Beith Orr Park Neighbourhood Watch – ‘their watch, their way’

It is relatively easy to start up a neighbourhood watch group and we know that they can be very effective at dealing with local issues such as crime, however the real challenge is sustaining the group after it has achieved its initial objectives. Beith Orr Park Neighbourhood Watch is a shining example of ‘your watch, your way’ and what can be achieved when communities work collectively.


The Group

Beith Orr Park Neighbourhood Watch was founded in June 2007 around an anti-social behaviour issue that was affecting the community and the need to improve things when police and the local authority had been unable to do so in isolation. The first meeting was publicised in the local newspaper and elicited the support of local elected members and police. This first meeting had 90 people in attendance which reflected the strength of feeling regarding the issues the community were facing. Whilst initial enthusiasm was high it fell on a few individuals to progress matters and formally establish the Beith Orr Park Neighbourhood Watch.

The People

At the core of the Beith Orr Park Neighbourhood Watch is Norrie Brown, who is supported by his wife Rose.

Norrie was born 1938 and whilst he and Rose came to Beith in 1969 it has always felt like home. He is a Beith person through and through! He trained as a mechanic and thereafter served in The Corps of Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers for 2 years. After his service he joined the Rootes-Chrysler car plant in Linwood as a vehicle inspector and progressed through various departments including car investigation, transmission investigation, resident engineering, and ended up as the senior quality engineer responsible for the machine shop and die-castings. 13 years later he started up his own small garage. His lifelong interest in engineering led to his involvement in manufacturing communication masts for amateur radio and developing boat cradles, for which he holds a patent. In 2009 he retired. Whilst they devote much of their time to the community, Rose and Norrie have toured extensively in Canada and America in their own, and as Norrie points out, very old Dodge motorhome. Over the years they have covered some 60,000km.

Their achievements

Beith Orr Park Neighbourhood Watch achieved what they were established for – to reduce anti-social behaviour, however their impact extends well beyond that issue. They have established community notice boards, organised community concerts and events, including an annual BBQ and Christmas Buffet evening. They arrange and run the town and district annual litter pick and have been a driving force in environmental improvement with the creation of the Beith Community Garden and a focal point in the area – a recently carved bear statue!

Annual Litter Pick

The Beith and District litter pick takes every year around April. It really is a ‘community’ event with many groups helping to clean up the town and surrounding environment such as the Kilbirnie Loch.  Turn out at the beginning was low however they regularly have around 120 pickers out who can collect a truck load of debris, which is swiftly removed by the Streetscene Team. The event attracts a wide range of local groups such as the Guides and Brownies, members of ALVN, the Ranger Service, the local MSP and Councillor and the local Community Policing Team. Central to the annual event is the local young people. On the day everyone dons a tabard and picking stick and “gets stuck in”.

The reach of the Beith and District litter pick now extends to the surrounding areas such as Barrmill and Gateside villages.

In the evening as token of thanks all who helped the Beith Orr Park Neighbourhood Watch are treated to pie and peas tea along with some entertainment in the Community Centre.

This annual event goes from strength to strength and makes a real difference to how the people who live and work in Beith feel about their community.

Beith Community Garden

Before

The annual litter pick played an important role in identifying an area that was needing some special attention.

In Mitchell Street, Beith there was a derelict site that became a dumping ground for all sorts of rubbish and was a real eyesore for residents, workers and visitors. Effectively situated at the end of the Main Street it did nothing to enhance the area and Beith Orr Park Neighbourhood Watch decided it would be great to do something with the site to improve the appearance of this corner of the town. They identified and approached the owner who gave permission to use the site for a Community Garden.

Beith Orr Park Neighbourhood Watch contacted several companies and individuals to see whether they could help in any way resulting in fantastic help and support with plant and materials to help create an appropriate centre piece for this area. The John Muir Trust initially helped with the layout of the site after it had been cleared by Gordon McLeod Plant Hire. The Criminal Justice Team assisted with a lot of the heavy work, as and when required.

