I don’t remember seeing snow until I was about 9 or 10. Dunbar, where I grew up, is right by the sea and snow just didn’t happen all that often. I remember hailstones battering my ears in the school playground and one day when the A1 was blocked but that’s about it. When I was in Dunbar last week, however, there was snow. Not a lot of it, a wee flurry at best, but snow was falling nevertheless.
I got off the train and it was cold. Not snowing yet but cold and grey, dismal. Still I was there now and I was determined to go for a wander. I headed along Church Street then Castle Street, stopping by the Creel Loaders sculpture on Victoria Street which I appreciate ever more each time I see it. I reached the harbour and stopped behind the Castle to look out and ponder for a moment. It was too cold to linger and by the time I was under the Bayswell, bound for the Prom, it was actually snowing with a biting wind to match. What I had in my favour was that it was an easterly wind and it would be at my back as I walked along the Prom towards Belhaven.
The Prom I know well, a place of childhood dog walks, high school lunches alone, grown-up runs and stretches. Its curves and corners are reassuring, a familiar, happy place and it’s a staple of my trips back. Through the gloom I could see the outline of the Bass Rock, a suggestion of North Berwick Law and Traprain. Somehow I had a notion to walk further, even with the cold, the snow, soon sleet and rain, towards John Muir and maybe even as far as Tyninghame or East Linton. I looked up bus times to plan the rest of my day, thinking through what my route would be. I had a thick coat, a hat, gloves and a will to walk.
Down towards the golf course and I stopped at the point as I always do. Despite the weather there were still folk on the beach and particularly paying close attention to the Bridge to Nowhere. I headed on to the dump road and the bridge across to a very muddy path leading to John Muir. I had been on this same path a year previously, Easter Monday again, though that day was much warmer, sunnier. I wasn’t overly bothered by the rain, especially when I came under the trees. The path was busy, a few families walking, and since I had a bus to catch in Tyninghame, I was able to get past and batter on. I thought more about the tank traps and defences which are dotted along the John Muir Way and through the woods, a reminder of this coastline’s past conflicts and threats from foreign forces.
The bridge across the Peffer Burn, the skittery burn, is a particular favourite place. A picture I took a year ago is the wallpaper on my iPad. The bridge was always a turning point on childhood walks, the turn right through the dunes back towards the car park. The last time I was there, I stopped there a while, looking across the estuary and remembering past times. This time I was turning left for the very first time, following the John Muir Way on another muddy path. Every so often, I looked back along the path, again dotted with tank trap blocks, towards the mouth of the Tyne, the trees at Hedderwick and beyond to the sea. Inland I could see a dip and a hill behind, where I knew Tyninghame lay. To my left I could see lanes and farm steadings, Tynefield and Kirklandhill, places I had only seen from the road at the other side. Foolishly I had left my OS map in the house but then again this walk hadn’t been planned. If it had I would have worn anything rather than my brown Skechers still muddy and scruffy more than a week later.
After about half an hour of taking high and low paths to dodge the mud, I hit tarmac, the coast road which took me the last half-mile or so into Tyninghame. The verges were narrow so when I could I would walk on the side of the road, otherwise tight by the hedges that lined either side. I reached the village with 10 minutes to spare, stopping in a shelter by the Smiddy. As ever the highlight was the community noticeboard, advertising local businesses, pet caricatures, dance classes and Reiki in a yurt. East Lothian in miniature. Tyninghame is a handsome village, quite old-fashioned, like Stenton and Spott with their unchanged feel. Still I was wet and cold and soon the bus came, the driver asking me if the cafe was open as I got my ticket, his accent reassuringly Dunbar.
The coast road to North Berwick is cracking, winding and dipping high and low leading through Whitekirk and by Tantallon and the Bass. Even with the rain, it is still the best road in the land. I’ve done it in a convertible and I’ve walked a fair bit of it too. I sat on the bus and deliberately chose the right-hand side, best to see the coastline pass by. All too soon I was in North Berwick. Even with all my years in Glasgow, I’m still a Dunbar boy and retain an irrational dislike of NB. After that walk, I was still wet and cold and in no particular mood to get any wetter or colder. I took my usual turn to the harbour and it was only at the far end, looking around towards the Bass, Fidra and the Lamb, that I thought ‘fuck this, I’m going home’.
I walked along the High Street and got a bus to Edinburgh. There is a train but that wouldn’t be as nice, the bus route including the second-best road in Scotland, with views across to Edinburgh, the Pentlands and Fife from various points, including Aberlady and Lyar’s Road near Longniddry. Again I picked the right-hand side and plugged in my earphones, all the better for the wee fannies that got on nearer the capital but just to avoid distractions as I looked out towards the Forth. The bus also goes through Portobello where there was a view right back towards East Lothian.
As it turned out, the snow followed me west. It was white nearer Harthill and Bathgate then colder and wetter as I hit Glasgow, where it had been pleasant a lot of the day, I gathered. I had seen enough snow for a while, the sight of the white stuff making me groan rather than cheer as it did when I was a kid. Still snow in Dunbar is still a novelty and I was glad to see it, as I was to walk in familiar places a while and to sit and let the bus take me the rest of the way.
Thanks for reading. The next post on this blog appears on Wednesday, going more into sea defences.