New Routes: A health and well-being group Dunollie couldn't do without.
Well, where do I even begin when writing about our New Routes group. You’ll struggle to find a better bunch of characters out there. Every single session, come rain or shine, they arrive with a beaming smile on their face, ready to make a difference at Dunollie.
The New Routes group was founded in 2016 with the focus of giving vulnerable adults an opportunity to get into the great outdoors and to tackle social isolation. It also allowed for the participants to develop new skills, mainly in grounds maintenance and woodworking, amongst others.
Some of New Routes' other projects:
When it became safe to do so following the first year of the pandemic, restarting New Routes came to the forefront of my agenda. For many of the participants, despite the enjoyment of working hard in the grounds, the value of company and regular social opportunities is what’s most important. When I first met the guys in April 2021, it immediately became clear that we needed to get this show back on the road! They had all missed each other greatly, along with the routine of coming here every Wednesday to turn their hand at whatever lay before them.
Many things came to a halt when the pandemic arrived, and we at Dunollie were no different. One of the areas which suffered most during this period was our gardens, as we were unable to maintain them between repeated lockdowns. Once New Routes came back on site, we saw it as our vision to improve the grounds and tackle the worst affected areas.
Dunollie's Grounds through the seasons:
Our first challenge was the SIMBA Garden, as invasive weeds and general overgrowth had taken hold of this once beautiful space. First, we sought to reclaim the lost path by weeding, raking, and hoeing our way through the vegetation. We then turned our attention towards clearing out other invasive plants from the flower beds and generally tidying up the area. In the space of a couple of sessions in the warm summer sun, New Routes had completely transformed this elegant little garden back into its pre-pandemic beauty.
The Simba Garden before and during New Routes' work:
The Simba Garden after New Routes' work:
Another example of the positive difference that New Routes make at Dunollie can be seen on the path from the 1745 Museum, down to the reception booth. With plenty of heavy rainfall and storms hitting the west coast over the winter months, the walkway flooded and caused an unsafe gulley to form. New Routes tackled this project head on with wheelbarrows, rakes, and shovels. Despite the adverse conditions, they leveled out the path and added quarry dust to strengthen and reinforce the path below.
Most recently, as the sun came out of hibernation, New Routes sought to tackle the tremendous overgrowth of brambles and bamboo which had entrenched itself around our Wellingtonia and extended out towards the pond. After two sessions of hard work, this section was given a whole new lease of life. As a result of this dedication, we now have scope to plant new shrubs, as well as the potential to implement new paths to enhance our visitor experience.
New Routes, working near the Wellingtonia and the pond:
The various lockdowns over the past two years have shown us how much groups like New Routes mean to their participants. On a weekly basis multiple members voice their delight at being allowed to meet up again and to make a positive difference with their friends here at Dunollie. I have been taking the group for over a year now and it’s been such a pleasure to work alongside them every week and to witness their growth – I really look forward to seeing what the future holds for New Routes at Dunollie Museum, Castle & Grounds.
Heritage Engagement and Access Officer