Mar 032016
Wild Woman Seaweed 2

Wild things! offer a variety of inspiring wilderness and nature based experiences.

With thanks to Chris Muir.

Would your Mum or Granny enjoy a night sleeping under the stars? How would she fair on a short break in a remote mountain bothy?
Environmental education charity Wild things! has launched dates for their Wild Woman breaks for 2016, giving women throughout the UK the opportunity to embrace their wild side and learn some craft skills that will enrich their time outdoors.

With no experience required, the Wild Woman breaks promise to inspire, educate and fulfill participants with new found the confidence and skills in engaging with the great outdoors.

We want to encourage women to swap their hectic daily lives for one of two wilderness escapes; a four-day break in the enchanting mountain surroundings of Glen Affric from 14th – 17th May; or a three day camp on the pristine Moray Firth Coast from 9th – 11th September.

Arriving in true castaway fashion, the weekend will begin by boat or a walk in to a remote location. From there, the intrepid explorers will learn traditional living skills such as how to identify wild edible and medicinal plants, cooking over an open fire, having a go at some creative camp craft, as well as sleeping in a hammock or tipi under the stars.

Jennie, lead instructor for the course, with over 20 years experience of delivering nature based activities, says,

“Wild Woman offers women a truly wonderful wilderness break. The courses will be restorative, inspiring and fun. You don’t have to be butch, brave or buxom for this course as we all work together as a team. There will be some challenges but only those that will leave you feeling more alive than you ever thought possible, as well as totally in love with the natural world (if you weren’t already!).”

Wild things! is a Scottish environmental education charity based in Findhorn, Moray. Wild things! offer a variety of inspiring wilderness and nature based experiences for all ages and abilities regardless of learning challenges, or physical and financial difficulties. For more information about any of our programmes visit our website, or call us on 01309 690450.

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Apr 102015

By Duncan Harley.

Dolly_Parton_wins_Stars_in_their eyes 2105

Jennifer Shaw, as Dolly Parton, wins ‘Inverurie Stars in their Eyes 2015’ at Inverurie Town Hall.

As the dust settles on Inverurie Stars in their Eyes 2015, Dan Greavey and colleague Alison Sandison of  Right Here Productions put out a big thank you to everyone who helped out in any way whatsoever!

The acts, sponsors, bar staff, judges, technical, John the hall-keeper, the dancers and last but not least the audience members were, they said “magnificent” this year.

The Archie Foundation, the Junior Diabetes Research Fund, Westhill SensationAll and Gaitherin 2015 will all benefit to the combined tune of well over £2649-50.

Judges Callum Bell, Leigh Ryrie and and Keith Ross plus almost the entire studio audience voted Dolly Parton outright winner at the Easter Saturday sell out event. In the guise of 26 year old Jennifer Shaw, Dolly easily beat off stiff competition from the likes of Elvis and David Bowie.

As_the_bar_runs_dry_Bowie_mixes with the audienceThe Garioch’s very own genuine Elvis Presley (Stuart Faskin), Kintore’s favourite Jarvis Cocker (James Allan), Dyce born virtuoso Norah Jones (Cath McPherson), phantom singer Sarah Brightman (Valerie Chapman) and the unequivocal star man David Bowie (James Pritchard) – goodness that was a mouthful – simply weren’t up to the famously busty winners standard as Dolly’s 1974 country hit ‘Jolene’ almost literally brought the house down.

There wasn’t a dry eye in the house and as the raffle tickets ran out and the bar ran dry, a guid’ night was had by one and all.

At least that’s what they told me to write.

In truth of course this was a charity fundraiser like no other.

As last years winner Will Young (Jordon Abberly) said towards the end “And it feels like jealousy, and it feels like I can’t breathe, and I’m down on my knees, and it feels like jealousy, can I get my cheque now please?”

Inverurie’s very own Stars In Your Eyes Master of Ceremonies Mathew Kelly, known locally as Dan Greavey will be – ahem – “sending out the cheques shortly.”

Images and words © Duncan Harley

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Jun 272014

Some WALT students in Glen TanarWith thanks to Jennifer Kelly.

This July, Help for Heroes Recovery Centre, Tedworth House in Wiltshire, will welcome environmental education charity Wild things! as they run a nationally accredited training programme for wounded, injured and sick serving and veteran members of the Armed Forces.

The course was developed by Wild things! founder and executive director, Jennie Martin in consultation with staff from the University of the Highlands and Islands, and the John Muir Awards scheme.

The Woodland Activity Leader Training programme is a nationally accredited qualification that gives participants the confidence, skills and qualifications to teach environmental education and Bushcraft skills to others. It is also a wonderful opportunity to learn outdoors in a natural environment for the wounded, injured and sick service personnel.

