Happy 10th Birthday to the Friends of Seaton Park

This is a special newsletter: on Saturday 21st April 2012, Dunbar Street Halls was the venue for the meeting of a group of people who were keen, in the face of threatened cuts to City Council funding, to see Seaton Park continue as a place for everyone to go for fresh air, exercise and enjoyment.  A small group of people volunteered at the end of the meeting to form some sort of steering group and so Friends of Seaton Park (FoSP) was born. April 2022 is, therefore, the 10th Anniversary of our formation.  Thank you to all who contributed to this specially extended Newsletter which we hope you will enjoy reading.

To mark our 10th birthday we thought a history of those ten years of FoSP would be good, but first, a very brief history of the Park itself.

The land for Seaton Park was purchased by the City from the Hay family in 1947 using Common Good Funding.  The aim was to create a park to the north of the city for everyone to enjoy.  There were big plans for how the park was to be used including that the big house itself, Seaton House, be turned into a café.  Sadly, the house was destroyed by fire in the 1960s, although the kitchen garden survived as our present Walled Gardens, havens of peace and warmth above the expanse of the park. Plans for a bowling green and tennis courts did not happen, neither (thankfully, some might say!) did the motorcycle speedway racing track.  However, the wonderful formal gardens in Cathedral Walk did get laid out and have been specially appreciated by so many ever since. Added to these, the wonderful mixture that makes up the park – its wide-open spaces, riverside walks and woodland wanders – have given great enjoyment to people, young and old (and many dogs too!), for the last 75 years.

Friends of Seaton Park : The Early Years

After the Friends of Seaton Park group was established in 2012, it took us a little while to find our feet.  Gradually the work of the group developed around two areas: practical volunteering to help the gardeners in the park itself and fundraising to support maintenance and improvement of the park’s amenities.

Volunteering in the park

Margaret Sleeman, who first managed the gardening activities, writes: 

We quickly resolved to offer practical help in the park, working under the guidance of the park’s gardeners.  In these early days, volunteering sessions were held from time to time, and usually at the weekend.  We began by helping with weeding in various parts of the park, including the walled garden, and spreading bark (to help control weeds) under shrubs, again in the walled garden. Some of these sessions went on over two days, and we dubbed them ‘weedathons’ and ‘barkathons’.  We also planted crocuses as supplied by ACC to all volunteer groups.  The number of volunteers varied, starting with about twenty in the initial flush of enthusiasm, and then settling down to around eight to ten.  Volunteers came from the FoSP Committee (as the original Steering Group had come to be called) and the wider membership of the Friends, interested local residents, and others attracted by notices of events on the group’s FaceBook page.  The sessions were informal, providing the opportunity for participants to chat as they worked, and usually cake or biscuits were shared too.

The high point of this phase of gardening in the park was undoubtedly the effort made to commemorate the 70thanniversary, in 2017, of the City’s purchase of the park.  We decided to plant a group of seven trees, one for each decade of the park’s existence, 70,000 crocuses, and a community orchard.  All plans were of course discussed with the relevant ACC officials and with the park’s gardeners.  Funding came from Aberdeen Greenspace and Aberdeen City Council.  We decided to plant the crocuses in the autumn of 2016 so that they would flower in the anniversary year.  They were planted over a three-day weekend (with some initial help from city gardeners) by about fifty volunteers, including people who had responded to advertisements in the local press.  Two varieties of crocus were chosen, C. tommasinianus (purple) and C. Snow Bunting (white).  The site, a rising grassy area just beyond the fountain, was selected so that the crocuses would be visible from a distance.  The seven trees, Spanish chestnuts, were planted by city gardeners in early 2017 quite close to the wetland.  The orchard was planted by volunteers, with the help of city gardeners, some distance from the Children’s Play Area, in the spring of 2017.  We planted twenty standard trees, apples, pears, plums, damsons, and cherries, choosing varieties known to do well at this latitude.  The apples included the indispensable Bramley cooking apple and lesser-known eating apples such as Beauty of Bath and Bloody Ploughman (a Scottish variety named for its pink-tinged flesh).  Lekky Shepherd produced a key to the orchard that is normally displayed on the park’s noticeboards.  It is good to note that, as of spring 2022, our trees are doing well, and that the crocus carpet is now one of the sights of the park in spring, attracting not only pollinators in large numbers, but photographers too. 

