The start of COP27 marks a year since the start of the We Are Building A Beach Hut project here in Dunoon.
Although there is not a finished hut, some really tangible things have come out of the project to support wider community and local authority engagement with the tricky issue of climate change locally.
We use the word ‘tricky’ here, because changing the way decisions are made to consider a more inclusive, netzero future, means giving equal weight to the impacts buildings have on nature, culture, health and economy - considering all these areas at the same time is hard and requires new forms of collaboration - this is the tricky bit.
The beach hut project kicked off in October 2021, amidst the COVID19 pandemic and just before the second lock down. An outdoor workshop attended by local people, visitors, Scottish Green MSP Ariane Burgess and Green Map founder Wendy Brawer, brought people together to look at West Bay’s high tide line. An RIAS Traveling Tidal marker was installed temporarily, to draw attention to rising sea levels and the challenges this brings to maintaining the coastline.
Through a collaboration with CHARTS’s Heritage Horizons project and the Dunoon CARS (Argyll and Bute Council) initiative, sustainable design, making and heritage workshops were provided to 40+ pupils at Dunoon Grammar School (DGS). The workshops explored the rich cultural heritage of beach huts on West Bay and gave pupils an opportunity to learn about the different qualities of locally sourced timber.
They also developed their hand-carving and green woodwork skills, making a series of hooks for the future beach hut during the workshops which were faciliated by Ben Neville. Pupils also researched and developed a range of beach hut designs, carefully selecting materials to reflect their interest in low impact, sustainable construction techniques.
All DGS pupils who took part in beach hut workshops received a Archeology Scotland Heritage Hero Award to mark their achievement. In addition, pupils from the DGS Hub participated in heritage and environment walks along West Bay to discover more about beach biodiversity and the hidden cultural heritage of the shore.
Traditional skills workshops were provided in the community to involve local people in the making of prototype beach hut parts. The workshops, which engaged 34 local people and visitors, were facilitated by boat builder Ben Neville. Ben is passionate about sustainable woodland management and he carefully selected tools, processes and timber to demonstrate how to construct pieces that are durable, repairable and have a low environmental impact. These pieces, along with the hooks made at DGS, will form the basis of an exhibition along West Bay next year.
As part of the wider research activities connected with the project Dunoon Area Alliance, Built Environment - Smarter Transformation, Cowal Elderly Befrienders, local swimmers and residents participated in the making of a series of short films produced by Sure Shot Film covering heritage, design challenges and climate change and West Bay.
This film can be seen here>
The project has encountered a tricky issue regarding different perspectives on what 'sustainable beach management' means for West Bay, you can read more about this here>. Basically, there are conflicting priorities and opinions on the role of beach biodiversity and how to maintain the shore for community use, whilst protecting the coastline from the impacts of climate change. Working through these tensions is the next stage of the project.
To support future conversations about our amazing climate and community action to protect the environment, a broken bench and guttering at the pavilion near the swing park on West Bay, has been creatively repaired.
It isn’t a beach hut, but it is a work that adapts what is here, helps value a rather neglected space, and hopefully helps people feel a little better on a grey, wet Dunoon day.
If you have comments or questions about the beach hut project, do get in touch.
Here are links to some of the resources about West Bay, coastal protection and beach biodiversity that you might find useful.
Adaption Scotland. An overview of adaption for climate change.
A big thank you to our funders for backing this community engaged approach to regeneration
Dunoon Area Alliance & SURF - Scotland's regeneration forum, Creative Scotland and the ScottishPower Foundation, Made possible by the CHARTS network, Evolve and Heritage Horizons projects, Argyll and Bute Council's Dunoon CARS project supported by Historic Environment Scotland, & Scotland's Towns Partnership.