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Motoring news

Audi’s new Q cars

April 12 2017

Another week, another new Audi. Two new Audis, in fact. The German car maker has announced a couple more additions to its Q line up of SUVs. The Q4 is a coupe-SUV hybrid that will go up against the BMW X4 and Mercedes GLC Coupe. As its name suggests, it’ll be positioned between the compact Q3 and bigger Q5. At the other end of the scale is the Q8, which will go head to head against the Range Rover. It’s lower and sleeker than the Q7 Audi is also producing. In concept form, it sat only four people, although it seems likely the production version will be a five seater. There’s a 630 litre boot as well. Eagle eyed Audi followers will notice the only SUV slots left to fill are the Q1 and Q6. Watch this space...


‘Disappointing’ response to appeal for Craigtoun Country Park operators

May 4 2012

A ''disappointing'' number of businesses have come forward to run attractions at Fife's Craigtoun Country Park. Fife Council advertised for businesses to get in touch with suggestions for breathing life back into the site outside St Andrews, but only a few are understood to have responded. Tenders had been invited for operating the miniature railway and running other attractions including putting, boating and food outlets. The deadline was 5pm last Friday and the council has been assessing the offers. Area services manager Kate Hughes said: ''There seems to be a disappointing response to the tender but we're looking at our options at the moment.'' It is hoped that aspects of the park could be back up and running by the end of June. While efforts to attract investment to Craigtoun continue, work has been ongoing to keep the park tidy for the summer. Ms Hughes praised the Friends of Craigtoun volunteers who have been actively planning a programme of activities for the park. She said: ''As a council we have maintained the park to ensure it is of a high standard. Our staff have put a lot of work into it, and I have been very encouraged by the Friends of Craigtoun group.'' Loved by generations of youngsters, the park was in the firing line as the council struggled with multi-million-pound savings. The local authority predicted £50,000 could be saved by removing the admission fee to Craigtoun. Tens of thousands of people descend on the park every year, with its miniature railway and boating pond among the most popular features. Two miles outside St Andrews, it also has a Dutch village, putting greens, crazy golf, cafe and play area. There has been an alarming decline in visitor numbers over recent years while 65,000 flocked through the gates in 2001, just 29,500 visited in 2008. There has been growing concern in recent years about the increasingly dilapidated state of the park, but it is believed a properly marketed Craigtoun could be a major tourist draw for UK and international visitors to St Andrews, as well as again becoming a popular destination for day trippers. The council confirmed Craigtoun would be free for the foreseeable future and said it was committed to funding to the park for at least another 12 months.


Craigtoun Park lease agreement grants major boost to ‘jewel in the crown of Fife’

March 6 2014

The future of a “jewel in the crown of Fife” has been granted a major boost. Fife Council has agreed to lease Craigtoun Park to the Friends of Craigtoun Park for an initial five-year period, with an option to enter into a 25-year agreement. The Friends, a local volunteer group now registered as a charity, has been operating the park under a management agreement since April last year and wishes to acquire the park on a longer-term basis, enabling it to develop the visitor attractions. The council’s executive committee has now approved the granting of a lease from next month. A report to the committee by Michael McArdle, from the asset and facilities management service, said: “The management of the park by a registered charity under the terms of a lease may provide access to funds for the benefit of the park and park users which would not be available to the council.” The Friends will be asked to pay a peppercorn rent of £300 per annum. Under the terms of the agreement, the Friends will have the option to end the five-year lease at any time, giving three months’ notice in order to replace it with one for 25 years. The council will be responsible for maintenance and repairs at the park under the five-year lease, but such costs will be the responsibility of the Friends under the 25-year lease. At the executive committee meeting, Independent Buckhaven councillor Andrew Rodger described Craigtoun as “one of the most beautiful parks in Fife”. He said: “I hope this council will continue to do whatever it can to support the Friends who volunteer there. Craigtoun is one of the jewels in the crown of Fife but we have let it slip in recent years. It’s great that these hard-working volunteers have brought it back.” Tay Bridgehead councillor Tim Brett said members of the north east Fife area committee had already given their “very enthusiastic backing” to the park. Three weeks ago Friends of Craigtoun Park volunteers expressed delight that Fife Council is to invest £88,000 towards the restoration of the crumbling Dutch Village. The Friends welcomed the inclusion of the investment in the council’s budget, which was proposed by the Labour administration. The much-anticipated grand reopening of Craigtoun Park took place last July, ahead of a long, hot summer. Organisers hope this is just the beginning of a bright future for the park. Meanwhile, Friends of Craigtoun Park chairman Kyffin Roberts has welcomed the development. It came as Mr Roberts, who is also chairman of St Andrews Community Council, announced his intention to stand down as chairman before the year is out.


