My favourite beach: Belhaven

Recently, the Guardian published an article featuring various writers spouting off on their favourite beach, including Irvine Welsh who wrote about Silverknowes beach in the north of Edinburgh. Irvine lives in Miami so perhaps might be writing with a wee tinge of nostalgia and relief that he doesn’t have to be there in November. I was there recently – read the Edinburgh’s promenade post for more on that walk – and it is fine, I have to say. The comments section of the article surprisingly didn’t descend into a whole lot of abuse as these things tend to do with readers instead talking about their favourite beaches, including a few I know well, Yellowcraig in East Lothian, Bamburgh in Northumberland and Prestwick down the watter in Ayrshire.

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My favourite beach is Belhaven, not far from Dunbar where I grew up. I haven’t been for a wee while but it is a place where I feel most myself, letting the winds wash my spirit clean, as John Muir might have put it. Belhaven is to the west of Dunbar and when approaching from the town, the bay just opens up with views to Fife, the Bass Rock, North Berwick Law and the Isle of May, not to mention further inland to Traprain Law and the Hopetoun Monument near Haddington. The bridge to the beach is cut off twice a day by the tide and it is popularly known as the ‘bridge to nowhere’. Indeed I remember when shelving CDs when I worked at Langside Library in Glasgow discovering a CD, possibly by the Battlefield Band, with said bridge on the front. It is a popular place for photographers and those of us who are merely tickled by a bridge being rendered irrelevant twice a day.

I don’t get there so often any more, living at the other side of the country. Usually when I write about Dunbar, I tend to be there the next week so I’m sure that will be the case this time. I used to walk there fairly often, with family or a succession of dogs, or otherwise alone coming up with ideas for writing. One Saturday morning, I ended up on the beach and saw a seagull lying on the sand with its ribs exposed, sticking up like city cranes. The image stuck with me and I even saw something similar in a Salvador Dali painting in the Modern Art Gallery in Edinburgh.

Why do I love it? It is a place where I feel close to nature, close to home and to lost loved ones. It is a place of comfort, of stability and it has stayed consistent ever since I’ve known it. The view of the Bass Rock and the May is never the same twice, however. I’ve been there in all weathers, even in the fog where the Bass Rock was the only thing visible for miles. The waves make it all the more special, a calming, rhythmic spectacle, every few seconds a new one. Stormy days, or wintry ones, are the best, the gnarling cold compensated for by those waves and the ruffled sky above.

There are those places which are special to us and feel unique to us, even while many others may feel exactly the same about them. I am lucky enough to have quite a few special places, some urban, others much more wild. Belhaven falls into the latter category, though close to the town too. Even while I love Glasgow, it is to Belhaven that I go to take stock and catch up with myself. There are few places better on earth and if you haven’t been, I heartily encourage you to go.

 

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In praise of being alone

Sometimes I am inspired to write posts by what I read. The other morning, I was catching up with a couple of months’ worth of entries from Notes From Walnut Tree Farm by Roger Deakin and came across one of the many cracking, succinctly-phrased lines from that magnificent volume:

‘Every now and again you find yourself slipping into a little pocket, a little envelope, of country that is unknown to anyone else, which feels as though it is your own secret land’.

Connections sometimes emerge between different things I read and what I have read previously. One of my favourite poems is ‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree’ by W.B. Yeats and Roger’s words about secret lands remind me about that isle, being alone in a bee-loud glade and peace dropping slow. Then it occurred to me that Nan Shepherd had written in a similar vein in The Living Mountain, the book that rivals Notes From Walnut Tree Farm in being what I would take to a desert island. Nan Shepherd writes about a particular loch high in the Cairngorms and writes that its ‘inaccessibility…is part of its power…It is necessary to be sometimes exclusive, not on behalf of rank or wealth, but of those human qualities that can apprehend loneliness’.

I am not a mountain climber. One day I would like to but it hasn’t happened yet. The last time I was in a place and felt I was in a secret land was when I was walking in the John Muir Country Park near Dunbar a month or two ago. I was amidst the trees and was back in the midst of my childhood, feeling entirely at peace in this place. Being alone there wasn’t a bad thing because I could think free about my time there long ago without being confined by words or sharing the experience with someone else. I spend a lot of my life putting things into words but sometimes there’s times when words aren’t needed. John Muir wrote once that ‘writing is a cold medium for heart-hot ideas’ and it’s true a lot of the time. Putting this idea into words has been harder than thinking it but that’s true most of the time, I think. Hedderwick isn’t a secret place. It’s near the A1 and many people walk there every single day. Some kids had a party to celebrate their exams finishing the other week. There is still a resonance and meaning there that is unique to me, for no one else has my particular set of life experiences and filters to see them through. It still felt like a secret land, particularly for much of the time I was there when I was alone with my thoughts in the dunes between the trees.

