Work will make mill even more inviting

Mill of Benholm

As winter moves slowly towards spring, work is progressing on several fronts to make the Mill of Benholm even more inviting to visitors than it already is.

In 2009 the tourist attraction suffered a devastating blow when a landslide which removed a section of the bank above the gorge of the Benholm Burn forced the closure of the popular walk from the car park through the ancient Mill Brae Wood.

Still, nothing daunted, the Mill of Benholm Project, the registered charity which manages the A Listed building and its immediate environs in partnership with Aberdeenshire Council is well along the road to creating an intriguing alternative.

Soon, instead of turning left after entering the wood from the tea room, walkers will be able to turn right and, after gaining the higher ground and following the contours in a clockwise direction will reach a viewing platform overlooking the burn just below the garden of the former manse.

On the way back there is a Jacob’s Ladder, constructed by members of the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers (BTCV) and financed by a grant of £2,500 from the NHS Health Improvement Fund, which leads gently down to the burn, where some interesting time may be spent before returning to the tea room. Further improvements intended to foster the biodiversity of the wood will include the essential removal of dead elms and ideally their eventual replacement with a type of tree which will create warmth and protect the side of the valley from the cold winds which sweep down from the Garvock.

Underlying all those improvements, though, is the Project’s belief that by creating a “woodland walk for all the family” they will be promoting a more healthy lifestyle generally.

Enhancement of the amenity is always at the forefront of the management’s thoughts and access for disabled visitors has been a concern for some time. The slope from the car park is “challenging”, even for the able-bodied but now, thanks to a grant of £5,000 from Kincardine and Mearns Area Committee Top-Up budget, Aberdeenshire Council’s Roads service will shortly be laying two designated car parking spaces close to the tea room.

While every effort is made to carry out those improvements as quickly as possible, the speed at which they will actually take place is largely dependent on external funding and the Project is constantly exploring additional sources of finance.

Volunteering, too, is a key element in the success of the enterprise and the management team consider themselves very fortunate in the quality and enthusiasm of their present volunteers but are always keen to welcome more, especially in the tea room which was able to open from Monday to Saturday during the summer as a result of one additional person offering to help.

On a sadder note, the horticultural trainees are currently working on the creation of a memorial garden in honour of one of their former colleagues, 46 year-old Alyson Reid, who tragically died in January. Alyson was a very popular member of the group and her friends have themselves designed the garden and are trying hard to raise funds to buy a bench and plants for a trellis.

Meanwhile, the tearoom which is now a regular haunt of many, is open Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. serving light lunches, scones and teas and coffees and on occasions superb home-made cakes and sponges. Whether such a menu is in line with a healthy living concept is maybe questionable, but, after a woodland walk – very fine nevertheless!

Looking a bit further ahead, the team plans to have a camera fitted up in a nest box so that visitors can view its ongoings on a TV screen in the tea room.

Plans are also well on the way to recommencing the Saturday morning workshops which are open to families from the local area and involve arts, crafts and science.

Then in May the Mill will be a venue for Mills on the Air and Yellow’s on the Broom workshops; in July and August Mike Samson, a lecturer in painting at Aberdeen College of Art will conduct a number of painting classes and also in August a bat and moth evening is to be held by Aberdeenshire Council’s Countryside Rangers. In September the Mill will again participate in the annual North East Open Studios event.

Managed by the Mill of Benholm Project in partnership with Aberdeenshire Council, the Mill of Benholm is idyllically situated just off the A92, roughly half-way between Johnshaven and Inverbervie. As well as comprising a mill museum with a working water wheel, a woodland and burnside walk, tearoom and small shop/educational facility it provides training and employment opportunities for adults with learning difficulties.

Further information may be obtained from the Mill’s website <> email <> or by telephone on 01561 362466. Group bookings may be made on 01561 361969.

Community Council Left-Overs

Pressure of space in last week’s Jottings meant that a number of interesting items from the monthly meeting of the Community Council went unreported.

One of the most enterprising ideas to emerge in the village for some time is the establishment, with the co-operation of the Heritage Society, of a community café within the Lifeboat House. This met with the approval of councillors at the meeting to the extent that they agreed to make an award of £100 to the Johnshaven Community Café Group to enable them to open a bank account and cover the expenses of a forthcoming open day when the concept will be aired.

Community councillors are used to dealing with problems and one which never seems to go away is that of vehicles speeding on the village streets. At one time installing speed humps was the traffic calming method most favoured by the Community Council but this was ruled out by the authorities some years ago and, although a 20 mph speed restriction was introduced throughout the village, the dangers remain particularly at the moment along Fore Street.

However, there are 20mph signs only at the entrances to the village and it was suggested at the meeting that reminders at strategic points might be helpful as might flyers through letter boxes. From the police perspective there are technical difficulties in catching offenders, while it is not easy for officers to be in the right place at the right time. Meanwhile, members felt there was little they could do at present other than “keep an eye on the situation.”

Another long-standing issue is about to be resolved, however, with confirmation that the paperwork related to the receipt of funding has now been completed and work to reinstate the “school steps” will begin once the weather “picks up a bit.”

On the other hand a report that the gabions protecting the coastline on the road to the Narrows are starting to disintegrate is likely to cause further irritation for the Council.

Mearns Coastal Parish

The Guides and Brownies held their Thinking Day service in Johnshaven Church on Sunday morning when, after receiving the Union flag and Brownie pennant, the minister, the Rev Colin Dempster, spoke to the girls, who had renewed their Promise, on how “lending a hand” helped promote God’s work in the world.

The service ended with the minister returning the colours and, in the absence of an organist, the praise was led by Marshall Halliday on Viennese horn.

This Sunday, February 27, there will be only one service in Mearns Coastal Parish and that will be a Family Service in Johnshaven Church at 11 a.m. followed by a time for fellowship and refreshment in the Church Hall.

Mearns Coastal Church Guild

President, Mrs Jean Cook, welcomed Mr Gordon Anderson from Ferryden to the leisure hour meeting of the Guild in the Church Hall on Monday afternoon.

Well known to the congregation of Mearns Coastal Parish as locum minister during an extended vacancy last year and an enthusiastic and far travelled bird watcher, Mr Anderson gave an entertaining and enlightening slide presentation of his photographic experiences, including a trip to Goa with a group of fellow twitchers. He was thanked by Mrs Cook.

The next meeting of the Guild will be held in the Church Hall on Monday, March 7 at 2.30 p.m. when the speaker will be the Rev I. McLean from Montrose.

Bowling Club

As the defeat by 16 shots to 8 suggests, it was a much better performance from the Club’s rink of Meggie Hann, Ann Aitken, Alan Black and Alan Robbie against Stonehaven Indoor Bowling Club last Tuesday night.

In their penultimate game in the Kincardineshire Indoor League Johnshaven’s quartet gave a good account of themselves and now it just remains to be seen if they can build on this improvement to win their last game on Tuesday, March 8.