Craigtoun Park Dutch Village repairs edging nearer

May 27 2016

Plans to reinstate an iconic North East Fife landmark to public use are edging nearer, The Courier can reveal. Contractors are expected to begin renovation work soon on the Dutch Village within St Andrews’ Craigtoun Park. The small island complex has been sealed off to the public for several years because of safety fears due to the dilapidated state of parts of the structure. However, work has been ongoing for more than two years to try and bring the attraction back into use, possibly even as a wedding venue. Kyffin Roberts, from the Friends of Craigtoun Park, said that while the process has taken time, he was excited about the prospect of allowing the public to re-enter the village. “The Friends of Craigtoun work in partnership with Fife Council,” he said. “As part of that partnership The Friends of Craigtoun lease the park from the council but the lease does not include the Dutch Village. “The intention is that Fife Council will carry out some minor repairs and restoration of the Dutch Village before handing the property over to The Friends of Craigtoun who will then launch a major fund raising campaign to provide funding to restore the Dutch village to its former glory. “Fife Council have faced some technical and environmental issues that have delayed the project so far. “However, the planning and preparation of the project is progressing and we are hopeful that the project will move forward later this year.” The surrounding pond was drained in the winter and inspections were made to the foundations to ascertain the extent of the repair work. The boat shed is also to be restored, but meanwhile the boating pond has been refilled and was reopened to the public during the Easter holidays. Last summer saw the initial maintenance work carried out on the Dutch Village, with minor repairs made to the roof, while walls were re-rendered and painted, and new windows installed. Yvonne Bell, chartered quantity surveyor at Fife Council, said: “We’ve begun the tendering process for repairs to the roof and rendering on the boat house at Craigtoun Park. “We expect work to start later this year.”


Can anyone save Craigtoun Park?

