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Rebecca Buchan: Come see the green in Aberdeen – it’s time to be proud of what we’ve got

Seaton Park in Aberdeen (Photo: DCT Media)

A few weeks ago I asked my fellow Aberdonians on Twitter what they thought was special about our home.

A simple question, I thought, and I was curious to see how people engaged. But, alas, I did not quite get the response I was hoping for. Most used it as an opportunity to take a pop at the council (and me) and highlight everything they thought was wrong with the city.

While I in no way think Aberdeen is perfect, and I am well aware of our challenges and shortcomings, there are still many great things about this silver city we call home.

Much of the replies which were trying to be positive highlighted its proximity to the great outdoors of the shire. And I would agree.

I think one of the wonderful things about living here is that we have the beach on our doorstep but, within 40 minutes, we can be in the heart of Royal Deeside, or indeed Trump’s Great Dunes of Scotland on the Balmedie coast. Of course, that is a plus.

Is there no pride left in Aberdeen?

But isn’t it sad that, when asked about the best things our city, the most frequent answer was that it’s easy to leave?

Last week, when councillor Alex Nicoll referred to Aberdeen as a “ONCE proud city” when discussing the masterplan, it struck a chord with me and made me ask: is no one proud?

I was recently part of a discussion where it was asked, if there was a marketing campaign to promote Aberdeen, what would the slogan be? Aside from the somewhat catchy “Aberdeen’s ace”, we genuinely struggled.

Sadly, “We’re not as bad as Dundee USED to be” was one suggestion.

“People Make Glasgow” was so simple and yet so true; why is it so hard to think of a similar slogan for Aberdeen?

It’s in our heritage and in our green spaces

When you look across the city there clearly is a lot of pride in our heritage – enough to genuinely motivate the actions of normal citizens to unite in order to maintain it.

Friends of Victoria Park have been able to raise in excess of £100,000 to refurbish the beloved granite fountain there. Dozens of locals also turned out just a few weeks ago to plant bulbs across Victoria and Westburn.

Friends of Victoria and Westburn Park volunteers (Photo: Darrell Benns)

This week, we reported how the Tillydrone Community Development Trust has marked a major milestone in its attempts to preserve Wallace Tower, which overlooks Seaton Park.

In 2010, controversial plans were lodged to renovate Union Terrace Gardens. It was supposed to be a multimillion pound project aimed at completely revitalising the city centre and backed by oil and gas tycoon Sir Ian Wood. But never has the city been so vocal or divided, with mass objections forcing a referendum on the matter.

Our readers are still split on UTG vote

Last week, we asked our readers what they thought about the proposed and ongoing city centre regeneration. Still, more than a decade on, the votes were split almost down the middle on whether the ongoing rejuvenation of the gardens would bring with it any improvements.

And let’s not forget about St Fitticks park in Torry. The park and neighbouring Doonie’s rare breed farm are well loved by locals, who are up in arms about the potential industrial development planned there for the creation of an energy transition zone.

Wildflower meadows at St Fittick’s, Torry

Community ownership has even been discussed by those desperate to “save” their green space from development, which has been dubbed a “slap in the face for the people of Torry”.

Green spaces important during pandemics

Our public parks were first created around 150 years ago in a bid to tackle disease and pandemics.

There certainly shouldn’t be any need to feel you have to leave Aberdeen in order to get your fresh air fix

They provided outdoor spaces where people could go to avoid overcrowding and take in fresh air during the Victorian era. And this is still necessary today, given the restrictions placed on us as a result of Covid-19.

As well as a daily walk to the beach, I rediscovered Seaton Park during the height of the pandemic, leading me to explore the beauty of Old Aberdeen. Again, another part of this city that makes us unique.

Then there is Hazlehead Park and its surrounding woods, Duthie Park and the celebrated Winter Gardens, as well as that hidden gem, Johnston Gardens.

Johnston Gardens in Aberdeen (Photo: Kath Flannery)

While I appreciate that there is something wonderful about taking in a hill in the Cairngorms, they should not be considered the reason our city is special; they are part of the reason the shire is.

In the 1970s, Aberdeen even earned the nickname “the boom and bloom city” after the discovery of oil and record-breaking, back-to-back Britain in Bloom wins. What happened to make us forget this?

I can safely say that Aberdeen has an abundance of charming green spaces that allow anyone to enjoy the great outdoors. There certainly shouldn’t be any need to feel you have to leave in order to get your fresh air fix.

We are renowned as the Granite City, and rightly so, with the stone playing an important part in adding character to many of our parks and streets. (Just look at the uproar caused when steps were reported missing from UTG).

But, maybe for a while, our slogan could be: “Come see the green in Aberdeen”.

Rebecca Buchan is City and Shire Team Leader for The Press & Journal and Evening Express

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