Heyday at the Haining

AN archaeological dig near Selkirk is planned and more than 50 volunteers have signed up to help the work at an A-listed mansion, writes Sally Gillespie.

A packed public meeting heard about plans for the future of the Haining house and estate from its trustees on Thursday.

More than 130 people attended when trustee Susan Edington outlined the history and development of the trust and its ideas, along with plans for the future. The trustees announced the launch of Friends of the Haining at the meeting when they also asked for volunteers.

And they revealed future plans for the building and grounds, including an archaelogical dig at Pele Hill which the trust hoped would also be an educational project.

Speaking later to TheSouthern Mrs Edington said: “The Haining is an amazing building and it’s an amazing place. We are so lucky to have it in the middle of the town and Selkirk will benefit hugely from it and we hope ultimately it will provide employment.”

Some of the money raised at a recent auction of house contents will set up a family history room and also provide a catering kitchen.

“The house could be a small wedding venue which I think would be a great help to the area because it’s a fantastic place to have your photos taken at.” She also admitted afterwards that the trust – including her, another friend and a relative of the late Andrew Nimmo-Smith, who owned the estate – had failed to communicate with locals and wider public enough.

She told TheSouthern: “We accept we have to do better. We explained on Thursday where we are going and where we are with the Haining. We wanted to put everything to people and let them know what we were doing because we felt that might put people’s minds at rest.

“All of the comments I have had after the meeting have been positive. I’m happy we appear to have done what we wanted to do. It’s something that is of huge importance to people and I’m aware of that. We are very keen to allow people to see where we are going.”

Mr Nimmo-Smith died in July 2009 and asked that a trust be set up to preserve the heritable, cultural, archaeological and amenity of his 18th century Palladian mansion and its 150 acres of woodland for the benefit of the community of Selkirkshire and for the wider public. And he left £1million for the purpose.

But he set a time limit of two years after his death on the Haining Charitable Trust being set up and functioning, and the three trustees had worked hard to meet the deadline, said Mrs Edington.

But it was not obvious what the trust planned for a long time, she said, as they processed information from their public consultation, went through an appraisal and put together business plans and sought funding.

“We’ve now done that and are moving forward in small pockets, we are not going full steam ahead.”

The trustees planned to advertise for more trustees to help them and they hope to join with other “big houses” in the region – for example Abbotsford and Paxton – to set up a trail.

And the meeting heard about plans for the house to become a centre for contemporary culture for southern Scotland, including a gallery, gastro-cafe, sculptures around the loch, woodland walks, luxury camping, self-catering accommodation and artisan workshops. And work on the six workshops in the former coach house is due to start this week.

“Change is difficult but change has to take place because we have to use the Haining for the benefit of people, not a person and ‘the wider public’ means the world.”

Selkirk writer Julian Colton who attended the meeting said: “People are trying their very best to do a good job at the Haining. My only concern is that in their efforts to improve the place they take away the uniqueness of it.

“They have to do something with the Haining, it’s important they preserved the building and try and get the statues back and keep the place for the community, but in their efforts to do that it’s important that they preserve the general character of the place.”

Last weekend, Scott’s Selkirk held a fun day, with music and games.

The event proved a huge success, as our photographs show.

photographs: grant kinghorn and janis cornwall