore, to give over most of the frame to the impact of the soft, intense colour.

It is equally crucial to give part of the frame to the context of the woods. The dappled light of the sun filtering through the canopy of the trees adds to the atmosphere. For this to be achieved, the best conditions are at midday in full sunshine.

Compositionally, the trunks need to be carefully positioned to provide balance to the image. The dominant trunks, one lit, one unlit, are placed at either side to allow the viewer’s eye to explore the darkened interior of the woods.

For more of Andy’s articles – look to the GALLERIES tab above

Dunnottar Woods Appeal

From Ann-Marie Yates on behalf of The Dunnottar Woodland Committee

Dunnottar Woodland Committee along with Forestry & Land Scotland are appealing for the public’s help after a spate of antisocial behaviour and vandalism within Stonehaven’s historic woods. 

Posters have been placed within the woods asking for people to report anything suspicious on Police Scotland’s 101 number after numerous outbreaks of antisocial behaviour which have resulted in members of the public and committee clearing large amounts of litter, broken bottles, drug paraphernalia and glass away from various locations in the woods. The Shell House door has been vandalised, and large/dangerous holes have been dug into Gallows Hill to create jumps for local mountain bike enthusiasts. 

The woods welcome many visitors of all ages throughout the seasons, with beautiful historic artefacts such as Lady Kennedy’s Bath and the Shell House to view. Many people walk through the woods, dog owners use the woods daily and the refreshed Fairy Trail has been a huge success bringing in tourists from all over. 

There is a wealth of wildlife within the woods with many beautiful and rare flowers noted over the past few years. 

Volunteers are left to tidy up – dogs and walkers have suffered injuries from broken glass

The Woodland Committee are working closely with the local police and Forestry & Land Scotland and are considering whether battery operated CCTV needs to be installed in the vandalism hotspots. 

The committee would love to continue to welcome everyone of all ages to use and enjoy the woods. It has always been a perfect place to meet, walk and enjoy a picnic but unfortunately recent events are putting people and animals at risk. 

Please report any antisocial behaviour on Police Scotland’s 101 number. 

Feature image – graffiti destroying beauty of the woods. Please note this was edited on grounds of taste

Open Day At Stonehaven Golf Club

Stonehaven Golf Club is having an Open Day this Sunday May 9th 11am – 1pm and you’re cordially invited. It’s an opportunity to find out more about the club’s facilities and how you can join the thousands of men, women and children over the decades who’ve derived such pleasure from a membership at their local club.

Stonehaven Golf Club is a place to enjoy your golf, marvel at spectacular views, make new friends, eat splendid food and create happy memories. Generations have enjoyed both the golf and the social aspect of Stonehaven Golf Club, perhaps it’s your time to create memories too.

If you’d like to come along this Sunday just drop your name and contact number on an email to info@stonehavengolfclub.com and the club will look forward to offering you –

·       Free 9 holes of golf

·       Introduction to the club & facilities

·       Free tea/coffee/refreshments

·       Special membership offers

Visit Stonehaven but Don’t Visit Loos

the toilet block at the harbour

Dear Bellman,

Aberdeenshire Council at its caring best!

The Old Pier cafe is open throughout the week, the Seafood Bothy is open Thursday to Sunday, children and others use the beach every day and yet the toilets at the Harbour are open only at weekends.

The Council’s expectation must be that people should not patronise these places except at weekends, or what is more likely they do not care. After all, the toilets in Margaret Street are open! 

Yours etc,

Douglas J. Cusine

Stonehaven Twitcher Left Speechless at Orca Sighting

the distinctive long fin of an orca

From Ian Hastie –

My neighbour had tipped me off earlier and I was watching three garganey duck (2 drake, 1 female) in the bay, a scarce North East visitor and the first time I’d seen the species in Stonehaven.

After a few minutes they flew North towards Cowie so I ventured in that direction. I didn’t manage to relocate them but was enjoying watching two groups of long tailed duck, a summer plumaged red throated diver, nice stuff really.

Anyway, a birder I knew turned up looking for the garganey I’d reported and I told them I hadn’t relocated them but we continued looking.

After a few minutes I watched with my mouth open as a large fin moved past 6.30 pm (it was a bull orca). It took me a few seconds to utter ‘orca’. It was apparent there were at least four in the group but probably more. The group moved fairly swiftly North and my last more distant sighting was about 650pm.

I had put news out on local wildlife grapevines and a few keen watchers moved to key points along the coastline. The orcas were sighted off Muchalls, Newtonhill, Portlethen and Doonies so it was gratifying that so many people managed to catch up with this elusive mammal.