Margaret Sleeman – April 2022.

A regular gardening group has now been established.  They meet on a Tuesday morning from 10.00 am.   Mary Middleton coordinates this group who have continued with the work of liaising with ACC staff to work on projects as required.  This includes work such as cleaning up the fountain and keeping that area weed free, helping out in the Walled Garden, maintaining the rondels in the orchard, and, latterly, working on the Granite Garden to restore it to previous glory.

Fundraising and the development of the group

Early on we realised that to help the work of the park we would really need to fundraise.

We began with our first CakeFest – part Bake-Off, part coffee morning – in 2014.  We have had six of these and the (Magnificent) 7th was ready to go in 2020 when Covid struck so it had to be cancelled.  Will there be a return of CakeFest in 2023? – our fingers are crossed!

Three times we organised really successful big events in the park – our Parkfests.  We had a pipe band, various stalls, dog agility display, face-painting, a great drum band, bouncy castles, etc.  These were great fun on the day but sooooo much work to organise.

A major help to fundraising was the gaining of Charitable status for FoSP which was achieved in 2016. At the same time it was felt we needed a logo to help identify the group in seeking grants (another important source of funding) and after much discussion and help from different people our heron logo finally took shape (created by Lekky Shepherd) to represent both sides of the park, its natural heritage with the heron standing by the Don and the formal park areas with the herons on the Hay memorial fountain.

Our FoSP fundraising has since helped a number of areas of the park. The play area, laid out in the 1970s, with its engine, Mr Therm, and his row of wagons had been a firm favourite with visitors from the start.  Sadly, by the 21stcentury, Mr Therm was showing his age.  Money from FOSP fundraising went to help refurbish him and his wagons.  As well as a refurbished Mr Therm and wagons, lots of new play equipment was put in place by ACC around the same time.  FoSP also funded the table-tennis table. Whilst children enjoy the equipment, parents and carers can relax knowing that they are safe.

Ian Talboys (former Countryside Officer) writes of his work with FoSP:

It is great to have been part of the development of the Friends of Seaton Park over the last ten years.  The group has developed into a fantastic asset for the Park developing projects and fundraising for the Park as well as helping with practical work and events in the Park with the Gardeners and Countryside Rangers.  

Working in partnership with a park friends group might not seem to be something a Countryside Ranger Service would get involved with but Seaton Park is a great place for wildlife and outdoor learning as well as more formal horticulture and sports.  Developing the Seaton Park Wetland in 2015/16 saw one of the biggest changes in the park in recent times which, without the support of the Friends Group would have been much more difficult to deliver.  The park was one of the first parks in Aberdeen to see the return of the red squirrel to the City and now supports a breeding population which is testament to the variety of habitats present in the park.

In my retirement I have maintained links with the Friends of Seaton Park through the development of the River Don Heritage Trail interpretation panels, a project I started before retirement, as well as spending time photographing wildlife in the Park.  Not many city parks can claim to have red squirrels, otters and roe deer regularly seen.

The contribution the Friends make is also a big part of the many awards the Park has won over the years including success in Scotland and Britain in Bloom.

I wish the Friends of Seaton Park all the best for the next 10 years and beyond.  

Ian Talboys – April 2022

Over these years FoSP has helped the Park not just to continue but also to gain many awards. These have included the Green Flag, It’s Your Neighbourhood, Beautiful Scotland and Britain in Bloom.  It takes the work of many to maintain the park in a state fit to impress the judges.  Much of the work is done by Derek and Kat, the gardening team.  Grass cutting and other large-scale tasks are undertaken by teams of city-wide workers. It continues to flourish in spite of having to survive storms, gales and other weather events.  The Great Flood of 2016 (Storm Frank) was a test of the resilience of the park and the local community who came out in great numbers to tidy the detritus which had littered the park from floodwater which reached the bars of the rugby posts.  Look closely in some tree branches above your head near the river and you can still see trailing bits of grass and other vegetation.  More recent storms such as Arwen and Barra have sadly brought down trees. 

