The Balmedie Beach Visitor Centre was built in 1980s as a base for the Beach Ranger Service when Balmedie had its own Beach Ranger. The Ranger had an office here and there was also a room for teaching local school children all about the beach and the local environment. Over 10 years ago the Ranger Service was withdrawn from Balmedie and the building lay empty, closed to the public and only used occasionally by Aberdeenshire Council Landscape Services who manage Balmedie Country Park.
In 2014 a group of community members started the Belhelvie Community Trust (BCT). The Trust operates throughout the Belhelvie Parish – in the settlements of Balmedie, Belhelvie, Potterton, Whitecairns and Blackdog and all other dwellings within the parish. Membership of the Trust is open to all individuals and groups who have an interest in Belhelvie Parish. The purpose of the Trust is to act as an “umbrella” group to support existing community projects and organisations and to create new initiatives throughout the parish of Belhelvie, all for the benefit of its residents. The Trust meet on the fourth Monday of each month and are open to everyone interested in the work of the Trust.
In Apil 2015, the trust became a charity (SCO45563) with its purpose being community development. Furthermore, the Trust applied to take on the running of the Balmedie Beach Visitor Centre building as a Community Asset Transfer (CAT). The process was a lengthy one, taking approx. 18 months, but in March 2016 the Trust was given a ‘Licence to Occupy’ and then in June 2016 the Trust were granted a CAT with a 10-year lease. While waiting for the CAT lease, the Trust applied to several sources for funds to enable us to carry out essential repairs and cover some start-up costs. The Trust has received help from a range of places including Aberdeenshire Council, NHS, local businesses, national charities and other local community groups (see funders/support below). So far, the biggest jobs have been restoring and repairing the decking and balustrades around the building, creating a kitchen with kiosk hatch and installing the security alarm system.
The Trust then asked the local community what they would like to name the building and 'The Sand Bothy' was top of the list!
The Sand Bothy’s key aims are:
* to create a community hub,
* to build a permanent exhibition about the area for all ages including schoolchildren,
* to provide a rentable space for classes, groups, events and workshops,
* to create a kiosk for selling hot and cold drinks, ice creams and snacks,
* to bring an unused building back to life and
* to provide a volunteering hub.
It was also agreed that The Sand Bothy sells Fairtrade food and drinks where possible and encourage people to respect the Country Park by binning litter, using recycling facilities and biodegradable packaging if possible.
The Sand Bothy is run entirely by volunteers. We are always looking for more volunteers to help with tasks such as organising classes, fundraising, serving refreshments, running activity groups, auditing the accounts and producing publicity material etc.
As a community space, this building belongs to all of us. We need your ideas about how to use the space and how to turn ideas into reality. The Sand Bothy does not aim to make huge profits but it does need to cover running costs. It is important to mention that The Sand Bothy will always work with other organisations and businesses, always for the benefit of the community in Balmedie and throughout the parish of Belhelvie. Eventually it may be a help to the community and volunteers that the project is able to pay a member of staff but that is a long way down the line! In the meantime, we have a great team of volunteers working together who make these things happen.