Towford centre to reopen after 17 years

Jonny Kinross
Jonny Kinross

Former Borders resident Jonny Kinross is leading a project to revitalise an outdoors adventure centre in the Cheviot foothills.

A online ‘crowdfunding’ push last month brought in nearly £8,000 – almost £2,000 above target – for work on Towford outdoor centre near Jedburgh, which has been closed for nearly 20 years.

Mr Kinross, who heads up Muirhouse-based social enterprise, MY Adventure, said: “I can’t quite believe it, to be honest. We were at points worried about making it. This (Muirhouse) is a community without much money.

“It’s our first crowdfunder campaign and we are bowled over by people showing such faith in what we’re doing and such generosity.”

MY Adventure is Muirhouse Youth Development Group’s (MYDG) social enterprise and together they have entered into a 25-year partnership with the Craigvinean Trust, which rents the former school from Scottish Borders Council.

Jonny said: “Everyone’s delighted to be seeing it getting up and running again.”

Three high school residentials took place at Towford in late August after community and business volunteers from Muirhouse cleaned the building and some of its 17 acres.

Jonny, a dad of three, expects Towford will be used for holidays for children, young people, families on low incomes, as well as other charities, community groups, Scouts and Guides, social enterprises, schools and small businesses: “Basically anyone who wants affordable, accessible but basic dormitory accommodation with some fantastic grounds and access to some of the Borders’ most stunning scenery and landscapes,” he told The Southern.

Former Greenlaw and Oxton resident, Jonny, explained how MYDG and MY Adventure came to be involved, saying: “Local charity The Borders Bothy Association approached us as they knew we were looking for a bothy or building to get young people and the community away to. We’ve been looking for almost 10 years. This is not the first place we have looked at, but it is the most perfect.”

The money raised last month will go on further work at Towford, including opening up the woods and draining an area for playing games. 
Jonny continued: “We are desperately needing to get the heating in and electrics rewired. We fixed 18 burst pipes in one day when we reconnected the water after 17 years of non-use.”

Locals have been involved from the start, he said: “Our voluntary board of directors would not have taken on Towford if it weren’t for the kindness and generosity of Stuart Whitton, of Greenlaw builders Sandy McLean & Co. He made several visits to the centre and gave us a report on the structure of the building and remedial work.

“Similarly Patrick Duffy, a Jedburgh expert on woodland management, has donated enormous amounts of his time to the grounds already.

“More recently Grant Woods of G & J Groundworks has agreed to donate his time, machinery and expertise.

“These three share our vision for bringing this fantastic resource back to life. We owe it to them and the Borders community to ensure local young people, voluntary groups and schools get access to the centre once it’s finished. Our long-term vision is to create a sustainable centre for groups, open all year, and this in turn will create jobs for local people to help us maintain the building and grounds. We want local employability programmes and volunteer programmes to get involved and support the work of the centre.

“We want Towford to be a resource shared by the Borders and Muirhouse community to benefit as many people as possible.”

And he urged more local volunteers to come forward to help clear grounds, dig paths, prune trees and plant.

The charity hopes to open officially in May next year and to hold an open day for everyone on Sunday May 3.