Landscape gardening show. The Beechgrove team are on the road to Spey Bay to help build a garden full of wildlife themes at one of the most exposed sites they have ever worked on.
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Hello, there. Well, I'm standing in a very special place,
right where the majestic, fast-flowing River Spey reaches its destination
in the Moray Firth. One of Scotland's principal rivers
with a catchment area of over 3,000 square kilometres,
it fairly hammers its way down to the sea, dropping 12 feet in every mile,
taking everything in front of it, and by the time it gets to the estuary
it will get out there in its own fashion.
The Muckle Spate of 1829 was an infamous flood
which devastated much of the Strathspey and Speyside area
including many of the bridges on the river.
The flood tore a massive 400 metre-long hole through the protective shingle ridge
creating a new mouth for the River Spey.
Flash flooding by the river and its tributaries still causes problems,
there were flood warnings out just a few weeks ago,
but on the other side of the coin, it carries with it lots of food for wildlife
and this has created in this area the most wonderful flora and fauna.
And the challenge for us at the new community garden is to
create something which is in tune with this very special place.
Isn't this wonderful, being able to indulge your passion of gardening
with your second passion, which is fishing.
This is one of the prime salmon rivers in Scotland.
The Tugnet salmon netting station was built in 1783 and at its height,
they were netting 1,000 salmon a day.
That's some haul.
Salmon stocks declined so much
that the netting was stopped in the 1990s.
Since then, the wildlife on the river has improved dramatically.
I've always wanted to swim with dolphins, but I think this might be
the closest I'm going to get,
and that's what this special place is all about, the wildlife.
Here you can see otters, ospreys, seals and so much more, but most visitors come because it's reputed
to be the best place in Europe to see my favourite and the most entertaining of creatures, dolphins.
The Tugnet salmon netting station
gave over its buildings to be used as a unique wildlife centre.
It's now managed by the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, which is a global charity
dedicated to the conservation and welfare of all whales and dolphins.
Each year, the centre attracts no fewer than 60,000 visitors to this remote part of Scotland. Hello.
Everyone wants to see the dolphins, and we really want to see some while we're here over the next few days,
but actually we're here to be involved in the finishing stages
of this unique community garden
which wraps itself around all parts of the of wildlife centre.
I'm in the wildlife centre
and Alice is the centre manager so, Alice, tell us the main functions of WDCS.
Well, we are here to protect the whales and dolphins around Scotland
and particularly the whales and dolphins in the Moray Firth.
And Spey Bay is a fantastic site for dolphins to come and feed,
so it also makes it a great place for people to come and watch dolphins
so we have a visitor centre here and an education programme
to promote stewardship of the animals here.
But there is also loads of other wildlife to be found at Spey Bay
so it's a great place for people to come and see ospreys and birds as well.
So what's your motivation behind the garden?
Well, I think that Spey Bay is such a beautiful site, it's a beautiful, natural site,
there's so much fantastic wildlife here and yet over the years we have been so busy
focusing on the education and conservation work
that we do we've perhaps let the buildings kind of... not look so good,
and what we'd really like to do is try and match the overall look of
the visitor centre with the beautiful natural environment
and try and make it a bit more appealing to visitors.
And who has been involved?
Well, we've had a real variety of people involved.
We've had local volunteers who have been working with us for several years now,
and they've got really excited about the project, helped out a lot.
We've also had our residential volunteers
who come here for a season to help with conservation and education work,
but also we seem to have drawn in quite a few local people
who haven't necessarily been involved with the centre before
but have been pleased to finally see us doing something with the site
and it's kind of snowballed as we've gone on.
The more we've done, the more people we seem to have gathered.
Well, here we are in one of the most important areas of this garden, this courtyard,
and with me I've got Anne and Robert
-who have been volunteers for how long now?
-Just over a year.
Really? And it's not just all that easy.
How far away do you live?
-You're obviously committed to the job then, that's for sure.
Yes, yes. And, Robert, you I think are to blame for us being here.
It was your idea wasn't it?
That's right, yes, it's true.
I mentioned Beechgrove to Alice...
-And it's worked.
-I suppose it's a special place that could be made more special.
And you've been a volunteer for a year, do you find that there are more people becoming involved?
Yes, there's a lot more people coming now and it's lovely, and the people
-that are coming are really committed to making it work.
-Yes, yes, yes.
And what's the common denominator?
Now, Kirsty, this is quite a different project because you've been
designing the garden for the Scottish Dolphin Centre.
