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A short period of cold weather during the first week of February has enabled the first outdoor curling to take place on a newly refurbished curling pond in Kinross.
Until the 20th century, the game of curling was played exclusively outdoors, on frozen lochs, ponds or other temporary flooded areas. Curling is almost certain to have been played on and around Loch Leven from the early part of the 15th century and it is thought that the monks living on St Serf's Island curled on Loch Leven in hard winters.
The Kinross Curling Club has written records from 1818, though its origins are undoubtedly much earlier. The Club takes its formation date of 1668 from records of curling in the Annals of Kinross-shire, making it one of the oldest curling clubs in the world.
It is known that the Club has played several times on Loch Leven itself, and on various ponds and wetland areas in the vicinity. The Club first built an outdoor pond in 1840 at Bracklemoss, opposite the modern-day Windlestrae Hotel.
This was eventually abandoned due to lack of water. A subsequent pond was built at the Myre using a dam to provide water from the nearby burn. In 1933 the Club secured a 100 year rotating lease on ground adjacent to the bowling green at 'The Beeches'. The present-day golf courses had not been constructed, the ground being part of a car park for the bowling club. It was surfaced at that time to form the curling pond.
With the opening of the indoor curling rink at the Green Hotel, the outdoor pond at 'The Beeches' had little maintenance and fell into a state of disrepair. This is typical of most outdoor curling ponds around Scotland.
There are now very few outdoor curling ponds left in Scotland and so there is a danger that the particular skills and techniques of outdoor curling become lost. Given the historical role that this area has played in outdoor curling, Kinross Curling Club has successfully undertaken a project to restore the outdoor curling pond at 'The Beeches'.
Thanks to generous donations from the Thomson Charitable Trust, Awards for All Scotland, several local organisations and many of the local curling clubs, money was raised to resurface the existing curling pond, create disabled access, excavate the surrounding wasteland, and build a path around the circumference of the pond. Repairs to the clubhouse and the erection of an information board are also planned.
The Purvis construction Group completed the project in January; however due to an exceptionally mild winter it was looking unlikely that the pond would be used.
Fortunately some cold weather during the first week of February allowed 3-4 cm water to freeze and form a perfectly smooth surface. Two rinks enjoyed a game on 7th February, playing on excellent ice from 10am in the morning, with more curlers attending a flood-lit bonspiel later that same evening. The stones could be heard roaring down the ice with curlers from many neighbouring clubs enjoying the experience of the traditional outdoor game.
Many people have supported this project during the past two years, and on behalf of Kinross Curling Club I would like to thank them.