Methil Update - August 2013
To the yachtsman Methil is worth a good look as it is one of the few Firth of Forth refuges from an easterly blow with all tides access. It could prove useful preparation for the skipper to familiarise himself with the harbour at leisure than to leave it until under press of weather. The former conspicuous Leven power station and chimney have been demolished. A wind generator in the dock area is now the landmark, the entrance is between it and the BiFab (Burntisland Fabricators) yard, the former oil rig construction yard to the west.
The rig building and collieries may have gone but the ‘Methil no more’ line from the local boys, The Proclaimers’, ‘Letter From America’ is being relegated to history. Much effort by central and local government agencies, industry and volunteers is giving the place a future. The job is not finished and locals face no shortage of difficulties but employment is rising. Much of the housing has been refurbished, enjoys an enviable sunny southern aspect and sea views.
Methil Boat Club* welcomes visitors but for security reasons prefers berthing by prior arrangement. Their boats lie alongside two wooden piers on which members have fendered their berths with vertical plastic pipes. Their yard is gated so in the absence of a key holder getting into the town is difficult, involving lying against the single ladder on the concrete east breakwater. Much of its surface is badly broken up and one yawning collapse has yet to be repaired. Landing on it at night is not advised.
Methil Boat Club members have motor boats which are mainly used for sea angling. This means yachts may have difficulty finding a craft of suitable size to raft up alongside. The Club has been re-decking the wooden piers. The concrete east breakwater is not within their compound and not their responsibility.
The docks have been in decline for many years with the closure of Fife coal field and are little used. Access from the dock area is therefore difficult. I loaded a bulk barley cargo there in the 1980s and remember the rough quay surface and difficulty of avoiding stone and scrap metal inclusions when dockers were sweeping up spillage. It is hoped that construction, installation and servicing of offshore renewable energy installations will generate sufficient revenue for renewal.
The shops are about half a mile walk from the Boat Club. There is a Post Office and Methil Heritage Centre in Lower Methyl but most of the shops are in Upper Methil, a little further up hill inland. These include a Co-op super market, filling station, pharmacy, take away food and various independents including two tackle shops and Wilsons with small chandlery selection.
Guided walks of three town trails can be arranged at the Heritage Centre which is staffed by enthusiastic volunteers. The walks begin and end at the centre which has an exhibition area, book sales, café and toilets. A place that had docks as big as those of Methil has to have a wealth of history and that is certainly the case. The Centre holds extensive archives on the port.
The Fife Energy Park, the successor to the rig yard, is now the main employer. It offers the chance to learn more of wind and wave power generation, increasingly a feature of Scottish waters. Tours are possible for groups by arrangement. The car park on the road through Upper Methil overlooks the colourful BiFab yard and has interpretation boards.
So when on the Fife coast by boat or by car, walking the Fife coastal path or cycling the Kingdom have a look at Methil. One day you might be glad you did. If weather bound there are local interests to occupy the crew, provided one can arrange access from the Boat Club compound. Bus services operate to Kirkcaldy, Glenrothes, Cupar and St. Andrews.
* Methil Boat Club, The Docks, Methil, Leven, KY8 3RE. Phone: (01333) 421110.
14 August 2013.