Yes, and one of the first parts of the brief was to try and make this car park
a little bit more inviting, because it's the entrance to the centre.
So we started doing that by brightening it up, defining the edges, getting new signs.
We've dealt with a horrible concrete wall.
A lovely solution with the shells and the netting.
It's got all that nice sort of seashore feel to it as well.
It has. I mean this is such a very, very different project for me
because it's all the different aspects, the coastal aspect, the reserve, the estuary,
the inner courtyard, so lots of different planting to consider.
Because you've been working on lots of different areas and they've all been improved
with the gardens around them.
Absolutely. Well, I mean the planting, here we had to deal with salt-laden winds.
In the inner courtyard we've got some lovely, prettier planting
and then, of course, the natural planting looking over the reserve.
And I know it's very, very exposed
-but it has a lovely peaceful feel to it.
-Hasn't it just?
I mean, the quality of light here is just...it's extremely calming.
-So you're nice and calm.
-I am very calm.
Ali, you are the educational officer here.
-And this harbour garden existed a few years ago.
Yes. We started it in 2008 when sadly a member of staff died here and we wanted a memorial garden
for her and for our other supporters as well
and since then it's just been growing and evolving.
Well, you say "evolving" but I'd like to take you back...
What was the space used for initially?
When it was a salmon fishing station the men used to come in here to mend their fishing nets.
You can see a big chimney over here and they used to light the fire in there to keep warm
-while they were doing all their work.
-They would need to keep warm, especially in the winter time.
-Pretty cold in the winter, definitely.
-The garden itself, the focal point has to be the tree stump.
Yes. It was found on Spey Bay beach, part of the driftwood there, and we brought it up - no mean feat,
and it's meant to be like a diving whale's tail,
so to signify that. And it does look like that.
It does. It's absolutely superb.
And what about the words on the logs here?
A local poet wrote this for us and we put one word on each log,
and when children come here they love to see what it has to say.
It's a very tactile garden, I think it's great fun.
The plants, of course, you've had to choose plants that are suitable for coastal locations.
Yes, of course, and over there
we've got plants that grow in the Moray coastline and all the way along.
We also have it as a wildlife garden, so we've got some wildflower seeds growing here
and also a bug hotel at the end where lots of insects live.
And then you're also growing a few vegetables and herbs?
Vegetables for the staff and volunteers who come and take their pick.
The children were really enjoying themselves today with the boats on the wall.
Yes. We had some local school children in today and they helped make these boats for the wall
and they also helped put driftwood up on the netting up here.
Well, you know what I like, Ali, is when you come through the new entrance now,
you can just get a glimpse of that, it's really inviting.
Yes. It's a splash of colour and it's really good. Yes.
-Well, George, this must be one of the most unique features on the site.
-reputed to be the largest ice house in the country...
-..covered with a turf roof which, of course, we think is a wonderful modern feature.
-And all the business doing it, but...
-200 years old?
Now, you've got a range of plants in here which have...
Well, it has its own kind of, this is a particular habitat.
-This is a wee plant, Ian, recognised by that spike.
-I see it, yes.
-We're used to seeing it flat.
Are these ones the flat ones on the lawn?
Yes. Look how that has adapted to the seaside.
-Very narrow ribbed leaves.
-In miniature, so to speak.
And look underneath, a stone drop just hanging on there.
I think what they did was they just lifted the local turf and they put it on the roof.
-That's a wallflower stump.
-There's another wallflower here. Look at that. See?
There's one just starting out. Seedlings, seedlings all the way along here, a wee wallflower,
-and here's a hockspit, and then this one at the corner.
Look, forcing its way out from between the sheets of concrete.
This would be quite thick and it's actually acting as an insulation layer, isn't it?
-And it's handsome.
-And then, see that?
-That's at ground level here, isn't it?
Well, you come into the ice house, you see where it is, it's way above your head.
It must have been some fish industry to support an ice house this size.
-Well, they were catching anything up to 1,000 fish a day.
And they needed the ice to keep them cool so they could send them off to the markets.
Right. Where did they get ice?
See these channels? These were all fresh water channels.
Those froze in the winter, they cut the ice into huge blocks and it was all taken into this building here.
-And when the fish went, it would go by train?
-Well, they built a special railway.
And they have a bridge up there with this wonderful railway track.
'This here is quite interesting.'
-Does anyone know what this is?
-I think we should.
-Do you think we should?
-It's a type of boat, it's got quite a special name, it's called a coracle.
So you can see a big saw on the back wall there,
that would be two or three men that would be sawing the ice -
they would chop the ice up and they would bring it into the ice house.