March 10 2012

As St Andrews Community Council agrees to establish a trust that aims to restore Craigtoun Park as the jewel in the crown of Fife's visitor attractions, Michael Alexander examines the viability of the park's survival. But, ironically, ever since Fife Council stopped charging for entry last summer partly to avoid paying seasonal staff more people seem to be taking an interest. During my recent trip with my young children, a recently built adventure playground was packed with kids having the time of their lives. The lawns, the trees and the flowers were also in pristine condition, with some dazzling displays making a walk around the park a pleasure. Take all these factors together and it's easy to see why St Andrews Community Council doesn't want the park to be lost and why it has agreed that it should now look at the establishment of a trust to safeguard the future of the park. But can the trust succeed where Fife Council has found it hard going? The main obstacle must be cost. Repairs have been estimated at £4 million, with annual running costs estimated at £300,000. There are also other threats. Last year a throw-away suggestion that Craigtoun Park should be developed as the site of a new single-site Madras College was quickly dismissed out of hand, and yet some have told The Courier over the past week that they feel, behind the scenes, Fife Council would gladly wash its hands of the park. Some believe it would love to see housing built there although this would arguably be contrary to Fife Council's own 'Green Space' policies. If more houses are built in St Andrews as part of the proposed Western Expansion, it could be argued Craigtoun would again be in greater demand from St Andrews residents. Likewise, with less money going around, and more 'staycations', people might be more willing to visit local holiday attractions like Craigtoun if it is maintained and marketed properly. Yet with a battle also being fought to save the St Andrews Botanic Gardens from closure, there are some in the town who feel that, in these times of austerity, the town isn't big enough for both and the most viable option for saving will not be Craigtoun. One supporter of the Botanic Gardens told The Courier: ''I don't want to rain on their parade but, in my opinion, lovely as it would be to save it, Craigtoun and the Botanics are not both viable.'' If passion alone were enough to save Craigtoun, however, then its future would already be secure. Last week's meeting in the St Andrews Burgh Chambers saw a range of ideas put forward from innovative green energy measures to cut running costs to permanent flower displays, allotments and horticultural events. Fife Council, meanwhile, has confirmed it is hoping to get the miniature train operator back this summer after capturing the imagination of visitors again last year, while efforts are also being made to bring in an independent boat operator. Tenders are also going out for a cafe operator. Fife Council has confirmed it has funding in place for Craigtoun for at least the next year. It is also keen to work with the trust to look at the future of the park. Beyond that, however, its future remains somewhat uncertain, which is why the trust wants to move quickly and why it needs to keep the momentum going. The passion and potential is certainly there for Craigtoun to be restored as the jewel in the crown of Fife's visitor attractions. It would surely be tragic if, like the St Andrews rail link, people only realised what an asset Craigtoun was to the area once it was gone.Anyone wishing to support the establishment of the Craigtoun trust should contact St Andrews Community Council chairman Kyffin Roberts via email kyffinroberts@hotmail.com. The Courier would like you to share your memories and photographs of Craigtoun Park. Email news@thecourier.co.uk or write to us at The Courier, 14 Hunter Street, Kirkcaldy, Fife, KY1 1ED.Mention Craigtoun Park to anyone of a certain age in Courier Country and they might well get misty-eyed with nostalgic, childhood memories of the Dutch Village, the rowing boats and the miniature train. For many, the emotional attachment to Craigtoun is, of course, literally a lifelong one with many including this writer born at the long since closed Craigtoun Maternity Hospital. In the 1980s it was not unknown for adventurous St Andrews primary school children to set off on summer holiday adventures by walking the three-mile, unofficial cross-country route from St Andrews to Craigtoun via the derelict railway line at Spinkie Den, before crossing fields to reach the park via Mount Melville. Aside from the boats and train, the rewards of a precious entry sticker included hours of fun playing crazy golf over obstacles including a replica Tay Road Bridge and bouncing away every last piece of energy on the trampolines. Happy days oh, and the summers always seemed to be hot" In 1988, Craigtoun even staged its own music festival Fife Aid which was hosted by David Bellamy and featured, among others, Van Morrison. The memories of hairy biker gangs motoring through the town on their way to the festival live on to this day. But whilst it was once seen as one of Fife's top tourist attractions, Craigtoun is now a shadow of its former self after years of neglect. During a recent visit it was sad to see the state of the Dutch Village with huge chunks of the once pristine white paintwork missing. It was heartbreaking to see the abandoned boating pond thick with green algae and littered with bottles. The greenhouses that once boasted cacti and palm trees were derelict and partially smashed, while the old summer house built into a boundary wall was fenced off due to subsidence. The tired old caf was open but the paint was peeling and I'm sure the sun-bleached toys on display in the window were the same ones there during the heydays. Without wishing to sound too melodramatic, it reminded me of a Cold War-era military base where the troops had pulled out overnight, leaving the tanks and redundant military hardware to rust. And yet, amid the decay, there were signs of life and no end of potential. The changing face of tourism, children more interested in playing computer games than embracing the outdoors, and a lack of social housing in St Andrews leading to fewer families living in the St Andrews area have all been cited as reasons why visitor numbers and, ultimately, Fife Council park revenue declined at Craigtoun in recent years. The lack of visitors ultimately persuaded the council that it could no longer justify investment. Continued...


Dundee band hope Courier readers can help them solve 1960s cine film family mystery

April 21 2018

A Dundee band are hoping that Courier readers can help solve the mystery of a cine film that is being used to promote a track from their forthcoming new album. The 8mm film featuring Dundee and the Tay Road Bridge in 1966, Craigtoun Park near St Andrews and Southend-on-Sea, has been re-edited to fit the melancholy track Grow from the new Spare Snare album Sounds which is due for release on Chute Records in July. Spare Snare lead singer Jan Burnett said the band are trying to find out if anyone recognises anyone in the film - particularly the touching end scene featuring a family party. https://youtu.be/1q8NcO6qd_A They believe the whole thing has been filmed by a Dundee family. Jan told The Courier: “The film and track is a little teaser for our new album recorded by (renowned American musician and record producer) Steve Albini. “The album was recorded as part of Spare Snare and Steve Albini hosting the first ever Scottish Engineer's Workshop last February at Chem19 studio in Blantyre. “Chem19 is owned by Paul Savage and Emma Pollock ex of (Scottish indie rock band) The Delgados. “The film was found by Spare Snare’s Adam Lockhart and re-edited to fit the track. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pXTrEctlSTU “We'd be keen to see if anyone recognises anyone in the film. We reckon it's 1966 and features, as far as we know Dundee, Craigtoun Park and Southend on Sea.” The track, Grow, is a re-recording of a track from Spare Snare’s 'Garden Leave' album from 2006. Jan added: “We chose tracks from our 10 album catalogue that we thought would suit Albini's touch.  It worked out great, and we recorded and mixed 10 tracks in five days.  He loved us and the fact that the workshop had been funded by Creative Scotland was a big bonus for him. “He is very keen on publicly funded projects. “The engineers did not have to pay to be on the course which was important for all of us.” Founded in the early 1990s, lo-fi outfit Spare Snare – featuring Jan Burnett (vocals, guitar, electronics, melodica),  Alan Cormack (bass, guitar, drums, synths), Barry Gibson (drums, bass, guitar),  Graeme Ogston (guitar, bass, ukulele) and Adam Lockhart (guitar, synths, bass, voice) - have released 12 albums to date, mostly on their own Chute Records. They also recorded four John Peel Sessions. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dyZbb2r1ok4 The band have been cited as an influence on acts such as Snow Patrol and the Fence Collective. Anyone with information about the cine film is asked to get in touch via www.wearethesnare.com The album 'Sounds', recorded by Steve Albini and released on Chute Records in July, is available to order on an exclusive coloured vinyl direct from the band.

