The Hub was born after a dream. BeSpoke was homeless and desperately seeking a new base. Glen House was suggested as a possible location, but after inquiring with the property landlords, the Stornoway Trust, was told that another group had plans for the building. When these plans did not come to fruition, it gave further credence to the fact that Glen House was where BeSpoke was destined to be. Have you ever had the feeling that something is SO right, SO perfect, that you will do ANYTHING to make it so? No matter what hurdles were to be overcome, Glen House was going to become The Hub. The center of everything cycling. A meeting point for the users of the Stornoway Castle Grounds. Move on six months to January 2016, and the keys were handed over. The dream started to become reality.
The Hub will bring together all elements of cycling in the Outer Hebrides, from road cycling to mountain biking, BMX to Trials, kids to adults, visiting tourists to the local pedaler. There will be an up-to-date retail outlet showcasing a full range of cycling accessories, a fully equipped workshop to deal with any bicycle woes, a cafe upstairs providing the best in coffee and cakes, along with the perfect stomach-filling menu, and not just for cyclists the Cafe is open to everyone - in one of the most beautiful settings in Stornoway. For the muddy bikers that have just been out on the Castle Grounds' trails in need of some re-fuelling, the workshop waiting area is where to gather! Comfy couches, magazines and internet TV showing the latest biking clips and screening the best cycling races in the world (the Tour de France, World Cup Downhill, and many other events).
For the many visiting cycle tourists, The Hub will be one of the first ports of call as they enter Stornoway. As such, The Hub aims to provide a full and detailed noticeboard of places to stay, plus things to do and see. There will be maps of the trails in the Castle Grounds, and of the Outer Hebrides so that cyclists can mark up their favourite routes for others to see and try.
There will be a range of bicycles for hire so that a rider can make use of the kilometers of purpose-built bike tracks in the Castle Grounds, or take to the road and explore the famously uncluttered and beautiful beaches. Why not up the ante slightly and hire out one of the incredible power-assisted e-bikes, take the sting out of biking and have more time to enjoy the scenery.
New on-site car parking and a new entrance into the Castle Grounds means access is as easy as pie. Take advantage of the bike wash station to clean your bike before heading home, or take a seat and have lunch on the picnic benches overlooking the babbling Willowglen River. You might even see the Buzzard that visits the garden!
The premises will also become the headquarters of the Hebridean Cycle Club with regular club rides leaving from The Hub grounds.
On top of all this, the mobile repair workshop will still operate to service those cyclists that can't make it to The Hub or have a breakdown out in the middle of a ride.
Built around 1844, this is the oldest building in the Stornoway Castle Grounds. There is evidence to suggest there has been a house on this site dating back past 1785, which must make it one of the oldest house sites in Stornoway! It has been a school, a laboratory for a chemical works, an admiralty house, a lodge and home to many people over the years.
More recently though, the house has been empty and left to the ravages of the Hebridean winter.
- The roof was letting in water (of which there was plenty).
- The window frames had rotted (where not vandalised).
- The stairs inside had dropped due to the ground floor joists being decimated with wood worm on the dry half and wet rot on the other half of the building.
- There were mould cultures on the walls that a scientist would be proud of!
- The electrics were shot.
- The mains plumbing leaked (or flooded might be more appropriate).
- The drains were blocked.
- The chimneys had trees growing out of them.
- And the once renowned gardens now overgrown with Rhodedendron and weeds.
On the verge of dereliction, Glen House would have been hard pushed to see the end of 2017.
WHAT'S BEEN DONE
Since gaining the keys to Glen House at the end of January 2016, BeSpoke (and friends) have been immensely busy carrying out the renovations personally. To date:
- The drains and gutters have been cleared allowing the building to dry out.
- The main roof has been repaired to become water-tight once again.
- The windows and doors have been replaced with new double glazed units allowing light to pour in and kill the mould.
- The electrics have all been replaced for safety, and for the specific requirements of The Hub.
- And the mains water supply has been renewed and all plumbing replaced, along with a new drainage system.
- The majority of the ground floor joists have been replaced, and the remainder repaired, along with a new floor after woodworm infestation and wet rot had devasted the structure downstairs.
- The entire stairwell had collapsed. This has been lifted and levelled, as well as sanded and stripped of aeons of old paint and tarted up with numerous coats of fresh varnish to bring out the gorgeous colour of the original pitch pine.
The layout of the house has been altered to be more open plan to suit the needs of BeSpoke:
- Upstairs, the new Cafe has been entirely re-lined with insulated plasterboard on the walls and new plasterboard on the ceilings.
- New facings and skirtings replace the old, worn and damaged finishings.
- The original fireplace has been preserved, stripped of old paint and refreshed.