The development of the community garden has relied primarily on donations such as from the Beith Christian Action Group, North Ayrshire Council and Beith Development Trust. There is also a small group of dedicated volunteers who routinely look after the garden.

The initial intention was to clear the area and have a few benches and flower tubs, however with time it has developed into a place where local people can now relax and enjoy the peaceful ambience of the surroundings. As well as having flowers and shrubs planted, there are now a variety of fruit, vegetables and herbs grown plus a bench and planter has been installed in memory of local people.

After

For 2018 the garden is being restyled and is receiving a load of top soil from Farrans, who are currently working on the Dalry bypass. Following the delivery of the top soil the Criminal Justice Team will again help to spread the soil and compost on the site and assist with the creation of more planters for vegetables. So far the vegetables include two species of potato and two of cabbage. The community garden also has rhubarb, strawberries and apple trees.

To encourage nature five bird boxes have been installed with three of them already occupied this year.

The local Rainbow Group (a Girl’s Guides section for girls aged five to seven) recently visited the garden and installed lovely ‘wee foam butterflies’ in the tubs. They have also been given ownership of a tub to plant up as they wish. On 14th June a class from Beith Primary School planted some sunflowers including a Russian Giant variety.

On 23rd July the garden is having a visit from John MacLennan, an assessor from “It’s Your Neighbourhood”, part of Keep Scotland Beautiful. Beith Orr Park Neighbourhood Watch work closely with the Keep Scotland Beautiful team who can offer great assistance in letting the garden be known to a wider audience. Also, as part of Neighbourhood Watch Scotland, they receive a lot of varied help and support from the NWS team.

Beith Orr Park believe that a Neighbourhood Watch group should not only report problems but should integrate with all other groups and individuals in the area to make the place a better one in which to live, work and play.

You can find out more about the Community garden at http://gardeninginbeith.blogspot.com/

The Beith Bear 

Woody The Bear

This beautiful carving, unveiled on 23rd February 2018, was commissioned by Beith Orr Park Neighbourhood Watch, sponsored by J&D Pierce Contracts, Hillhouse Group, J&S Montgomery, Co-op Beith and facilitated by Smith Brothers. It has been a true community project.

The bear has been carved from Western Red Cedar by Peter Bowsher, one of the finest chainsaw carvers in UK. The unveiling of the life size carving took place at the Strand, Beith and attracted around 140 visitors and invited guests. The ladies of the Trefoil, Scottish Women’s Institute and Townhouse provided home baking, tea and coffee in the Townhouse following the unveiling.

The inspiration for this carving goes back over 100 years when there was a dancing bear and its handler regularly seen in Beith. The bear carving is a symbol of freedom and serves as a memorial to those unfortunate animals who were made to dance for public entertainment in years past and were subjected to the most brutal treatment in the process of teaching them to dance.

The local primary schools were contacted to suggest names for the memorial bear. Every class in Beith and nearby Gateside suggested a name and on the day of the unveiling all the names were made available on voting sheets in the Townhouse where the popular name chosen from those suggested by the children was of course “Woody”.

Being carved from Western Red Cedar “Woody” is therefore a very appropriate name for the bear. Beith is also the Gaelic name for Birch, and in days past Beith was world famous for the quality of the furniture made there. Some of the world’s great cruise ships were also equipped with fittings made in Beith. Sadly all the manufacturing businesses have now closed and little remains of the once proud industry which employed hundreds of skilled tradesmen and women.

Norrie Brown stated “all of the town have now adopted the bear which should be a symbol of freedom, trust and a reminder that all things can be equal no matter what their status – whether human or animal – only good can come from good”

Beith will be holding a Chainsaw Carving event on Saturday 8th September 2018. The event will be held in the Manse Field from 10am – 4pm. There will be further wood themed events taking part during the day. All visitors will be made welcome and are encouraged to attend. Further information is available at www.garnockvalleycarves.co.uk and Garnock-Valley-Carves on Facebook.