East Haven Together
A blog post by Wendy Murray
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Wendy Murray from East Haven Together in Angus, shares with us why the group takes part in Beautiful Scotland and why this and some of the other programmes we run, has been so important in helping the village address and overcome local environmental quality and sustainability issues.
East Haven is a former fishing community on the Angus coast and has a population of around 90 residents. In order to understand the transformation that East Haven has made, it is important to understand where its journey began in 2013. At that time, the village had suffered from years of neglect and was affected by littering of all types, graffiti and vandalism. The only facility in the village was a public toilet block which was built in the 1970s and had become a focus for anti-social behaviour.
In 2012, National Cycle Network 1 was extended to run through East Haven and onwards up the coast to Arbroath. Visitors told residents that they were appalled at the appearance of the village and one person said it was worst place he had ever set foot in. People said that the public toilets were dirty and offensive. Residents realised that unless they were prepared to do something about it themselves, the problems would only get worse and not better. As the village was going to be 800 years old in 2014, we decided to consult with residents and the wider community to identify priorities for improvement.
People were not short of ideas and responses were grouped into key themes:
- Enhancing and improving the village and its natural environment
- Strengthening the identity of the village as an ancient fishing community
- Creating a lasting legacy involving a theme of fishing boats and flowers
- Enhancing the visitor experience
- Encouraging pride and respect
Having encouraged people to share their views and ideas, I began to feel quite daunted at the prospect of putting together an action plan to try and achieve on everybody’s priorities. As luck would have it, I spoke to somebody a few days later who suggested that I look at the Beautiful Scotland three pillar framework of horticultural achievement, community participation and environmental responsibility.
This was definitely a eureka moment when suddenly everything became much clearer in terms of what we had to do and how it could be achieved. We used the three pillar framework to develop an action plan for taking forward everybody’s ideas and ambitions for 2014. I have to be honest and say that it didn’t initially occur to us that we might also enter the Beautiful Scotland competition that first year. Indeed, a few people actually said that we should not participate as the village had a long way to go before achieving Beautiful Scotland standard. However, as time went by, we began to feel more confident and more empowered as a community. We had a chat with Juliette (who leads on Beautiful Scotland) and decided that we would enter the competition. We wanted to show people what we had achieved and demonstrate that even communities like ours can make change happen.
Despite all our bravado, we were incredibly nervous on that first judging day in 2014. Thankfully, we were soon put at our ease by the judges who were very friendly and offered lots of useful tips and advice. It is hard to describe how overjoyed we were to subsequently learn that East Haven had achieved a Silver Gilt medal and a discretionary award - the VisitScotland Award for Tourism.
In the years that followed, East Haven progressed to achieving Beautiful Scotland Gold medals, as well as further discretionary awards and being crowned best Coastal Village in a number of years. In 2018, we had the privilege of being selected by Keep Scotland Beautiful to represent Scotland in the Coastal (under 12,000) category in the UK-wide RHS Britain in Bloom competition. Again, to our utter astonishment and amazement we were awarded Gold and the Best Coastal Village in category.
I think East Haven’s story is one which should inspire any community to believe that they have the power to create change and make a difference to where they live. In 2019 and 2020, East Haven participated in It’s Your Neighbourhood which enabled us to continue to benefit from the support of Keep Scotland Beautiful’s volunteer Assessors. It also provided us with the opportunity to focus on wider projects in the village for a while. However, in 2021 we will participate in Beautiful Scotland again as we feel this will help people in the recovery from the pandemic. The important thing for East Haven is to maintain our connection with everybody at Keep Scotland Beautiful and the many friends we have made along the way.