Groups Encouraged to Apply for Funding Top Ups

By bellmannews / April 30, 2021
deep blue sky backs shot of the picturesque pavilion

AT this week’s Kincardine and Mearns Area Committee meeting, one councillor described the annual disbursement of their top up fund as ‘a really important part of our work’ and said the local authority should do its best to promote awareness of the scheme.

Councillor Colin Pike made his comments during a short discussion on the criteria of the fund, which this year will offer £80,800 in grants to groups in the area. He later said the local authority’s communications team could help raise awareness of the fund by flagging all awards.

The importance of the fund was equally recognised by Mr Pike’s colleagues.

Cllr George Carr said: ”I am a ‘great champion of the area budget and put it forward to community groups whenever I can.’

Cllr Alson Evison meanwhile recommended the Kincardineshire Development Partnership as an agency that could help groups find other funding sources to help with the match funding.

Top up to remain at 50% but discretion for more help agreed

Normally, 50% of the cost of a project should be met by the applicant – but as an exception for this year, in light of fundraising difficulties during the pandemic, the committee was considering a proposal by area manager Bruce Stewart to reduce the requirement to 25%.

Mr Stewart noted the contribution of volunteers had always been considered, but greater clarity was being given on how to value it.

Cllr Sarah Dickinson welcomed the support the fund offered to the community – but said she thought a 75% contribution was too much as the fund was not intended to be seed money for a project.

”I would prefer to give you the discretion to work with our communities that come to you with applications, and that if they come to you saying they truly had explored options and cannot for whatever reason meet the 50% criteria, to then give you the discretion to come to the committee with the recommendation to give 75%.”

Mrs Dickinson’s proposal was met with support from all colleagues present – Cllr Sandy Wallace was not in attendance having given his apologies.

Feature image – the restoration of the recreation grounds pavilion was one project helped by last year’s top up budget

Previously in The Bellman

Motor Club Gearing Up for August Rally

blue rally car coming out of corner at speed

From Grampian Forest Rally media team –

Stonehaven and District Motor Club, organisers of the Grampian Forest Rally are buoyed by recent developments in the planning of the event and are “confident of providing another top-class motorsport event” on 14th August.
Based at Crathes near Banchory, just 15 miles from Aberdeen, and using the Kincardineshire forests in compact route, the Grampian Forest Rally will be welcoming both the British Rally Championship and KNC Groundworks Scottish Rally Championship, with the event in line to be the biggest motorsport event in the North East of Scotland this year.
With local restrictions beginning to ease, the event management team have been able to carry out valuable route surveys and with a strong event team in place, they are ahead of schedule for the rally to return having being forced to be cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are very encouraged by the latest developments in the local restrictions and where we are with our own planning of the Grampian Forest Rally,” says Clerk to Lord Lieutenant of Kincardineshire and Rally Secretary, Gordon Ritchie.
“Of course, like many events of this size we have been monitoring the situation closely regarding what we understand will be possible in August and are confident of providing another top-class motorsport event which is worthy of our Coogie Urquhart Trophy, received in 2019 for the best round of the Scottish Rally Championship“.
Whilst the popular Scottish Rally Championship has visited the event for many years, this will be the first time the British Rally Championship has had  a round in North East Scotland since the 1980’s and some of the best drivers in Europe will head to the region to contest iconic special tests such as Durris, Fetteresso and Drumtochty. 
A recent route survey has found the forests to be in fantastic condition and ready to welcome Britain’s elite drivers.
“It was encouraging to access the forests for our initial route surveys and find the forests in a really good state,” continues Ritchie.
“We have always had great praise on the condition of our route and the stages are widely regarded as some of the best in Scotland, but it’s always nice to get that confirmation for ourselves. We are positive the stages will be a challenge for all competitors, new and old.
“The whole country has suffered greatly over the past 12 months and we are all feeling very positive that we can push ahead with the event as planned. Of course, we will adhere to all guidelines provided by the Scottish Government, Motorsport UK and Sport Scotland and abide by any restrictions imposed at the time but we can adapt to accommodate those. It will be a great boost to the whole community to have such a prestigious sporting series as the British and Scottish Championships coming to the county in August and we are sure there will be a thrilling battle in the forests for fans to witness”.