UK & World

This student took his Tinder profile to the next level by turning it into a PowerPoint presentation

February 21 2018

Standing out from the crowd on Tinder can be tough, but with the help of Microsoft PowerPoint a British student has managed just that – and gone viral in the process.Sam Dixey, a 21-year-old studying at Leeds University, made a six-part slideshow entitled “Why you should swipe right” – using pictures and bullet points to shrewdly persuade potential dates to match with him on the dating app. The slideshow includes discussion of his social life and likes, such as “petting doggos” and “laser tag”, and “other notable qualities and skills” – such as being “not the worst at sex” and “generous when drunk”.It even has reviews mocked up from sources such as “Donald Trump”, “Leonardo Di Capri Sun” and “The Times Guide to Pancakes 2011”.Sam told the Press Association the six-slide presentation only took about 20 minutes to make and “started off as a joke”.However, since being posted to Twitter by fellow Tinder user Gracie Barrow, Sam’s slideshow has been shared tens of thousands of times across social media.So, it’s got the seal of approval form Gracie, but how has the slideshow fared on Tinder? “I’d have to say it has been pretty successful,” Sam said. “Definitely a clear correlation of matches and dates beforehand to afterwards.“Most of the responses tend to revolve around people saying ‘I couldn’t help swipe right 10/10’ but I’ve had some people go the extra mile and message me on Facebook.“Plus some people have recognised me outside, in the library and on dates.”A resounding success.


Switch to free entry puts Craigtoun Park’s famous attractions in doubt

February 21 2011

Once seen as a jewel in Fife's crown, huge uncertainty now surrounds the future of Craigtoun Country Park. Much loved by generations of youngsters, the park was placed in the firing line as Fife Council struggles to make multi-million pound savings. The local authority predicts that £50,000 could be saved by removing the admission fee. Seven full-time equivalent posts are likely to be axed as a result. The bid to balance the books is set to have a major impact on the range of attractions offered at the venue. Tens of thousands of people descend on the park every year, with a miniature railway and boating pond among the most popular features. Two miles outside St Andrews, the 16.5-hectare site also hosts a Dutch village, putting greens, crazy golf, a cafe and children's play area. Despite its popularity, there has been an alarming decline in visitor numbers over recent years -- while 65,000 flocked through the gates in 2001, just 29,500 visited in 2008. Proposals to remove an entrance fee may seem initially attractive but there are clearly fears over the impact this could have on the standard of facilities. Some claim the park has been in a state of "terminal decline" for years. "Craigtoun has been neglected for some time now and it has been very sad to witness," said one resident. "I took my children and then my grandchildren to the park and the facilities have certainly deteriorated over the years. Doing away with an entrance fee may well attract more people but how will the attractions be funded?Upsetting"I fear this is the beginning of the end for Craigtoun, which is very upsetting." Fife Council insist "future options" are being discussed and that a "sustainable long-term future" is still possible. However the loss of staff -- and revenue from an entrance fee -- will inevitably have an impact on the attractions offered. Fife Council area service manager Kate Hughes said organisations were being urged to play a part in developing a blueprint for Craigtoun's future. "We are currently working with representatives of both St Andrews and Cameron community councils to look at alternative models of running and managing the park," she said. "However this is in the very early discussion stages." Ms Hughes confirmed the number of attractions would be slashed following the cutbacks. "Several of the attractions in the park require significant capital investment, which would be extremely difficult to deliver in the current economic climate," she said. "Therefore, the decision has been taken to withdraw the attractions to the public." It is envisaged that axed staff will be "redeployed" to alternative duties. "The gate fee covered the cost of employing seasonal staff to help with the attractions, so these posts will no longer be needed," Ms Hughes said. "The savings being made represent the permanent staff employed who will now be redeployed in the area as required to do alternative duties."