In their first collaboration with the nationwide charity, Wild things! will deliver the six day Woodland Activity Leader Training programme to 10 participants through Help for Heroes.

Tedworth House is one of four Recovery Centres run by Help for Heroes, which aims to inspire the wounded, injured and sick and returning veterans to lead active, independent and fulfilling lives, which will enable them to reach their full potential and to support them and their families for life.

It is a place of opportunities providing education, training, sport and adventure in a relaxed, understanding and caring environment. State of the art facilities and dedicated staff aid the road to recovery.

Tedworth House Centre Manager Giles Woodhouse comments:

“The Woodland Activity Leader Training will be incredibly beneficial for the wounded, injured and sick individuals taking part. This kind of training opens doors to new interests and opportunities that those we support may not have considered before. We are truly excited about the opportunity to work with Wild Things!”

Based in the idyllic conservation village of Findhorn in the North East of Scotland, Wild things! offer a variety of inspiring wilderness and nature experiences for all ages and abilities, regardless of learning, physical and financial challenges.

Charity founder Jennie Martin says,

“We are delighted to be able to offer this exciting course to such an worthwhile organisation as Help for Heroes. Our Woodland Activity Leader Training is jammed packed with information and experiences that leave our participants skilled up, confident and excited to lead adventures in our fantastic UK woodlands.”

Info re. Help for heroes – 

Help for Heroes offers comprehensive support to those who have suffered life-changing injuries and illnesses whilst serving our country. This is provided through grants to individuals, other Service charities, capital build projects and our four Recovery Centres across the UK which will offer support for life.

The money raised by the hugely generous public has been used to support our wounded, but there is still so much more to do. Soldiers, sailors and airmen who are injured today will still need our support tomorrow and in the days that follow, for the rest of their lives. They are still battling and we won’t let them battle alone.

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Jun 132014

Local artist Elinor Grieve, gallery owner Melissa Arcaro and local MP Eilidh Whiteford.

Eilidh Whiteford, MP for Banff and Buchan, joined Melissa Arcaro at the weekend to cut the ribbon on Arcaro’s expanded Peterhead arts project. With thanks to Paul Robertson.

Arcaro Arts, which previously stood on Kirk Street, has expanded into enlarged premises opposite Morrison’s on Queen Street.

The gallery is set to continue its work in providing an artistic space for local groups, as well as hosting exhibitions and other arts events.

Cutting the ribbon on the new gallery, which hosted an exhibition from self-taught wildlife artist Elinor Grieve on its opening day, MP Eilidh Whiteford commented:

“I am delighted to be able to declare Arcaro Arts’ expanded premises open for business. The new gallery is a fantastic venue in a great location. It will breathe new life into the town centre of Peterhead and offers great opportunities to local artists to exhibit their work and my congratulations and best wishes for the future go to Melissa and the team.”

Melissa Arcaro, who heads the gallery, commented:

“The fact that we have had to expand into larger premises shows what a real appetite there is for this kind of amenity in Peterhead. The stunning new venue is also well-placed to benefit from increased footfall. As well as continuing our arts work with local groups, the new venue will act as a showcase for talented local artists.”

The gallery, on Balmoor Terrace, is open 10am-4pm from Monday to Saturday and 12pm-3pm on Sundays.

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Jun 132014

WomenIndependence2With thanks to Paul Robertson.

​Following on from a special meeting of the Scottish Government’s All-Women Cabinet Meeting in Edinburgh this week, a local SNP councillor has claimed that w​omen in the north-east stand to benefit from a revolution in childcare and employment rights in the event of a Yes vote.

Councillor Fiona McRae has hailed the Scottish Government’s proposals for 30 hours of free childcare per week for all three and four year olds, along with guarantees on raising the minimum wage, protecting the welfare state and ensuring a fairer pension system.

Cllr McRae said:

The Scottish Government plans for a revolution in childcare which will benefit many families in Scotland. The prohibitive cost of child care means that many women who want to work, or who want to increase their hours find it impossible to do so.”

“It is one of those rare things these days in politics – a genuinely life-changing policy, which will save families thousands of pounds in childcare costs, create new job opportunities and raise living standards for thousands of women who would otherwise be taking reduced hours or leaving well-paid positions when they have children.”

Along with proposals for a comprehensive childcare system, the Scottish Government has committed to raising the minimum wage in line with inflation – a move which will benefit thousands of women in low paid jobs.

Banff and Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford​ commented:

“​Had the minimum wage kept pace with inflation, our lowest-paid workers would have been more than £600 a year better off. The proposals put forward by the Scottish Government will directly benefit everyone in a low-paid job significantly, and help address the scandal of working families living in poverty.”

“In the north-east, those who work for low wages will be among those who benefit the most from a Yes vote in September.”