As well as dealing with these major crises, volunteering in the park, encouraged and organised by members of the Friends, now takes many forms.  Litter pickers especially are always welcome!  Indeed, during the pandemic, with extra visitors to the park hoping to use their brief hour of freedom to exercise in the best of surroundings, litter became a bit of a problem.  Thankfully, Seaton Park lovers rallied round.  Extra litter picking equipment was handed out and our park is picked on a daily basis.  This greatly aids the team from Aberdeen City Council who empty the bins.  

We were not able to hold an AGM during 2020 or 2021.  However, we have an AGM planned for 2022.  It is being held on Friday 27th May at 7.00 pm in the main Hall in Dunbar Street halls… so back where it all began.  Come along and hear more of what we’ve been up to over our first ten years and how you can help over the next 10.  We look forward to seeing you there!

*****

A huge thank you to all the people over the years who have helped out using the various skills which each individual has brought to the Friends Group and to the park.

And to Sheila Gordon, our FoSP Chair, who has done so much to put together this Newsletter. She is much too modest to say it, but a great part of the work of the Friends – the fundraising work, the regular meetings with Aberdeen City officials, the administrative efforts of grant-seeking and management – would not have happened without her ongoing devotion to FoSP and the good of the park. A great big huge Thank you Sheila! 

Newsletter Summer 2021

Everyone has found the past 18 months very challenging so it has been very important to have access to all our green spaces in the city.  Many people have helped to keep our park looking good throughout these terrible times so a huge thank you to everyone who grabbed a litter picking stick and a black bag!

Friends of Seaton Park have not been able to hold CakeFest or indeed any other event during pandemic restrictions but things have been happening in the park.  There have been some changes to the planting in the central formal area with fewer of the bedding plants being annually replaced.  However, there is still an abundance of colour and the result is as beautiful as ever.  The fantastic displays are all down to the wonderful work of our lovely gardeners, Derek and Kat.

Friends of Seaton Park volunteers have helped out in other areas of the park.  Last year a lot of work was done in the Walled Garden and this year volunteers have been concentrating on the fountain area.  Recently, an appeal was launched for garden tools.  With publicity from the local press and social media posts, we have been very lucky and are now well stocked up.  So, if you would like to volunteer but were unable to in the past because you did not have your own tools, we can now supply you with tools.  The group meets most Tuesday mornings from 10.00 for a couple of hours.  Please contact friendsofseatonpark@gmail.com for further details.

Able Deen now visit the park every second Friday so if you would like to hire a mobility scooter to explore areas of the park you are currently unable to reach, please check our Facebook page for announcements about which Fridays they will be in the park.

Every Friday from 16th July until 1st October the Allotment Market Stall will be at their usual stance in the park selling fresh produce from local allotments.  Come along and support local growers.

Sheila Gordon, June 2021

Notes from a Neighbouring Green Space

St Machar’s Cathedral has recently undergone some very necessary and extensive repairs to the roof and to the wonderful heraldic ceiling. These works were funded in large part by the Heritage Lottery Fund, and the grant came with conditions, one of which was the improvement of the kirkyard’s biodiversity. This was envisaged as a project that would involve Cathedral members and encourage outreach. 

Planning meetings have taken place over the last nine months (via Teams) between members of the Cathedral congregation, the Cathedral’s outreach and education officers, Aberdeen City Council, who own and manage the kirkyard (represented by Ian Talboys), and other interested organizations: OACC, and FoSP (represented by me). The decision was made to mow the grass in certain areas only once a year, the designated spaces being around the mort house near the Chanonry entrance to the Park, and a much larger area, generally to the east of the Cathedral. The main approach to the Cathedral would be maintained more or less as before, with the addition of plantings of thyme around the gravestones. Events were planned, and parties of schoolchildren are to be invited to visit the kirkyard. 