Road tests

Audi Q2 puts quality over size

March 21 2018

Audi’s Q2 was one of the first premium compact SUVs on the market. It sits below the Q3, Q5 and the gigantic, seven seat Q7 in Audi’s ever growing range. Although it’s about the same size as the Nissan Juke or Volkswagen T-Roc, its price is comparable with the much larger Nissan X-Trail or Volkswagen Tiguan. Even a basic Q2 will set you back more than £21,000 and top whack is £38,000. Then there’s the options list which is extensive to say the least. My 2.0 automatic diesel Quattro S Line model had a base price of £30,745 but tipped the scales at just over £40,000 once a plethora of additions were totted up. Size isn’t everything, however. In recent years there’s been a trend of buyers wanting a car that’s of premium quality but compact enough to zip around town. It may be a step down in size but the Q2 doesn’t feel any less classy than the rest of Audi’s SUV range. The interior looks great and is user friendly in a way that more mainstream manufacturers have never been able to match. The simple rotary dial and shortcut buttons easily trounce touchscreen systems, making it a cinch to skim through the screen’s menus. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4eQ5p5Z7-Ek&list=PLUEXizskBf1nbeiD_LqfXXsKooLOsItB0 There’s a surprising amount of internal space too. I took three large adults from Dundee to Stirling and no one complained about feeling cramped. As long as you don’t have a tall passenger behind a tall driver you can easily fit four adults. At 405 litres the boot’s big too – that’s 50 litres more than a Nissan Juke can muster. Buyers can pick from 1.0 and 1.4 litre petrol engines or 1.6 and 2.0 litre TDIs. Most Q2s are front wheel drive but Audi’s Quattro system is standard on the 2.0 diesel, as is a seven-speed S Tronic gear box. On the road there’s a clear difference between this and SUVs by manufacturers like Nissan, Seat and Ford. Ride quality, while firm, is tremendously smooth. Refinement is excellent too, with road and tyre noise kept out of the cabin. It sits lower than the Q3 or Q5 and this improves handling, lending the Q2 an almost go-kart feel. On a trip out to Auchterhouse, with plenty of snow still on the ground, I was appreciative of the four-wheel drive as well. The Q2 is expensive – though there are some good finance deals out there – but you get what you pay for. Few cars this small feel as good as the Q2 does. Price: £30,745 0-62mph: 8.1 seconds Top speed: 131mph Economy: 58.9mpg CO2 emissions: 125g/km


Craigtoun Park reopening with hopes of a bright future

June 28 2013

The much-anticipated grand reopening of Craigtoun Park near St Andrews takes place this weekend and organisers hope this is just the beginning of a bright future for the much-loved facility. The special event tomorrow and Sunday postponed from Easter due to a washout marks the start of the school holiday period when the Friends of Craigtoun group will be running the amenities in the park on a seven days a week basis. The Friends Group was formed in 2011 as a sub committee of St Andrews Community Council. The group has now moved on to become a company limited by guarantee and that company is hoping to obtain charitable status in the near future. Friends chairman Kyffin Roberts said:”The Friends are grateful for the support and encouragement received from Fife Council and local companies in making it possible to bring Craigtoun Park back to being a vibrant attraction in St Andrews that offers fun days out for all the family. “The number of people using the park has increased steadily since Easter as the word spreads that Craigtoun Park is “ back in business” but the truth is that the park never closed.” Fife Council depute provost Councillor Kay Morrison will officially reopen the park at 11am tomorrow. She said: “Thanks to everybody who’s striven so hard to bring this about, to the point where the Friends can work in partnership with Fife Council to maintain this lovely park.” The weekend programme includes: Saturday stage Billy Anderson, Fygo Combo, and Steamers Lane (all bands). Sunday stage Billy Anderson, City of St Andrews Pipe Band, Lucy Harrower (singer) and Laurie and Cameron band. Also Sun. Roger the Dodger (Marquee). Craft, business and exhibition stalls (both days). Static displays (both days) Police, Fire, Coastguard and RAF. All the park facilities will be running. Parks team leader Iain Barbour said: “Given the excellent partnership model we’ve developed with the Friends, we’re hopeful there’s a long-term future for the park.”