Feature Image: Plans are in full swing for 2021 Grampian Forest Stages (Image credit: Eddie Kelly Motorsport Photography)

Stonehaven Golf Club – midweek Stableford

Having been spoiled recently with sunshine and blue skies, competitors found themselves dodging rain showers during this week’s midweek Stableford at Stonehaven Golf Club. The course was playing longer in the heavier conditions and scores suffered a little, but Joe Meanen didn’t seem to mind, spread-eagling the field of 113 players to win with 42 points. Congratulations Joe, it’s now over to the Handicap Secretary to piddle on your chips and ensure you join the ranks of also-rans next time out. Don’t fear, it’s a comfortable place to be, I’ve been plumping up cushions there for decades now.

There were only 4 NR’s (no-returns) this week, hats off then to those refusing to give up despite a veritable bombsite of a scorecard. It takes courage to allow your embarrassing score to be splashed all over the club’s results board and with this in mind, we salute in particular Keith Douglas. The two-time former club champion who had the (uncharacteristic) decency to confess to his lamentable 22 point return, an X-rated performance which I had the misfortune to witness first hand.

‘ They were lucky to get nil’ some say when their football team has been gubbed by several goals without scoring themselves. Well in this regard, Douglas was lucky to get 22 points so monstrous was his golf, a procession of sclaffs and thinners honking out the course until his coup de grace on the 17th, a full-on shank which found him negotiating his subsequent shot from chest height up by the railway line. However, and how’s this for injustice, he had the bare faced cheek to trouser prize money later that evening when fluking a 2 on the last hole.

Like many members, Douglas had chucked two quid into the ‘Twos’ Competition kitty whereby anyone scoring a 2 during their round receives a share of the proceeds. Stuart Campbell took the entire pot with a hole-in-one recently, but this week 14 players shared the booty, Douglas included. There really should be a rule against duffers like Douglas ‘amassing’ a paltry 22 Stableford points yet finding himself rewarded with hard cash instead of a wooden spoon. Perhaps a 2 must also be accompanied by 30 points or more, I’ll give it some thought and petition the committee accordingly.

To the results then, including last weekend’s Junior Medal. We’re blessed with a healthy Junior Section at Stonehaven Golf Club, both boys and girls. They’re the future of our sport and of our club and it’s encouraging to see so many around the place, they’re a credit the way they carry themselves.

Wednesday Stableford

1.       Joe Meanen – 42 points

2.       Ramsay Bell – 38 points

3.       David Bell – 38 points

9 Hole Stableford

1.       Derek Freeleand – 25 points

Junior 19 Hole Medal

1.       Jamie Sutherland – nett 56

2.       Charlie Locke – nett 65

3.       Joe Locke – nett 67

Mackie Pupils Earn Shared Award

A trick of the camera high five

HAVING both undertaken family and community responsibilities with big hearts and enthusiasm, two pupils from Stonehaven’s Mackie Academy will, for the first time, share this year’s Hannah Dyson Award.

Lachlan McAlpine and Blythe Primrose were nominated by their guidance teachers who wanted the youngsters’ unstinting efforts recognised and rewarded.

The award made by Stonehaven and District Community Council is given to a young person with outstanding youth achievement such as academic or sporting success, an act of bravery, outstanding caring or community service, special achievement despite limitations imposed by hardship, disability or long term illness – or any other appropriate kind of excellence.

A young man with a caring heart

Laura Craig nominated her S6 Fetteresso pupil Lachlan, who had, for some years been a young carer for his grandmother who sadly passed away last summer.  Lachlan’s grandmother, lived with Lachlan’s family and needed round the clock care.  Lachlan was hoist trained and learned how to correctly administer pain relief so he could be involved in every aspect of her physical care.

”However, on talking to Lachlan about his gran,” states Ms Craig, ”it is clear that he placed just as much, if not more, emphasis on her mental and emotional wellbeing. 

”He understood that to give her the best-quality end of life care, spending time with her to talk and just be was extremely important, if she was to feel comfortable and safe.” 

And she said Lachlan attended school and got on with his work while making no comment or complaint about the additional responsibilities he had at home.

Lachlan has also volunteered in a local care home for the elderly and worked in an Aberdeen school for children with complex disabilities.

He said he was part of a family team who cared for his grandmother.

”Our whole family was able to help her,” he said. ”We were all doing our bit. She was family – we were just looking after her.”

Blythe’s community spirit

Suzi Birrell meanwhile felt Blythe Primrose deserved the Hannah Dyson Award for her extensive contribution to her school and local community. The S6 pupil is Dunnottar House Captain – and the Youth Ambassador for The Haven in Stonehaven Community Larder.

