Development of Woodend Area
Woodend was a small farm on the edge of Banchory with a traditional farmhouse and steading. The transformation of the farm buildings at Woodend into an arts centre was prompted by a community play which was performed in the grounds of Crathes Castle in July 1992. The play celebrated the history of both the Burnett family and the local community as part of celebrations to mark the 400th anniversary of Crathes Castle. Woodend Steading was the venue for rehearsals for the play and, at the request of the community; the Leys Estate offered it for conversion to a Community Arts Centre. Woodend Arts Association was formed as a registered Scottish charity in 1994 and has flourished and grown ever since, assisted by financial support from the Estate.
Woodend Barn (www.woodendbarn.com) has become one of the most successful community art centres in Scotland. It is a focus for a large number of local community and volunteer groups but also takes a realistic approach to funding. It has to ensure that its programme is both diverse and accessible to all, requiring funding from many different sources. In addition to funding from Creative Scotland, the Barn raises income via other events such as private functions, weddings, comedians, music nights and seminars all of which are important to the local economy.
As the success of Woodend Barn grew, the Estate made substantial investments in the Woodend site. First, in 2007 they leased 3 acres of good agricultural land next to Woodend Barn to a newly formed Community Allotments Association which allowed them to establish over 40 allotments, a communal shed and summer house. Due to its success, a further 3 acres was leased to them in 2011 and with assistance from the Climate Challenge Fund for fencing and establishment costs there are over 120 plot holders, including three community groups, which now makes it the largest site of new allotments in Scotland (www.woodendbarn.com/allotments).
The Estate also offered some additional land to the community group to establish Woodend Wild Garden (www.woodendbarn.com/wild-garden-2), which sits between the two sets of allotments and was created as part of the BBC Breathing Spaces project.
On a larger scale, in 2010 Leys Estate invested in designing and constructing a bespoke contemporary building connected to Woodend Barn which was leased to Buchanan’s Bistro and has now become one of the most popular eateries in Banchory and surrounds. Buchanans Bistro (www.buchananfood.com) is owned and managed by Val and Calum Buchanan and the restaurant won the 2015 Aberdeen City and Shire Tourism Awards for the Best Informal Eating Experience Award. Fresh bread is baked daily on the premises, and they cure and smoke pheasants, fish, scallops, oil, and vegetables and brew their own beer, so very much keeping up old Scottish traditions. They also grow a lot of their produce in one of the community allotments and their meat is sourced locally, including from Leys Estate.
Deeside Rugby Club
The latest addition to the Woodend Complex by Leys Estate was the development of four rugby pitches in 2011 to establish a new high profile home leased to Deeside Rugby Club (www.pitchero.com/clubs/deesiderfc). The provision of new pitches have seen the Club membership grow significantly with players coming from all over Deeside, so much so that the Rugby Club are currently designing and seeking funding for a new clubhouse, changing facilities and additional pitches!
Woodend Biomass Heating Network
Woodend Barn, Buchanan’s Bistro, the current Rugby Changing Facilities and Woodend Farmhouse are all connected to a Biomass District Heating Network operated by the Estate Energy Company HoBESCo (www.hobesco.com).
Festivals & Events
There are also two successful festivals held annually at Woodend. There is a Min-rugby festival in May attracting over 600 young players and parents to Woodend from all over North East Scotland and the Banchory Beer Festival (www.banchorybeerfestival.com) held in August and is now in its fourth year.
Future Woodend Developments
Future developments being considered include the re-location of the local athletics club to Woodend to provide new and improved facilities, one of the new rugby pitches may also be a 4G all-weather multi-sport surface, that would potentially allow the establishment of a boys and girls hockey club in Banchory, sites for Eco-lodges and a park and ride facility for commuters to Aberdeen.
This all re-affirms the Estate’s confidence in the future of Banchory and that the Woodend Community Arts and Sports Hub can provide an increasingly wide range of benefits for all members of the local community. Alongside Leys Estate, many members of the local community have contributed towards the success of Woodend, most of them volunteers and too numerous to mention here.
Leys Estate would like to thanks to all those who have help make it happen and keep it happening.