Another fine mess – part one

A blog post by John Cruickshank

John Cruickshank

Posted 25/08/2021

Recent posts

We have a number of ‘new’ entrants into our Beautiful Scotland initiative this year, so we asked John from Stonehaven Horizon Project to share the group's experiences and tell us why the group and the community have found it so important taking part.

Stonehaven will find out how they’ve got on this year at our virtual celebration and award ceremony on 23 September. Check back here the following week to read part two of John’s blog.


The conversation all began back in November 2019 at our AGM. Having delivered my annual convenor’s report and been voted in for one more year, I set about making suggestions for 2020. One of my ideas at the time was re-joining Keep Scotland Beautiful after an absence of some years and, with a little luck, participating in the Beautiful Scotland competition.

Well, all I could see were upturned eyes. Where’s JC going with this one! Well nowhere to be precise, nor was anyone else. Covid-19 struck and on March 23 2020, along with the rest of the UK, we were in lockdown. Horizon members faced weeks of inactivity. No hanging baskets, no regular work parties, no cups of tea and well-earned cake.

Before we knew it, we were at our next AGM in November 2020, having suffered further lockdowns and a town feeling dismal with uncut grass and weeds everywhere. Our streets were lined with ugly water barriers to create Covid-safe ‘spaces for people’. We needed something to rekindle our enthusiasm.  I again brought up the possibility of entering Beautiful Scotland – again the response was lukewarm.

Now, my wife accuses me of never listening. And it is fair to say I ignored the deafening silence and carried on thinking.

Eventually, and I don’t exactly remember the date of this one particular meeting, I announced that we had re-joined Keep Scotland Beautiful and I’d be entering us in the Coastal Town category. Around the table, baffled expressions were straight from a Laurel and Hardy movie as volunteers silently expressed 'Well, here’s another fine mess you’ve gotten us into'.

A senior member with experience of earlier entries muttered dolefully, “It’s a lot of work.”

At the very start it was evident to me that Horizon should not be doing this on our own. There are many very active groups who quite rightly proud of their role in the town: groups with lots of energy that could be harnessed. So we hit the local press saying, ‘It’s not Horizon that’s entering, it’s Stonehaven.’

It was like unleashing a beast.

We very quickly secured the backing of the community. By the end of March I was rolling out a vision to the Area Manager Bruce Stewart and his officers, who were all for supporting our entry and the efforts of the town.

What transpired has been a journey of discovery. We’ve laughed and worked hard, but always there have been smiling faces along the way. Even in the days of pouring rain when the judges were only a week away, I could see the smiles under the soaking wet anoraks and misted glasses as people set about making the town looking the loveliest we’ve seen it for years.

It has been a great experience for the town. The groups each looked after sections of our route and individuals pitched in too. On the day, I am confident the judges could not see a single weed or piece of litter anywhere. I can tell you Stonehaven was going for gold.

I remember sitting in on the Keep Scotland Beautiful spring seminar on 28 April this year, and listening to Stan da Prato speaking of ‘celebrating your success’. Whatever the outcome of our entry, I can tell you Stonehaven is celebrating the fun of a shared challenge, and our town being restored to cleanliness and order after the chaos of Covid.

We wish our fellow coastal towns every good fortune with their entry, and to all of the Beautiful Scotland family. Keep on smiling and celebrating (September 23, 2021).


The results of this year's Beautiful Scotland initiative will be revealed at our online celebration event on 23 September. You will be able to find out all the results on our Beautiful Scotland web pages.

And if John's blog has inspired you to think about taking part in Beautiful Scotland next year, entry will open in the new year - visit our Beautiful Scotland pages to find out more about what's involved and check back in the new year for more information on timescales.

We support the