The band of volunteers who make up the Horizon Group are Stonehaven’s secret weapon.
The group of about 20 members have dedicated their free time for the last 10 years to improving the look of the town, keeping it tidy and brightening the place up with their beautiful flowers.
And until the day I went along to help them out, I had no idea that the Mearns Leader had played a part in the forming of the group.
Convenor of the group, Pamela Dobbie, told me: “The project started as a sub-committee of the community council.
“We were called SCRAP, and it was set up as a reaction to letters that had been published in the Mearns Leader about Stonehaven being a mess, with litter everywhere.
“Once we were established we quickly realised that there was a lot we could do, and this was going to grow and grow.”
And it seems others quickly realised the importance of the group, as they received backing from Stonehaven Business Association and Aberdeenshire Council, and have since gone from strength to strength, acting as a model for other communities who wish to set up similar groups.
The role of Horizon has gathered momentum, and I was amazed to see how much they are responsible for in the town. As well as regular litter picks, members plant and maintain all of the flower displays that you see in the summer months, from hanging baskets and large planters in the Market Square, to the flower displays which make Stonehaven railway station one of only two in Scotland which has been awarded gold standard status for its presentation.
Added to this are several quirky projects which have undoubtedly made the town more pleasant, most notably the Craw’s Nest, a huge undertaking two years in the planning led by Horizon volunteer Trevor Bradley, which saw the group transform the rather neglected ‘Craw’s Nest’ area at the beachfront by designing, sourcing and painstakingly installing a huge Stonehaven inspired mosaic.
Stonehaven’s entries in recent years to the Beautiful Scotland awards, which has earned the town a silver, silver gilt and gold award in recent years, is thanks to the Horizon group, who work closely with Aberdeenshire Council’s landscape services to ensure a high standard is maintained.
Pamela said: “Everyone involved with the group just comes along when they can, and does what they fancy. We actually have a really loyal band of volunteers.
“There is a huge sense of satisfaction that comes from what we do, and we get an awful lot of feedback saying that what we do makes a big difference.”
I spent a morning in May helping to dig up bulbs from displays in the Market Square, in preparation for the planting of the bright colourful flowers which you can now see around Stonehaven. The group couldn’t have been more welcoming and friendly, and our town owes a debt of gratitude to them for their hard work to make Stonehaven a more pleasant place to live and work.