The new grass-cutting regime has been in place for some time now, and on Saturday 22 May, I and other volunteers barrowed earth and planted thyme around the gravestones that line the path to the Cathedral entrance under the supervision of Ian Talboys. 

On Saturday, 19 June, a ‘Bioblitz’, open to the public, took place in the kirkyard: a survey by natural history experts of the wildlife and flora to be found there. The results were genuinely surprising. Over 80 flowering plants, grasses and mosses were identified, several bird species including swifts, a goldfinch, jackdaw, and buzzard. An orange tipped butterfly was seen, and invertebrates and flying insects were identified. The survey will be repeated at a future date to make comparisons. During the event, Katherine Williams, the outreach officer, led volunteers in planting wildflowers, among them red campion, ox-eye daisies, cowslips, herb Robert, selfheal and others. 

After the Bioblitz was over, I visited the uncut area to the east of the Cathedral, away from the path, and was delighted to see a carpet of daisies and white clover, with large clumps of buttercups and extensive patches of bright blue speedwell. It was colourful, but I was struck most of all by the constant low buzzing of bees of different types as they visited the flowers on that warm summer’s day. 

Margaret Sleeman,  25 June 2021

Friends of Seaton Park hope that everyone continues to enjoy all our wonderful green spaces.  Please pick up after your dog, don’t leave litter and please, please, don’t light fires or barbecues!

Newsletter Autumn 2020

Back in the Spring, our plans for CakeFest7 were brought to a screeching halt by a certain pandemic.  There is currently no end in sight so we don’t know when we will next be able to have a CakeFest, or any other event.  We hope this Newsletter will keep you up to date with some of the things which have been happening over the last few months.

Seaton Park, along with all parks and green spaces played a vital role in ensuring people had somewhere to go for exercise and to be able to get out and about for some much needed relief from the confines of staying at home.  Indeed, statistics show that over the summer, visitors to the park increased by three times compared to 2019.  Some of these extra visitors unfortunately had a downside with an increase in the amount of litter left.  A huge THANK YOU must therefore go to the small army of people who volunteered to pick litter during their regular daily walks.  

As restrictions eased, it was possible for the regular group of volunteers who like to get together on a Tuesday morning to get back to (socially distanced) tasks in the Walled Garden.  They work under the guidance of the gardening staff.  Staff and volunteers have done a great job in keeping the park looking good and being a great place to visit during 2020.

The park is looking so good that it was easy to show off the park to the Green Flag judges who visited a bit later in the year than usual.  They were mightily impressed and have awarded a Green Flag for 2020/2021.  If you want to know more about the Green Flag award, then check it out on the Keep Scotland Beautiful website.

Able Deen were able to re-start their visits to the park once lockdown restrictions eased.  They are based in the car park on a Friday from 10.00 until 16.00.  You can hire a mobility scooter for the very reasonable price of £1 if you also have relevant ID.  You can then enjoy a scoot aboot the park and beyond!  Unless the weather is really really bad, they intend being in the park every Friday. 

During the summer months it was good to welcome The Allotment Market Stall back to the park on Friday mornings.  All the produce sold on the stall comes from local allotments.  Profits from the sales go back to the allotment groups so they can re-invest and continue to grow local produce.  Look out for details of when they will re-start in 2021.

One Eyed Jacks is our lovely food truck who are open 11.00 – 16.00 Wednesday to Sunday.  Delicious food and warming beverages sold.  However, if weather is bad, they will not open – who wants to eat a wet and soggy burger?  On fine days, they sell out so have to shut up shop – get there early!

Recently there have been some minor works in the park:  a section of roadway from the gardener’s bothy to the top of the formal garden area was re-tarred; a dangerous open ditch was cleared out and proper drainage installed and, lastly, a picnic table near One Eyed Jacks was installed.  

All of these works were possible due to grants which were awarded from various sources.  We continue to explore funding sources so if anyone can help with this, please be in touch.  

