Oudenarde, Perth & Kinross
In the Footsteps of Geddes at Oudenarde, Perth & Kinross
One of the locations featured in the project is a place called Oudenarde in Perth and Kinross (not to be confused with Oudenaarde, Belgium). Perth and Kinross (Scots: Pairth an Kinross, Scottish Gaelic: Peairt agus Ceann Rois) is one of 32 council areas in Scotland and a Lieutenancy Area. It borders onto the Aberdeenshire, Angus, Argyll and Bute, Clackmannanshire, Dundee, Fife, Highland and Stirling council areas. Perth is the administrative centre.
One of the towns of this part of Scotland is Bridge of Earn. Bridge of Earn (Scottish Gaelic: Drochaid Èireann) is a small town in Perthshire, Scotland. The place-name is of uncertain (though probably Gaelic) origin, and may contain the element druim, ‘ridge, spine’. It is often referred to simply as ‘The Brig’ (Scots for ‘bridge’). The village grew up on the south bank of an important crossing of the River Earn, whose sandstone bridge existed from at least the early 14th century, when it is known to have been repaired by order of King Robert I of Scotland (1306–1329). Bridge of Earn’s proximity to Perth, and convenient transport links to Edinburgh and Dundee, make it a desirable ‘dormitory’ town, though its second and most recent railway station was closed on 15 June 1964, following the Beeching reforms of the 1960s.
The eastern edge of Bridge of Earn, just beyond the M90 motorway, is the location of Oudenarde Strategic Development Area. This strategic development area is proposed for 1,600 or more homes and 34 hectares of employment land. The site sits within a broad river valley, which is bounded by the Moncrieffe and Kirkton Hills to the north and the Ochil Hills to the south. The River Earn is situated along the site’s northern edge, three kilometres east from its confluence with the River Tay. Agricultural fields also flank the land to the east. Part of the location, situated to the north of Clayton Road, used to be the Oudenarde Hospital, which was closed in 1992. The railway line from Edinburgh to Perth via Fife passes through the site, and divides it into two distinct areas.
PAS was approached by two of Perth & Kinross Council’s Senior Community Capacity Builders Diane Cassidy and Tracey Ramsey about delivering “In the Footsteps of Geddes” within one of the communities under the council’s jurisdiction. Oudenarde was identified as the area for the project to be delivered in as it is a new community which has been challenged due to the stalling of its development. Since the only partial completion of the development, the new houses have been surrounded by fenced off, untidy development land and there are no dedicated facilities available to the population. This issue has been particularly felt by the younger residents, with nothing more than a grass pitch and a very basic playground to use in their spare time.
In the Footsteps of Geddes at Oudenarde Community Family Fun Day
Following a series of discussions with the representatives of Perth & Kinross Council, Hillcrest Housing Association and local councillors, the project, in a compact one day form, was incorporated into a wider community event for the people of Oudenarde – a first of its kind in the history of the development. Given the lack of an available enclosed public venue, it was decided to host the event inside a large marquee, hired especially for the occasion.
Aside from information stalls on health and wellbeing, and the smart use of energy within households as well as fun activities such as face painting and a balloon stall, there was also information about the historic significance of Oudenarde and Bridge of Earn. “In the Footsteps of Geddes” also encouraged engagement with place by providing Google Cardboard VR viewers with pre-prepared panoramic images of various parts of Oudenarde. These images, as well as local knowledge, were then used by the young participants and their parents in conjunction with the Place Standard tool. The Place Standard assisted the residents in identifying the key needs of the community and how they could be addressed. The summary of this exercise can be read here.
The young people also engaged keenly in the practical exercise of assembling the Google Cardboard viewers, which could then be taken home and used with their own smartphones. Panoramic photography training was also given and it was enjoyed by the children who took part. It is hoped that newly learnt skills and the Google Cardboard viewers will become an inspiration that encourages them to explore their place and record it with friends and family.
The project partners – Perth & Kinross Council, Hillcrest Housing Association and local councillors – have been investigating having a temporary community hub in Oudenarde in a serviced Portacabin. It is understood the Oudenarde Community Family Fun Day generated interest in this idea and some of the participants of the event signed up to a committee to take it forward.
The event was also an opportunity to learn more about the history of the area. While Oudenarde itself is a recent development, various historic locations are within a walking distance. Substantial remains of the medieval bridge (rendered redundant by a replacement, still in use, slightly upstream in 1821-22) survived into the 1970s in Bridge of Earn, when almost all the stonework was demolished, for (allegedly) being in a dangerously ruinous condition. This ancient bridge was a major landmark on the road between Edinburgh (39 miles south) and Perth (4 miles north) for several centuries. The village’s oldest houses are to be found lining the road (Back Street/Old Edinburgh Road) leading south from the site of the demolished bridge. Among them are some with 18th-century datestones.
The ruined Old Bridge of Earn (and part of the village) are featured in the 1857 painting Sir Isumbras at the Ford by John Everett Millais (1829–1896), who often stayed at nearby Perth. There is also an early 19th-century lithograph showing the structure as complete in Sketches of Scenery in Perthshire by David Octavius Hill (1802–1870).
The area’s most recent history also attracted the interest of the attendees, especially due to its direct connection to Oudenarde. Bridge of Earn, and the formerly neighbouring but now conjoined village of Kintillo, have expanded significantly since the 1960s, with hundreds of new homes being built. Many more – in fact an entire new settlement called Oudenarde – have been in construction on the site of the large former hospital to the east of the old village. At the beginning of World War II Bridge of Earn was selected as the location of one of seven new Emergency Hospital Service temporary hospitals which were to be constructed in Scotland to deal with the expected war casualties. The hospital opened in 1939 and gained a Rehabilitation Unit, which was transferred from Gleneagles Hotel, in 1946. An Orthopaedic Unit was transferred from Larbert in 1947. The hospital finally closed in 1992. Its archives are held by Archive Services, University of Dundee.
Overall, Oudenarde Community Family Fun Day which In the Footsteps of Geddes was part of, was a good opportunity for the Oudenarde community to interact and engage with the organisations involved in the project in a positive way. This will hopefully form the groundwork for taking forward future projects to enable the community to take an active role in developing activities and facilities to benefit everyone in their area.