Latest Event Updates

Fancy a Trip Underground?

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Some beautiful and unusual buildings and land are in community ownership.

A growing number of groups are getting together to rescue much-loved places from redevelopment or demolition – from castles and piers to public toilets.

Could your community take ownership of a local space? To inspire you, over the next few weeks we would like to share with you some of these. First up, The Burrow, Devon. 

The Burrow in Exbourne is a community-owned shop with a difference – it’s underground. Like something from The Hobbit, this little shop, café and post office is built underneath a field in the centre of the village, and is the UK’s only underground shop.

In December 2001 the village shop and post office in the parish of Exbourne with Jacobstowe in rural West Devon closed and was sold as a private dwelling. This meant that villagers would have to make a journey of at least 5 miles each way to reach the nearest town for shops and services.

Early in 2002 following a public meeting to discuss the closure of the community’s only store and post office, the Exbourne Community Initiative Committee was formed. The original mandate of the organisation was to try and re-establish a shop – a community-run shop – possibly with additional facilities alongside it. The great importance of such activities in safeguarding the quality of village life was keenly recognised and the initiative was supported by the vast majority of local residents.

The Association quickly established a temporary shop, cafe and post office in Exbourne’s Village Hall, opening 2 mornings a week and run (with the exception of the Post Office section) by volunteers.

The shop has grown and grown and with the support of local growers, plus a lot of hard work, they have managed to get together an exciting range of products, from fresh vegetables, canned food and even some hardware items. Each shop day freshly baked bread is locally sourced.

One of the most popular features of our current shop in the Village Hall is the café, where local residents and visitors can gather to swap stories and exchange gossip.
The success of the temporary shop/cafe allowed plans to move forward establishing The Burrow. The project raised over £185,000 allowing digging on the underground shop to begin. Upon successful completion the shop/cafe and post office moved underground. Formally opened in 2012, The Burrow continues to flourish and expand its role within the community.
Fancy a trip underground? Visit The burrow at


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A profound shift in attitudes is underway all over the world. People are now recognising that ‘progress’ should be about increasing human happiness and wellbeing, not just growing the economy.

March 20 has been established as the annual International Day of Happiness and all 193 United Nations member states have adopted a resolution calling for happiness to be given greater priority.

In 2011, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution which recognised happiness as a “fundamental human goal” and called for “a more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach to economic growth that promotes the happiness and well-being of all peoples”.

In 2012 the first ever UN conference on Happiness took place and the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution which decreed that the International Day of Happiness would be observed every year on 20 March. It was celebrated for the first time in 2013.

In 2017, the Smurfs joined the UN in celebrating the International Day of Happiness as well as the 17 Sustainable Development Goals – #SmallSmurfsBigGoals

The details of 2018 celebrations have not yet been announced, but whatever you have planned for the day, be happy!

How do you Communicate with your Community?

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It is only 2 or 3 decades since communication was done by telephone, mail or face to face and all documents were stored in paper or hard copy files. Today the internet and associated devices such as computers, laptops, tablets, mobile devices, etc, are seen as a necessity rather than a luxury.

Since the baseline year of 2007, the percentage of adults using the internet for personal use in Scotland has increased from 62.7% to 83.4% in 2016. The use of the internet (for personal use) is however strongly linked to age. In 2016, 99.1% of 16-24 year olds used the internet for personal use, compared to 71.6% of 60-74 year olds and approximately a third of people aged 75 and older. Adults with a physical or mental health condition lasting or expected to last more than 12 months are less likely to use the internet for personal use. Almost seven out of ten adults with such a longstanding health condition use the internet for personal use, compared to nine out of ten among the rest of the population. (Source: Scottish Household Survey 2017)

Within the UK of those without internet access, 64% felt they didn’t need the internet as it was regarded as not useful or interesting. A further 20% felt they lacked skills and 12% reported that they had access to the internet elsewhere. (Source:ONS: Internet access – households and individuals: 2017)

There are therefore sections of our population who either do not have or choose not to have digital access. Coupled with the fact that our use of technology is still evolving making it harder for sections of our communities to keep apace with the changes. For example, in social media Facebook, which only emerged 14 years ago is now being abandoned, by young people, for its little sister, Instagram. Reflecting the mobile engagement of the times. Figures from Nielsen Book Research UK survey of 2016 reveal that e-book sales are falling while sales of paper books are growing – and the shift is being driven by younger generations.

The advent of new technologies has changed how we interact, how we communicate and some of our reading habits. Within communities we need to inform and communicate with people both in digital and non-digital formats in order to reach all sectors. What do you find are the best means of communications with your communities? Share your ideas of what works. for you.

Community libraries

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The town of Chapelton recently welcomed its first community library just in time for National Storytelling Week 2018.

The books, which will be located in a quiet corner of the popular Teacake Café, will act as a community library corner, or a book swap, where it is hoped residents of all ages will be able to swap, read and discuss some of their favourite books and stories. So why libraries are so important in today’s digital world?