Ms Birrell stated: ”As well as giving up her time to volunteer in the larder itself, she has been heavily involved in their fundraising campaign this year to keep the larder open.”

Blythe organised ‘Sounds from the Larder’, an online musical evening to launch the larder’s Crowdfunding event.

And she very successfully put together ‘Mackie Scares Hunger,’ a day’s fundraising at the school, complete with a pumpkin carving competition, the opportunity to dress up for the day, and donations of food or money to support the community project.

Blythe is also an extremely talented young musician and uses her skills to volunteer with Scottish Culture and Tradition’s youth section. Prior to lockdown she also visited local care homes to entertain and share her love of traditional music with the residents.

And you will be able to see Blythe supporting the Haven, yet again, on Saturday when she picks up her fiddle at 11am to serenade those collecting kits and seeds from the Roots to Resilience project.

No award ceremony for this year – but a pleasant surprise for both

Both Lachlan and Blythe said they were embarrassed but delighted by the news of their award. Ms Craig said she had enjoyed giving Lachlan his surprise news by making an announcement during his PSE class.

And Blythe heard her news from staff members keen to share the news.

”Some of the teachers couldn’t contain their excitement,” she said. ”They said they had good news for me!”

While the Community Council is unable to host its usual awards evening, Mackie Academy hope to host a prize-giving in September, when Lachlan and Blythe’s joint receipt of the Hannah Dyson Award can be marked.

University now beckons for both Lachlan and Blythe, who are pictured with teachers Laura Craig (rear left) and Suzi Birrell (rear right)

Feature image – behind the masks there are smiles as the two teenagers do a distanced ‘high five’.

Selling the Dream – Mansion House Marketing Suite Proposals

grim image of partly restored house through security fencing

A PORTION of Stonehaven’s Ury House could be turned into a marketing suite for homes on the estate – if plans get the go-ahead .

FM Ury Limited are applying for planning permission for part change of use of the mansion house to form a sales and Marketing Suite (Class 1). They state they want the permission for three years to allow for the full marketing of all the developments on offer and to assist the property market to recover from the economic downturn and also the pandemic.

Detail on the drawing indicates the sales office would service the marketing on all the houses built on the estate. And there would be a vision of the future golf course conveyed in ‘The Jack Nicklaus Room’ complete with a central feature containing perhaps a model of the course.

While the Golden Bear has designed some 265 courses, according to the Nicklaus Design website, a golf course on the 1,500 acre estate would be one of only 25 courses in the world that are ‘part of the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club family’.

Sale of homes will enable the Ury vision to become a reality

The homes on sale would include 90 homes at the estate’s North Lodge, needed to finance the building of the championship golf course – £160,000 from the sale of each home is earmarked as an ‘enabling sum’ in a legal agreement between Aberdeenshire Council and the developer, drawn up when permission for the houses and the golf course was granted.

Some projects on the estate appear to have stalled – the supermarket and affordable housing units.

But only last week, it was announced work was underway on the construction of the golf course and housing. The opening date for the golf course was set for early Summer 2024.

Stonehaven ruined Ury House
Ury House before the sale of East Lodge housing which is financing its restoration

And the restoration of Ury House itself, also relies upon the continued sale of new homes – permission was given for 230 houses back in 2011 to finance the transformation. Some 179 are being built at the East Lodge area, while the remaining 51, which have been described as luxury family lodges, will be situated near the Blue Lodge off Slug Road.

As the supporting statement in the planning application states, ”a sales and information area will greatly assist the marketing of the residential aspects of the Ury Development, as the project is an enabling development therefore the sales of the residential homes contribute to the restoration of the Mansion House and allow it to be opened as a centre piece of the golf course as club house with restaurant and accommodation for visitors.”

Long planning history at Ury

This is the latest in a string of applications at the house – dating back to 2003 when the developers hoped to turn the house into nine apartments – this was refused due to the proximity of the Forties oil pipeline.

Their later bid to turn the property into a five- bedroomed hotel with golf clubhouse facilities was successful. In 2016 hospitality industry news sites announced the team behind Andy Murray’s hotel, Cromlix, would manage Stonehaven’s boutique mansion hotel.

But by the Autumn of 2019, and citing the economic downturn, the developers turned their sights once more to creating homes and applied for permission for19 flats within the Victorian facade – an application they withdrew before it was determined.

The house built by Sir Alexander Baird, 1st Baronet, in 1885, is currently refurbished to wind and water tight condition.

Full details of the application along with a facility to comment is available online.

This masterplan shows how Ury Estate should develop

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