And because the walls are very, very thick and because two thirds of
the ice house is underground, the ice would stay in that component for the whole of the winter.
-Is that the window that we can see from outside?
-It's at ground level upstairs.
Yes. So what they did is they were landed with this killer whale on the beach and they obviously had to
dispose of it, and you've got an animal very, very large, and it's quite heavy
and you don't know what to do, so they enlisted in
local army, who decided that the best thing to do would be to blow it up.
So they miscalculated the amount of explosives, but also forgot
that when animals die you also have natural gases that build up as well.
So they put the explosives in the whale and blew it up
and the whale ended up in a lot of people's back gardens.
That's another way of putting down fish blood and bone!
-The gardens would have been good!
You know, Kirsty, the ice house is just an amazing building.
It's fascinating, isn't it? And it's actually the ice house that creates this sort of shelter down here.
This is just a completely different world, Carole, isn't it?
We've got the reserve, the estuary, and it's very sheltered.
It's peaceful, as you say, a beautiful environment to look at,
so really we should utilise this area, shouldn't we?
Absolutely. Well, people do come to picnic down here but there's nowhere for them to sit.
So what we've decided is, in a way, Beechgrove is treating this as a bit of a problem corner.
-We're going to bring in some benches and using locally-sourced whisky barrels...
-So there's lots of work here.
I think we need a bit of muscle.
-Yes, we do.
-And I think I know just the person.
Oh, Rob, that's great, more compost. We're going to do a bit of shovelling, get that in.
-Now, Rob, your role is project coordinator, is that right?
Yes. I've been basically put in charge of getting all the stuff for
this project, like the wood, the compost, stones, all sorts.
-And how has that been for you? Has it been quite easy to source things?
-It's been easier than I expected.
When I first started phoning up the local companies, I thought it would be really difficult,
but they were dead keen to get involved, so it was a lot easier than I expected.
-And are you pleased with how it's coming together?
-Yes, it's amazing.
It's a really exciting stage. Everything is coming together now.
I should explain what we are doing here. We are creating these three seating bays for you
and we've got the 12 whisky barrels,
so we've put the Formasol down on the bottom there to suppress any weeds,
-then we've got pebbles on top of that.
We've put gravel and drainage holes in the whisky barrels because that's really important as well,
-and then a bit of topsoil and that compost that you've sourced as well.
And then the next bit, for me, it's always the exciting bit, putting in the plants.
-Kirsty, what do you think of the planting?
-I think it looks absolutely fantastic.
The colours, the textures, and the fact you managed to get the colours all the way through.
It looks really good.
Well, speaking about the textures, I think what is important is we've got to bear in mind the strong winds
and the salt spray.
So we've ended up with things like very narrow leaves, the pines, the grasses,
-they are fine in those kind of conditions.
Yes. Silver leaves, hairy leaves
and fresh leaves as well, so things like the holly.
We'll have a little bit of a surprise.
We'll be putting in some allium bulbs.
-They'll look gorgeous.
-Yes, and nice for that summer colour.
That will signal the season change.
Well, that's it, that's the last allium in.
Now you know plants are just amazing survivors
and they grow in all kinds of conditions.
So our George has taken a wee wander down
to the shingle beach to see what he can find.
So you're a ranger here at Spey Bay
and this is an absolutely fantastic landscape.
Yes, it's beautiful.
How did this form?
Well, all of the shingle here came down from the Cairngorms
-and was brought down by the Spey.
And you can see there's tons of it.
Well, hundreds, thousands of tons of these rounded stones.
-And the whole thing shifts all the time?
-Yes, that's right.
It goes down about eight-metres deep.
And depending on the river and the tides,
it just moves around a lot.
-So a really dynamic system.
Brings down all these stones which are really the geological guts,
as it were, of the Cairngorms,
but it brings down other things as well.
It brings down quite a lot of rubbish
so we have beach cleans every month.
But it brings down other things as well.
That Japanese knotweed, that's awful.
-What are you doing about that?
-Well, you can see we've got quite a lot of it on the beach.
We're just starting to get a project together now to try
and get land owners further upriver to help us eradicate it up there.
-Because that's where it's coming from?
-And it's a wonderful survivor
because this is shingle,
-it's moving all the time and it's rooting into that.
So it's one of these ones
that obviously can manage to grow anywhere.
-Yes, it can.
There's other things which are interesting and there's a fellow here.
Look at this thing here. This is a mountain plant.