Many people believe libraries to be a thing of the past due to the digital revolution and the rise of a gadget enamoured society. However,

“The National Literacy Trust says that children who go to a library are twice as likely as those who don’t to read well. It is not just picking up a book. It is the social experience of reading, talking about the books, browsing, comparing what you have read with family and friends. Librarians are gate keepers in that process. They open doors to new worlds, new possibilities. They ask library visitors to evaluate the information on offer. Most importantly, they give access to narratives. Children and adults do not just need information to thrive as thinking beings, but stories. Libraries are the temple of story. They are not in decline because of some natural, historic progression, but because of the monstrous cultural vandalism of savage cost-cutting. We will pay a terrible price for the behaviour of our masters.” (Alan Gibbons)

Libraries are seen by many as a lifeline and a crucial public service, especially if you are elderly, socially isolated, poor, vulnerable, or all of the above.

So why are libraries so important and why must we protect and improve them?

  1. They’re accessible

 The obvious advantage of having a local library is that it is local. Accessibility is crucial if you have mobility problems and/or haven’t got the money for bus fare.

  1. They help to bridge the digital divide

People in rural areas face significant challenges when it comes to IT access, including infrastructure problems and set-up costs. The vast majority of public libraries offer free IT access and basic IT training to the public.

  1. They help to combat social isolation

Libraries are social places where people can chat, read and keep in touch with the outside world. For elderly people who can’t access a static library, mobile and housebound services can fill the gap. Sometimes a friendly smile from a library worker can make all the difference to an isolated and vulnerable persons day or week.

According to C.S. Lewis “You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me”. So next time you’re in Chapelton pay a visit to the Teacake Café and sample what both have to offer.

Wheelchairs on the beach

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A visit to the beach or wild areas if you are in a wheelchair is generally problematic. However Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and Scotland’s National Nature Reserves are providing such an opportunity. Working with Pony Axe S , four, free events including one at St Cyrus Nature Reserve on 26th February 2018 have been arranged in Aberdeenshire. There is no need to transfer to all terrain or beach wheelchairs, no need to leave your wheelchair behind they take people, who use wheelchairs to all the places where wheelchairs can’t take them. The trips with Pony Axe S are free, but booking is essential. To book your place, or to find out more, call Isla on 01224 266514 or e-mail

Aberdeenshire Council have launched a major survey so that they can improve communities and quality of life for disabled people. Your views will help inform future planning. They will be shared with relevant agencies who can take action to improve your community. The survey has been developed by the Physical Disability Strategic Outcome Group (PDSOG). This group includes disabled people, carers and people from Aberdeenshire Council, NHS Grampian (NHSG) and voluntary organisations in Aberdeenshire. This group leads the direction for planning, developing and delivering services for physically disabled people in Aberdeenshire. They are asking disabled people what it is like to live in Aberdeenshire.

So if you have a disability or you know someone who has, complete the survey to ensure that your voice is heard. Click on the link to take part Living with a disability in Aberdeenshire

Printed copies are available by calling the Council on 03456 081206

A Cupful of Sugar

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Borrowing from neighbours was once a commonplace practice, part of the network of relations we once had with those who lived within close range. 

So what’s changed?

The industrial revolution brought affordable modern technology—with it quick transportation and supermarkets. In ancient times, hunting, gathering, and foraging were communal practices. And it wasn’t long ago that many cultures, especially rural ones, still relied on weekly markets, traveling salesmen, and the growing of their own goods. But living in relative isolation also meant more contact with your neighbours because one of them probably provided your weekly dairy needs and another milled wheat for flour or grew pears you exchanged for apples.

Changes in food technology, making fresh produce less perishable, extending shelf life, has decreased the interaction we have with those who live close by to help out when we are running short. Communal cooking practises regularly seen in other countries don’t feature in our society.

It’s easy to reflect on past practises with rose tinted spectacles. Changes in our food supply has brought countless benefits. However, does the growing reliance on foodbanks indicate we should re-evaluate practises long forgotten? Reconnecting with our neighbours in times of need would not only strengthen bonds within our communities but provide welcome support during difficult times. The social distance created by modern society is a symptom of our increasingly busy lives and the sprawling communities we now live in. However, it is only a short walk next door for that cupful of sugar, but the benefits to our communities can stretch much further than that.

‘An Apple a day’

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Established as a community volunteer group in late 2013, Brighter Bervie does what it says on the tin – the group brightens up the environment and community spirit in Inverbervie and the surrounding district. The focus of the groups’ activity is around a gardening project, transforming neglected spaces and street corners into attractive locations for the benefit of visitors and residents.

In the autumn of 2017 volunteers from Brighter Bervie, along with Fiona and Kevin from our partners Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH), visited Bervie Primary School.

At the school’s morning assembly, in which all the pupils take such an active and enthusiastic part, Fiona engaged with them to share information about the work that SAMH does to help people cope with mental illness. Gardening is one of the therapeutic activities which SAMH promotes.

c4735d90d7c84c65922b23a43640fca4In the afternoon the Outdoor Learning Group came out to the school garden to plant 5 apple trees donated by SAMH. Now a patient 2-year wait is required until they can pick and eat the fruit.

This work is part of the Edibles Trail project which Brighter Bervie is implementing around our Royal Burgh. Brighter Bervie’s volunteers are continuing to plant more fruit, vegetables, herbs and edible flowers along the trail for folk to pick, (cook) and eat free of charge. The intention of the scheme is to connect people with natural healthy food sources as well as encouraging them to walk about and take a deeper interest in this wonderful community that we sometimes take for granted.

Bervie’s Edibles Trail is being developed along with trails in Portlethen and St Cyrus as the first three in South Aberdeenshire under the auspices of Aberdeenshire Voluntary Action (AVA).

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