Local women are also invited to attend a special event next month aimed at undecided women voters. The Women for Independence event will take place in Dalrymple Hall, Fraserburgh on July 26 from 2pm.​

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Feb 042014

Inverurie flooding by Duncan HarleyBy Duncan Harley.

For many years the River Urie has meandered at will over the farm land at Souterford.

Flooding of the area is an annual event and even Environment Secretary Owen Paterson is completely powerless to prevent it.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) last week issued an updated flood alert for Aberdeenshire and Aberdeen City and asked local residents to remain vigilant and to take action to “protect yourself and your property”.

The flood warning advised that river levels in the area were rising as a result of “persistent rainfall during Wednesday morning” leading to “flooding of low lying areas particularly in the Rivers Don and Deveron. Flooding is expected from late on Wednesday morning and may last until Thursday morning.”

There was, however, no flood warning issued for the Aberdeenshire town of Inverurie despite a worrying increase in the level of the River Urie.

Following some very heavy rainfall during the past week the Aberdeenshire town’s Souterford area, just off the B9170 Oldmeldrum to Inverurie highway, was in fact flooded and this caused concern to many residents of the Inverurie Osprey Village development who were keeping a watchful eye on the flood situation as the River Urie bursts its banks yet again and water levels in the area continued to rise.

This is of course not a new problem. In fact the River Urie has been responsible for flooding the area around Inverurie for hundreds if not thousands of years, leading some local residents to conclude that was the reason why the historic town was built a few hundred metres to the South West of the rivers natural course in the first place.

In the view of many locals, the decision by the Gordon House planners to permit residential and retail development on such a vulnerable site was surprising say the least.

Souterford is seemingly a flood plain and where a flood plain exists, rivers will tend to meander and on occasion create temporary lochs before draining seawards in the spring season.

A local Inverurie resident living with his partner in the towns Birch Drive observed that the water levels were “very alarming” and “almost within reach of the foundations” of his newly purchased 3 bedroom house.

“If I had been told about the flooding problems, I would never have bought this house” he said.

“We moved here from London and never expected anything like this, the home report made no mention of flood risk.

“Both the developers and the council are liable in my opinion.”

The adjoining retail park has also suffered from flooding of the car park since opening in 2009. Business owners declined to comment but staff report a decline in sales due perhaps to the deep water which customers require to negotiate after parking their cars at the East side of the car park.

Barratt Homes declined to comment regarding the flooding issue and their website currently advertises the “Final Phase” of Osprey Village with the comment that “this site is not available”.

Some recent buyers of houses on the flood plain may have reason to wish that the companies claim regarding the unavailability of the site had been visible prior to purchase.

The new Barratt Homes 2014 housing development at Souterford is somewhat aptly named Osprey Heights and is situated some 20 metres above Osprey Village. In the hopefully unlikely event of water levels threatening Osprey Heights, all of Aberdeenshire may have a problem.

If you or any member of your family are unsure about what to do to prevent flooding in your area, advice and information is readily available by calling Floodline on 0845 9881188.

Below is a helpful SEPA sponsored video entitled “An introduction to SEPA, Ever wondered what we do here at SEPA?”

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Jan 162014

maggies_dundee_centre_kitchen_table_groupWith thanks to Chris Ramsay, Forviemedia.

A number of Collieston residents are raising money for Maggies Centre, by wearing a onesie all day on Tuesday 21st January 2014.
So far half a dozen of us are participating. Money received or pledged is currently heading towards a three-figure sum.

If you’d like to take part or wish to donate, please contact John Carter; by email to or phone on 01358-751376.

Obviously if you have a job interview or a hot date, you cannot wear a onesie all day!

When we send the final sum raised to Maggies, we’ll let folk know and some photos of participants wearing their onesies for this good cause may be

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Nov 282013

Jack Webster book coverVoice’s David Innes reviews Jack Webster’s autobiography A Final Grain Of Truth.

There was almost a sense of finality about this volume when I picked it up. ‘A final grain’, Jack? It’s as if the author’s preparing for leaving us.

All is well with Maud’s kenspeckle writer though.

The closing chapter, in summarising how lucky he feels to have experienced an active and fulfilling life, ends with optimism.

Webster isn’t ready to bow out yet.

The previous two volumes of A Grain Of Truth were well-received and sold very well.

The final part revisits several of the life-changing and life-enhancing chapters, this time to reflect more on the writer’s Buchan upbringing and how that has influenced his colourful career, most notably as a features writer in the Scottish Daily Express and in the freelance career which followed.