Now that possibly has been one seed from way up in the Cairngorms,
dropped into a stream, come all the way down the Spey
and then pitched up here on the shingle bank
and because there's enough humus here it started to grow.
That's a fantastic thing to see.
But look at this. Look at these lupins.
That's a lupin which is actually from North America.
Now, it hasn't come all the way there, but that was growing away up at Newtonmore
and it was used to stabilise the roadside verges
when they did the cuttings in the roads.
And there it is, one or two seeds down the river
and then they've pitched up here. And now you've got to deal with it.
-Which is unfortunate, but it's a great survivor.
-Yes, and it looks great in the spring time.
Now then, just to get a little bit of local knowledge
on what's possible to grow in this windswept environment.
Carole took herself off about a mile down the road
to the garden of Jim and Sheila Gordon.
Well, at least I've found one or two trees here.
But literally the community garden is just down the road.
And the garden I'm about to visit,
well, it's won several awards and it's built on a river bed.
Sheila, I can't get over the range of plants
that you've got in your garden, but how did you start it all?
Well, I was standing at the kitchen sink one day
and I just said I would love to look out on a lovely garden
and I want to look right down the middle and see plants either side.
And I've planted the golden plants that you can see because
being in Scotland it's sometimes overcast, you know,
and this just looks like splashes of sunlight.
-Yes, golden plants are really important because as you say, they're cheerful.
But I'd like to have a look round so can we go on a bit of a tour?
Yes. Uh huh.
Jim laid all these paths you can see.
So did you know exactly where you wanted to put them?
Well, we were just standing up here one day
-with just soil here and I just said to Jim, "I want a pond there."
"And I want a chalet here." And Jim says, "Yes."
"And a path coming up here towards the chalet, and grass here."
I wanted shrubs there, grass either side, trees and shrubs there.
You had such a vision and I feel you've got an artistic eye,
there's no doubt about it.
And water I think is quite important
-to have in the garden, isn't it?
Love the garden pond.
-I love the pond but I also love the bridge. Was that Jim as well?
-That was Jim as well, yes.
-He's obviously very handy.
-Seven people have stood on top of there.
Sheila, this weeping birch is a real focal point in the garden.
I just planted it and it just grew like this.
But you've done a bit of pruning.
-You've shaped it.
-Yes, I have shaped it, yes.
But a lot of people would say that plant is too big and they'd probably say,
"Chop off the branch," or they've got to get rid of it, but you've utilised it, haven't you?
Yes. I love tunnels.
Really important for you.
Oh, Sheila, more surprises here and I love this plant.
-Globe thistle, isn't it?
-And so healthy.
And you've got so many of them. And the apple tree, as well.
-I didn't want to leave it at my last place
so I tied a rope around it and was pulling it out
with my Austin Mini Metro and Jim came and helped me dig it out
and brought it down here. That was in the middle of July.
-So the wrong time of year.
-But it's perfectly happy here.
-And I can understand why you've won
the Spey Bay gardening competition a couple of times.
-It is stunning. Thank you.
Well, one of the aims of this community garden was to highlight
the car park for the Dolphin Centre,
and this beautiful sign has really helped.
I love the blue, and this blue colour is picked up all over in the garden.
Now, to make sure the cars don't actually come into the car park
in the wrong way there's sort of an inference of a whale here,
and that's acting as a barrier to the cars.
And the surface is just like a beach, it's a beautiful sandy yellow.
And then as we progress round the car park,
the newly refurbished entrance to the harbour garden has made that really welcoming.
And then there are a couple of seats where people can sit and sun themselves.
I thought if they've put benches here I should try them out,
and they're very nice, you can sit and look across the sea, look for dolphins, it's great.
And this bit here's lovely.
Look, they've made these containers look like the fish boxes they used to keep the salmon in,
which I think is lovely, some pebbles on top, and this area is all covered in shells.
-And in the wind it's got a lovely clinking, clanking noise.
-Such a good idea.
And then mulched with all these shells here like this.
And you can tell how old the shell is by counting these ribs.
OK, so one, two, three, four...
We've got more of this nice blue colour here,
and it gets a nice sort of rhythm going through the whole centre.
And the planting here in the car park has been done in quite a special way, hasn't it? You and I did it.
We did. We did it in blocks but kind of a wavy effect,
and then one or two gaps where we can put the pebbles,
so we've got this seaside theme, which I think is quite important.
And the plants are all going to be good and thrive here.
Well, the volunteers and the staff are planting them, but yes,
they're going to survive because they're alpines, low-growing,
which is important with this windy site. And the names of the plants, it's a giveaway.