Bigger works such as improving the access from Don Street and fixing the roadway from the Chanonry entrance to the river, are planned but work has been delayed for various reasons.  Keep visiting the park to check if/when these works get under way!

Aberdeen City Council has recently produced a series of “Trails” covering walks at various locations in the city.  The link is  www.aberdeencity.gov.uk/trails.  Seaton Park does not have a leaflet to itself but is included in the Old Aberdeen Trail.  Only available on-line meantime but may be printed in future.

TAMS returns

We’re so glad to announce the return of TAMS to the park. Fresh, locally grown produce available to purchase from the park every Friday 10am-1pm. As if you needed an excuse for a walk through the park now you get your groceries too!

Tams poster 2020 pdf

Cakefest Cancellation

sad cakeFriends of Seaton Park are sorry to have to let all fans of CakeFest know that our wonderful event has had to be postponed this year. We are sure you will understand that coronavirus is not within our control. We felt that postponing the event was the responsible thing to do.  We know that many will be disappointed but hope that you can understand we have done this to ensure the safety of everyone who planed to attend the event.

Watch this space for an announcement of a new date later in the year.

CakeFest!

The 7th annual celebration of baking that is Cakefest is nearly upon us! Here you will find some information about the event and how to enter. Get your pinnys on and BAKE!

cakefest7

28th March 2020, 10–12 noon

Dunbar Street Hall, Old Aberdeen

Thank you for requesting more information about the 2020 Friends of Seaton Park CakeFest.  More questions? Please contact seatonpark@oldaberdeen.org.uk or send us a message on Facebook.

What is it? 

The CakeFest concept is a coffee morning with a difference — think British Bake-Off meets Beer Festival!  On entering the hall you will be overwhelmed by the selection of delicious, mouth-watering, homemade cakes on offer for you to eat and judge!  £3 will buy you a cup of tea/coffee (juice for kids also available) and three pieces of cake.  Vote for your favourite by putting your token in the cup next to it.  Want more cake?  Then you can buy more. 

So You Want to Enter a Cake?

Cakes must be homemade.  There are no categories — cakes, traybakes, fruit loaves, tarts, meringues, are all suitable — just make your best bake(s) and bring it (or them) along by 9:15 a.m. on the day.  We’ll ask you to fill in a registration form with the name of the cake, any dietary information you can include, e.g. gluten-free, vegan, contains nuts, dairy-free, etc and your details. 

Please note that, although we do not want to discourage you from spending hours decorating your entries, cakes will be cut prior to public judging and therefore any decorations may be damaged (we’ll do our best not to though!)

Presentations for the winners will take place at approximately 11:30 a.m. The first prize will be the coveted CakeFest apron.

There will be children’s activities including cupcake decorating.  Cupcakes and decorating materials supplied.  

After CakeFest is over, please remember to collect the container you brought your cake(s) in and/or the plate(s) used to display.

Parking and Transport

The Mission is located on the left-hand side (from King Street direction) of St Machar Drive.  Please use rear entrance which can be reached via Dunbar Street.

Limited parking is available free of charge on Dunbar Street.  Dunbar Street is a narrow residential street, so please park courteously.  There is also parking on The Chanonry, a short walk away.  A small number of disabled parking spaces will be available at the Mission.  Some spaces may be available in the University car parks nearby.

The Number 20 bus stops on St. Machar Drive, just 50m. from The Mission.  There are also many buses which stop at the St. Machar roundabout on King Street, next to the Spar, a 5 minute walk from the hall. 

Best of luck to all our entrants!

Festive Fare Wednesday 4 December 2019

FFF2019 poster

 

FOSP thank all Seaton Park lovers for another year of enthusiastic work with many good things achieved, including cakes, conifers, containers, and crocuses.  Please join us for some Festive Fare on Wednesday 4 December 2019 from 7 to 9pm in the Dunbar Street Halls: AB24 3UJ – off St Machar Drive.  Enter by side door.  If you still have Christmas shopping to do some of our small crafted or baked items might be the perfect wee gift.