Maud is frequently his mirror, and more than once his North East background and down-to-earth approach has allowed him access to closely-guarded inner sanctums of the famous, most notably the reclusive estranged widow of author Alistair MacLean. That, of course, leads to a dinner and a revelation about Wallis Simpson…

Webster’s memoir also demonstrates that he has an eye and nose for a story and was frequently willing to take a chance to get it, enabled by editors whose faith he earned by delivering insightful copy almost without fail. It is sobering to realise that his successes were delivered before the internet and mobile devices became commonplace journalistic tools.

A Final Grain Of Truth also gives Webster an opportunity to give his take on modern life.

Born in 1931, his passions are the personalities, especially in cinema, theatre and sport, whose work he admired as a youth and young man. He was lucky enough to spend time with many of them. Even if several of these names are unfamiliar to those of succeeding generations, Webster’s enthusiasm has one tapping into Google to find out more.

Buchan is known for its conservatism and Webster is very much a son of the region. His parting shots include views on Royalty, trade unionism and Margaret Thatcher which will not please everyone, yet epitomise his honesty and hame-draughtitness.

JACK WEBSTER – A Final Grain Of Truth: My Autobiography

Black & White Publishing
ISBN 9781 84502 710 0




Sep 272013

‘I want to be there, there being no top of tree, no glory or honour, simply working good and well, and producing stuff that will last the ages.’ (William Lamb, 1923)

As a young lad growing up in Montrose in the 1960s I first came across William Lamb’s work when my uncle used his old studio. Surrounded by statues of massive figures, disembodied heads and nude young boys, the place had a strange, neglected atmosphere. These days, his large bronze figures are proudly displayed in the town and the studio is open to the public.  John Stansfeld’s new biography can only add to the reputation of an important artist, often described as ‘a Scottish Rodin’. Graham Stephen reviews.

People's-Sculptor3Lavishly illustrated, the book details Lamb’s artistic achievements and gives us insight to a complex man who, despite a reluctance to leave his beloved home town, once solo-cycled over 4000km through Europe on his trusty Raleigh, had a trial for Aberdeen FC and briefly became a playmate of the current queen.

From a variety of sources, most notably the Simms’ family archive, Stansfeld examines Lamb’s struggle to create superb work despite personal hardships.

Rooted in his community and landscape, Lamb chose to ‘starve among (his) own folk’ rather than dilute his native culture by moving away in search of a more lucrative market.

His portrayal of working men and women, real people often struggling with life and the elements, are a particular feature of his work.

The Lamb who enlisted in 1915 was a skilled stonemason, respected artist and all-round sportsman. He returned a broken man, temporarily struck dumb, physically and psychologically devastated and, tragically, with a permanently damaged right hand.

By sheer force of will he taught himself to work again with his left, skilled enough to win commissions to create the war memorials which funded his European travels in 1923. His surviving letters from this trip are one of the highlights of the book, an insight into a man with a meticulous eye for detail, realising that art would be his life, never taking the easy path.

Stansfeld’s detailed research unearths intriguing aspects of Lamb’s life. He was almost perpetually penniless, relying on friends to feed him, often on a daily basis. Any money he made was invariably used to fund materials, or help fellow artists like Ed Baird, another undervalued Montrose talent.

The local council, disturbed by his nude figures, suggested adding kilts for a major exhibition, and Lamb reacted predictably. He was a lifelong teetotaller, disgusted by his alcoholic father, supressing his probable homosexuality, living alone in a freezing attic. His attendance at fledgling Nationalist meetings held by poet Hugh MacDiarmid in the 1920s was more likely for the heat of the fire than for the rhetoric.

Lamb later took his revenge on the arrogant MacDiarmid by making his bust look ‘like him’.

Most intriguing is his commission to sculpt Princess Elizabeth in 1932 when he spends many hours alone with the future queen, playing house and crafting plasticine tea-sets, before returning to Montrose, and his ultimate decline.

In a rare speech in 1930 William Lamb described Scottish sculpture as ‘hopeless’, unappreciated and unloved by the majority of the population. Even today it would be hard to argue against him. This fine book should help to bring his achievements to a wider audience.

The People’s Sculptor: The Life and Art of William Lamb (1893-1951)
John Stansfeld
Birlinn Ltd

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Jun 072013

By Bob Smith.

‘Fit’s aat up abeen?’, says I
Fin a spied an ususual sicht
A yalla orb in the sky
Shinin doon sae bricht

A hid tae rack ma memory
Tae think fit it micht be
It cam tae me sudden like
T’wis the sun fit a did see

It hid been a wee fylie
Since it showed its face
Hail, rain, win an caul
Wis fit we’ve hid tae face

So shine on richt merrily
Mr Sun ye cheer us aa up
An hae us steppin oot briskly
As tho we wis a young pup

Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2013
Image: Orange Sunset © Zoran Tripalo  Dreamstime Stock Photos

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