We've got armeria, sea thrift, and then actually silene sea campion.
-They should do well there.
-It should be good.
And then there is a new arch, and this leads to the shop area.
More of this lovely blue being picked up on the furniture,
and then even the doors of the gift shop have got it as well.
And then there's another attractive sign, I love the grain in that.
The planting around here has to be really appropriate,
so the millstone has been done beautifully with these sempervivums.
And we've really got a couple of problems here, haven't we?
Yes. It's very windy, there's a real wind tunnel down here so we've got planters, containers,
and we've got benching, so it should be nice to sit out here in summer, but it is windy.
So we're looking for plants that are very tough leaves
or things that are nice and flat so the wind just whistles over them like these.
This always looks like black shredded polythene to me, but there we go.
-I know you don't like them.
I know. This edging is nice, isn't it, between the road.
-And that silver plant in there is quite significant.
Things with sort of furry leaves as well, so the salt can't get through.
And you've got fleshy leaves here.
Alice is just finishing off the planting there with the children, which is excellent.
And then we're top dressing with gravel.
Yes. Well, the other problem you can get by the seaside is the soil is quite sandy,
so you need things that will tolerate the drought.
The wind is whistling, taking the moisture out, the soil is sandy,
so things like cedar will take a bit of drought as well.
In the last bed we've actually got some taller grasses at the back
-just to have a sort of a full stop here and to finish it all off.
-And despite it being windy, salty, look at that view.
The thing about here that's great is everywhere you look there's a stunning view of the sea.
-We're done here.
-Have a look.
-What a transformation.
Absolutely brilliant in here now, isn't it?
This is just like the shingle bank we were on the other day.
-Great plants, appropriate plants in there.
This is going to be different because this is all sort of a mosaic of plants,
and great colour right through here. We built the ships in the windows.
-OK, we're painting an idyll.
Because we're in this beautiful courtyard and you can see the people...
-I feel a but coming on.
-There is a but.
-Because these walls radiate heat when it's warm but...
They prevent wind from getting in so it comes in over the top and it swirls round.
And the whole lot are going to get really battered.
So the plants have got to be quite low-growing.
But let's just pick out the things that we are concentrating on, plants that are suitable.
-Grey foliage, little hairs on the leaves.
-Glossy leaves, you've got a hebe over there which is glossy.
And then the heuchera just keeps coming up.
Well, it does, but it's a coastal plant.
-Yes. So ideally situated, just in the right place.
Well, I said at the beginning of the programme I really hoped we saw dolphins, and we did.
We were standing on the beach and we saw them leaping through the waves,
and it was just such a thrill. But a bit closer at hand
there are some beautiful wooden sculptures of dolphins leaping across the lawn.
And what's brilliant is you know you've arrived at the Dolphin Centre
because there are the beautiful three flags.
Sense of presence, of arrival, and the same thing with the screen prints on the windows.
I think these are just magic. They've got whales and dolphins and jellyfish on.
I'd like to just thank all the helpers, the volunteers and the staff,
and, Alice, as centre manager, I know that you've got lots of ideas for the future on this site.
I just love the ambience of this place.
I think we've all felt it,
and I think you can definitely say it is a destination.
So if you want to know any more about that destination
and you want to know something
about what we've done here in the community garden,
go online and have a look at the fact sheet
which has been written by the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society.
I thought you were going to say it's been written by the whale.
But if you've been inspired by this community garden project
or maybe the one in Glasgow by the Y People,
why don't you apply for a community garden next year?
All you need is a suitable piece of land, lots of helpers,
lots of willing helpers, and all the information of how to apply.
You'll find that on the website.
Next week we're back in the garden for what is the penultimate programme of the series.
But until then, from all of us here in Spey Bay...
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
The Beechgrove team are not in the garden this week. They are all on the road to Spey Bay to help with the finishing touches to a very unusual community garden there.
The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society in the tiny village of Spey Bay attracts over 60,000 visitors each year. The Society's site teeters right on the magnificent mouth of the Spey as it tumbles out to sea, in the best position to watch the dolphins. Also part of the site is a 19th century Ice House, the largest of its type in the UK. The Society want to create a welcoming garden around their site and around the Ice House for visitors and locals to enjoy and to take some shelter from the elements.
This is a seaside garden with a difference. Full of wildlife themes and images, it is also a real challenge as a garden as it is in one of the most exposed sites that we have ever come across. Beechgrove has assisted in the creation of over 200 community gardens since 1996.