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August 29, 2012

Bucking the trend

Not so long ago, West Wemyss in Fife was a thriving coastal village with all the amenities and services one might expect.  But slowly the signs of local prosperity began to wear thin as shops and businesses closed and investment ebbed away.  The slide down this slippery slope is never easy to put into reverse but West Wemyss was lucky – it had a dedicated core of residents determined not to let go. One year on from taking over a disused pub, they think they’ve turned a corner.



Fife Today, 14th August

With no facilities left in this once thriving coastal village, this community was in dire need of regeneration. Luckily, the West Wemyss Development Trust had an inspired plan – to turn a disused pub into a vibrant community business. The ingenious venture involved the creation of a fully licensed bistro, a cafe, a village shop selling locally grown produce, holiday accommodation in the shape of a bunkhouse and a renovated one bedroom flat for rental income.

The team also wanted to create several small allotments and, as the village’s graveyard is now full, a woodland eco-burial site.

The passion and dedication of the group behind this has helped to move their ambitions forward and the West Wemyss Walk Inn opened for business in June 2011. The bunkhouse and flat were completed in late July while the allotments and burial site will be in operation by the start of 2012. Four new jobs have also been created.

The project leaders hope it will be a self-sustaining enterprise with all profits going back to the community, thus allowing this pretty village to regain its strong sense of pride.  Much of this is down to generous funding from the Big Lottery and a huge community effort channeled towards making the coastal village a better place to work, live and visit.

Twelve months down the line, a big birthday party was held a fortnight ago to mark that the village is coming together again and to celebrate just how far it has travelled in a short time. 

The opening, by the village lad and lass, of a sensory garden, providing a place for young and old to sit and relax, is a visible testament to some very positive changes taking place.

The recently set up Wemyss tots to teens group runs seasonal children’s activities; a series of summer art workshops and monthly exhibitions are under way in the West Wemyss Walk Inn. A memories group is also being launched – formed to strengthen the heritage of the village. 

With allotments at the final planning process stage and the community contributing to a Wemyss dream board for future thinking, there would appear to be a lot to celebrate. 

As a social enterprise which exists to add value to the village and surrounding areas, the West Wemyss Walk Inn is increasingly being used for community activities and the cafe and bistro provide an opportunity for people in the village and surrounding area to get together.

And the village recently enjoyed a visit from both Beautiful Scotland and Beautiful Fife judges – the latter commenting that they had noticed a big change and there was clear evidence of greater pride in the village as a whole.

The successes of the last year are undoubtedly a result of significant support from partner agencies, local companies and some 8000 volunteer hours that contributed to the various projects.

These projects have also been supported by the West Wemyss Community Trust and community development workers who encourage, support and seek to attract funding for the sustainable setting up of groups to create employment, volunteer opportunities and the regeneration of a village that had lost a bit of heart.