Growing up in Stonehaven, my childhood memories are full of visits to the outdoor pool with family and friends, and now I take my own children.
We go along every summer to enjoy this wonderful facility on our doorstep.
So when the opportunity arose - through our ‘Thank you to the Volunteers’ campaign - to offer a helping hand in the lead up to the pool’s 80th season, I jumped at the chance to find out more about the people who work so hard to make sure that visitors get the best experience possible when they go along.
Stonehaven Open Air Pool is a council-run facility, but it is managed in conjunction with the Friends of the Pool, a group of volunteers who contribute a great deal of time and effort, all year round, into helping it pool run as smoothly as possible during its open season of May-September.
While Aberdeenshire Council own the pool, run it and take the money at the turnstile, the Friends of the Pool, as volunteer David Dobbie put it, “maintain, enhance and promote” the facility.
When you visit the pool, the clean and freshly-painted changing rooms, the new lockers, the brightly decorated poolside and bandstand, the inflatable pool toys - even the deck furniture for spectators - are all courtesy of the Friends. The relatively new paddling pool area was also provided entirely through funds raised by them.
And while that work is extremely admirable on its own, after spending some time working alongside the volunteers I have come to realise that they are very modest; their work is so much more than that.
From the moment the pool closes at the end of the summer season to the day it opens again the following year, the volunteers are busy behind the scenes, using their skills for a wide range of duties.
David Dobbie, who pointed me in the right direction while I painted and cleaned, said: “We start work the day the pool closes, and we don’t stop until just before they cut the ribbon on the opening day of the season.
“We make a ‘wish list’ of the work that needs done, and we do as much of it as we can.”
A huge autumn job in 2013 was the refurbishment of the guttering that runs along the front of the building, something which took considerable time, effort and funds to achieve.
But for David and the others, it is all worth it.
When asked why they devote so much energy, each volunteer had the same answer: they love the pool, and they want to see it used to the best of its potential.
One such volunteer is Joe Kemlo. Joe takes it upon himself to carry out the laborious annual task of filling the pool for the season. Sea water is pumped through a four-inch pipe, and this can only be done at high tide.
So Joe goes down to the pool at each high tide, and pumps in as much water as the small pipe will allow.
The whole process takes him a week!
But those who turn out thrice weekly to lend a hand are not the only ones working hard. Volunteers take care of administration, publicity and websites, and there is always a need for more helpers in any aspect, especially, David told me, younger ones who may be able to bring fresh ideas in the era of social media.
I noticed a real sense of pride among the volunteers who offer their skills to make the pool a great attraction for the town.
A big thank you is due to each and every one of them.