Ochiltree Hub is a place for everyone
For people living in rural areas, having a sense of community is vital.
Not only does it provide an essential support network for older and more vulnerable residents, a sense of community can help combat loneliness and make us feel like we belong. In short, being part of a community is essential to our mental wellbeing.
Sadly, when there’s no dedicated place to meet up with others, or even to speak to your GP, and the town centre is two bus journeys away, it’s easy to see how loneliness and isolation can set in.
Ochiltree Community Hub is helping to change that.
Nestled in the heart of rural Cumnock, this fantastic community space offers a wealth of services and amenities for residents, including a games hall, fully equipped meeting and work rooms, library, coffee shop and accessible toilets, including a wheelchair accessible shower and baby changing facilities. There’s even a small gift shop with handmade items from local sellers.
We met with centre manager Kirsty and volunteer Alex to find out more about the hub and the changes they’ve witnessed since it opened…
“It’s been quite a journey! We started raising money for the building’s construction in 2013, and sent out a survey in 2014 to find out what people in the community actually wanted. We received over 300 survey responses, after which we held a public meeting.
We legally established ourselves as a charity in October 2014, and ‘The Ochiltree Community Hub’ was born. Construction began in 2018 and we finally opened our doors in July 2019.
The Hub started with 3 staff and a team of volunteers initially but we quickly realised we needed regular staff. Thanks to the National Lottery Community Fund we were able to employ a further two part-time members of staff in July 2021.”
The hub is a perfect meeting venue for a huge variety of community groups, such as bingo, art and knitting clubs, carpet bowls, dancing, aerobics, yoga, Taekwondo and even a whisky appreciation group.
“We wanted to make the facility as flexible as possible and to make it suitable for a wide range of groups and activities. As well as community groups we also have children’s parties, Christmas lunches, Ceilidhs and other events. We have acoustic separators installed in the games hall so different things can be going on at the same time.
We have a monthly bingo programme that’s really more of a ‘get-together’ than a bingo club. We also have the Ochiltree Whisky Lovers’ Society, or O.W.L.S. for short. There’s such an eclectic mix.
We also have around six elderly ladies who come in on a Saturday morning to have a chat and they now come in on a Monday for lunch and on Thursdays for coffee and cake. Previously they had nowhere to meet up and would have needed to take two bus journeys into town to find anywhere else. It’s a fantastic facility for the whole village and is helping people feel more embedded in the community.”
As well as recreational groups, the hub is also a place for residents to see their GP without the need for a long journey into town. Cumnock Community Council and East Ayrshire Vibrant Communities also make use of the meeting rooms and work space.
“One of the positives about the hub is that we have so many people working together. Vibrant Communities held their community conference here, we have visits from Fire Scotland and we’re listed as a community within the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere.
We work with a variety of partners and organisations for the benefit of the whole community.”
Both Alex and Kirsty emphasised the importance of community and togetherness, and agreed that the hub has made a huge difference to people in the area:
“We’re so proud of this place and what it’s become. You need somewhere to go that’s accessible and offers services, particularly in a rural area. When we see older folk coming into the café or kids enjoying the space, it’s such a warm feeling.
It’s giving people a connection. That’s what Ochiltree Hub is all about.”