The William Forsyth Community Garden.
A Short History of the Garden
The question posed in 2003 within the Oldmeldrum Rotary Club was how to commemorate the centenary of Rotary in 2005 with a worthwhile project that would reflect Rotary ideals, and benefit and enhance the lives of the local community. Club members wanted to provide a permanent resource or facility. After discussing several worthwhile projects the idea of a Community Garden was born.
The neglected area on the corner of the A947 and the B9170, which leads to the centre of Oldmeldrum, seemed an ideal location. It was easily accessible for visitors to walk to, and had stunning uninterrupted views of the surrounding countryside. The site is predominantly sheltered, and has an elevated south facing view looking towards Bourtie and Barra Hill – a Gateway to Oldmeldrum. It was an ideal place to site a Community Garden , for residents and visitors to walk through, and sit and contemplate both the garden and the surroundings. It would also enhance the approach to and to create a better impression to those entering or passing through Oldmeldrum
However, the path to reaching fruition of this project was like the site itself, thorny and difficult. The first problem encountered was who owned the land? Lengthy investigation revealed that it was owned by Meldrum Estates, with a portion owned by Aberdeenshire Council. After negotiations between Rotary and the relevant parties, the land was gifted to the project.
In September 2004, Aberdeenshire Council gave consent to the removal of the undergrowth and tidying-up of the site. Subsequently, in December, Jim McColl, the gardener of “ Beechgrove Garden ” fame and a resident of Oldmeldrum, surveyed the site. Trees had been planted on the site many years ago, and Jim indicated that there were a number of interesting and unusual species of trees worthy of preserving. He advised on tree pruning and felling. An Oldmeldrum Rotarian, Architect Owen Ball, then drafted a detailed plan of how the garden could be laid out with pathways, seating, decorative stonework, woodland areas and flora planting.
Our aim was that it would not be just a Rotary project, but would involve the whole community. Oldmeldrum Rotary Club and the Oldmeldrum Amenities Group joined together to form the Meldrum Community Garden Project, which by May 2006 was incorporated as a registered company. In June 2006, planning permission was granted, and work commenced. By 2008, the Meldrum Community Garden Project was registered as a charity in Scotland.
Today the transformation can be seen and acknowledged. This is due to the hard work and commitment of Rotarians, members of the community and local businesses who have donated their advice, time, labour and materials to reach the stage where the garden can now be officially opened. The garden creation has been a truly community project, as members of a diverse range of community groups and individual residents have willingly toiled alongside Rotarians, clearing, planting and weeding on Saturday mornings to get the garden ready.
It has also been a fun-filled project, a labour of love as well as getting fresh air and exercise. Indeed, the fun was most evident when a group of volunteers dressed up as Land Army Girls one week.
Special mention needs to be made of Andrew McCartney, the driving force behind achieving the Community Garden . He has persuaded and cajoled residents and businesses to provide in-kind consultations, expertise, manpower, materials and transportation. These have been costed at over £36,000, had they been purchased.
A network of paths has been created, suitable for wheelchairs and prams. Seating areas have been located at strategic points to take in the outstanding views across the Millburn towards Bourtie. Seasonal bulbs and hedging have been planted in order to give a stunning seasonal ambience to the southern approaches of the town.
In keeping with building on local connections, the Rotary Club decided to give the garden a name which reflected local history. It was agreed that the garden would be named after William Forsyth, born in Oldmeldrum in 1737. He became a gardener of renown at a time of great achievements in horticulture, when botanists and explorers were combing the world finding and classifying new plant species. William Forsyth worked in the Apothecaries Garden in Chelsea , becoming Curator at the age of 34, and eventually Chief Superintendent of George III's palace gardens. He was one of the founders of the Royal Horticultural Society. In his honour the plant Forsythia was named after him, and it is equally fitting that we should name a community facility after a son of Meldrum. Jim McColl, who officially opened the garden, has written an article about William Forsyth, which is contained in the “Famous Sons of Oldmeldrum” leaflet produced by the Meldrum and Bourtie Heritage Society
The garden is by no means complete, but was considered ready for its official opening on Saturday 27th September. The Rotary theme for the year 2008 is “Rotary Shares”. What could be more fitting than that the Centenary Garden should be shared by all the community?
The garden is a community facility. Please feel free to come and visit, sit awhile and enjoy the surroundings. As with any garden, it will always be a work in progress, relying on willing volunteers. Anyone who would like to be involved in any capacity will be more than welcome.
The William Forsyth Community Garden was officially opened by Jim McColl on Saturday 27 September 2008.
The Community Garden is an ongoing project and will need many willing hands to continue the development of the site. If you require further information about the project, or would be willing to help and enjoy the fellowship of working on this project for the community of Oldmeldrum, please contact either Andrew McCartney firstname.lastname@example.org or Christine Falconer email@example.com or telephone 01651 842494
Footnotes :-During our research, it turns out that Bruce Forsyth, the entertainer, is the great, great, great, great grandson of William Forsyth. We wrote to tell him his forebears came from Oldmeldrum. His reply wishes the attendees at the opening a “fantastic time, and hopefully good weather too”
We were pleased to welcome a film crew from STV to the Garden Opening, and it was one of the items broadcast in the STV "North Tonight" programme that evening. To view a copy of this video clip, click the following link :- Garden Opening Video. Our thanks to STV for making this video clip available to us.