- The Cafe kitchen is complete with new wall coverings and flooring and has been installed to a perfect finish.
- The AWESOME coffee machine has been installed and well tested.
- The floors upstairs have been sanded and lovingly varnished to create a gorgeous, warm and inviting atmosphere which is further accentuated by the new energy efficient lighting.
- A new fire escape has been installed from the first floor, as well as a new fire alarm system.
Renovations have continued on the ground floor (now that the upstairs is just about complete) with insulated plasterboard lining the walls, new skirtings, facings and window/door finishes.
Outside, the once hidden garden is now cleared of unwanted foliage and bushes allowing sunlight to pour in all day long. The new access has been created - albeit with a temporary finish - with a brand new entrance that is far safer than the previous existing entrance, and which further opens out the entire site. The carparking area has been excavated giving a great indication of how much space there will be for visitors with vehicles.
WHAT'S STILL TO BE DONE
Although great progress has been made, there is still alot to be done before being in a position to be open to the public:
- The extension roof needs replacing entirely as woodworm and wet rot have destroyed the timber.
- The carparking area needs filling and and finished.
- The canopy on the front of the house has to be built.
- The entrance walls need to be rebuilt.
- The gardens to be landscaped and picnic area cleared with benches and tables erected.
- The public toilets need to be installed.
- The chimney needs repaired.
- The workshop is to be fitted.
- The building has to be painted externally.
- The retail space is still to be outfitted.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
Upon gaining access to Glen House, it became apparent very quickly that there was far more renovation work required than initially thought - or budgeted for. As landlords, the Stornoway Trust have lent a hand financing timbers to repair the ground floor and the Castle Gounds' Sawmill assisted with the clearing of the garden. Local businesses, organisations and friends have also been extremely generous with donations of equipment and time. Alistair's dream for BeSpoke's Hub is not only to provide for cyclists, but offer a new community space for Stornoway - and evident from the help so far, The Hub has already attracted the community 'thumbs up'. A wave of interest and excitement has also been generated as, finally, work is being undertaken to save the historic and iconic Glen House, with many passing by commenting on how pleased they are to see something being done to 'that old run-down building on the corner'.
Passion for Glen House has been reignited - but the fire needs stoking. There is a light though: the total raised here can be used as BeSpoke Bicycle's match funding, which would enable an application to be made to Business Gateway and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar's Revolving Loan Fund.
Make a pledge here and you not only help save Glen House (big pat on back to you!), you not only assist in a new community-focused local business (thank you!), but you also recieve the BeSpoke benefits - check out the 'Rewards' (yay!) - as well as Alistair's every lasting gratitude!
BeSpoke Bicycles was the brainchild of Alistair Glover. Starting out in August 2013, part time in the evenings and weekends, attending call outs in the family car and in some cases taking repairs back to the house. Things snowballed rapidly and six months later BeSpoke became a full-time operation; the business expanded into selling new bikes and accessories and secured a number of high quality brands to allow bike orders specific to a cyclists needs. All the while, trying to push the business forward and bring everything cycle-related under the BeSpoke banner.
BeSpoke has been involved with attempting to bring new cycle trails to the Islands and will continue to push this element. Being a firm believer in the Cycle-to-Work scheme, BeSpoke is registered with various operators and is one of the most popular retailers with the local council and other island employers for people looking to buy a bicycle under the scheme. Alistair is also petitioning to get the local NHS Health Board to sign up so that their employees can also benefit from the health benefits cycling provides.
Currently, besides repairing and selling bikes, BeSpoke assists with the council's Outdoor Education Department to deliver Introductory Mountainbike Sessions on the new bike trails in the Castle Grounds (Glen Houses' back garden luckily enough); and 2017 will see involvement with all the schools of the Western Isles to deliver Cycle Skills courses to pupils.
BeSpoke also hope to offer help with Cardiac Rehab and Sports Rehab groups on the Islands to deliver a controlled environment to assist with bringing fitness back to those who have experienced a traumatic event; the e-bikes are perfect for allowing sufferers to get back on a bike and improve fitness through very low impact exercise. A life-changing development in the cycling world shows that there is a significant link between cycling and a reduction in the debilitating effects of Parkinson's Disease. As such BeSpoke hopes to work closely with local support groups to give sufferers the chance to experience the joys of cycling again and hopefully the benefits shown in the video (one of many) below....
Cycling shown to help Parkinsons' sufferers
The generousity and support received to date has overwhelmed Alistair, and the work already completed at Glen House underlines exactly what The Hub will become.
So THANK YOU! For your time and consideration reading this, should you have any questions, just ask! E-mail Alistair at : firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0787 657 0932.