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There is a major difference between being lonely and being alone. I have known both. Being with someone else doesn’t mean you can’t fully appreciate a particular place. Indeed a shared thought can build a better insight. Being alone helps me recharge. That walk in John Muir was brilliant, in no small part because I was alone and able to think for hours, to be where I was, to enjoy that and process the last few months since I was last in Dunbar. I always think better when I’m a wee bit removed from life and being in a perpetual place only made it better that particular day. I can’t arise now and go, unfortunately, since I have a life and work and stuff like that. But I can do what Norman MacCaig did. He lived most of the year in Edinburgh but spent his long summer holidays in Assynt. When he reached Assynt, he ‘fattened his camel’s hump’ with inspiration and ideas to fill his poems for the rest of the year. I do the same whenever I travel and particularly when I am back in East Lothian. Even a glance across the Forth from Fife or on a webcam can satisfy any yearnings if my stores are low. It isn’t quite a secret land but it will do for me.

 

 

The Bass Rock’s doppelganger

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I didn’t know until recently that the Ailsa Craig, a big hunk of granite in the middle of the Firth of Clyde, is twelve times the area and three times as high as the Bass Rock, its doppelganger in the Forth. Having grown up in Dunbar, I am considerably more familiar with the Bass and so I always think of the Ailsa Craig as being the lesser relation, even though I now know the western version is much, much larger. Things always have to be bigger and better through here, eh? Anyway, it got me thinking about Ayrshire. Going down there is always exciting to me. I grew up at the other side of the country so the rolling coastline south of Ayr and Girvan is exotic, with an unfamiliar vista to the Ailsa Craig and beyond on a good day to Arran, Kintyre and Northern Ireland. The first time I went was when I was a kid and there was a brief stopover at Girvan en route somewhere else. I was entranced by the Ailsa Craig and bought a postcard of it to take home. (My main memory of that particular trip, though, was getting a can of Mango and Mandarin Lilt, which was my favourite and can never be found anywhere.) Ever since, I love being in that part of the country. When I went to Northern Ireland last year, I thought all the way down to the ferry at Cairnryan that even this journey was enough to see me for a while, let alone the trip across the North Channel. (For posts on that particular trip, please see (North) Channel crossingUlster MuseumTrains and that.)

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The Bass Rock is far more familiar to me. When I see it, I have a similar response to when I clap eyes on the Ailsa Craig: I just smile, sigh and relax. I may have written before about how it looks different from different angles, whereas the Ailsa Craig looks remarkably similar from wherever you happen to see it. From Dunbar, the Bass looks craggy and intimidating while from North Berwick it is more of an island affair. Across the Forth in Crail, Cellardyke and Anstruther the Bass looks more like a tooth, a monolith as opposed to the bumpy land just beyond it in East Lothian. I’ve never actually been though I have been close. When I was a teenager we went out on a fishing boat and went quite close to the Bass, if not right up to it. It is one of the largest seabird colonies in the world and in the summer there can be thousands of gannets on it, turning the rock a bright white. I gather that the Ailsa Craig has quite a few gannets on it too but I’ve never quite seen that shade of bright, glossy white anywhere else.

Hugh MacDiarmid wrote a poem which began ‘Scotland small? Our multiform, our infinite Scotland small?’ Our country is a multiform and that is particularly evident when thinking of our coastline. Both sides of the country are rugged with lots of jagged edges that Slartibartfast of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy would be very proud of. Scotland isn’t very symmetrical but the Ailsa Craig and the Bass Rock make up for it, two lumps of rock in the sea at either side of the country, at either side of the Lowland Fault. For a Dunbar boy like me, the Ailsa Craig is still a tribute act, even if it is far bigger than I realised before.

Sources and further reading –

Haswell-Smith, Hamish, An Island Odyssey, 2014, Edinburgh: Canongate

MacDiarmid, Hugh, ‘Scotland small?’, accessible via http://www.scottishpoetrylibrary.org.uk/poetry/poems/scotland-small

 

Wallace and Gromit

Recently it was announced that the actor Peter Sallis had died at the age of 96. He played Norman Clegg on the long-running pish Sunday night ‘comedy’ Last of the Summer Wine, but to many of us he is better known as the voice of Wallace, the inventor and cheese fanatic from Wallace and Gromit. For those poor souls who have never encountered Wallace and Gromit before, and you truly haven’t lived, Wallace and Gromit is a series of animations involving a madcap inventor and his dug who is much, much smarter than him, produced in clay by Aardman Animations and created by Nick Park. It is meant for children, really, but since I grew up with it, I suppose I can justify keeping an interest. I identify more with Gromit than Wallace, since he is silent and a rolled eye can say so, so much, but there are so many great Wallace lines. One of them appears on the mug I drink out of and it pretty much sums up my outlook on life, taken from A Grand Day Out, when they go to the moon on a Bank Holiday to look for cheese:

‘It’s like no cheese I’ve ever tasted’.

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My Wallace and Gromit mug next to my alternative mug bearing the visage of Sir David Gray

I haven’t watched Wallace and Gromit in a few years. The last time was watching A Matter Of Loaf and Death, including one of those fabulously cheesy names, Piella Bakewell. But my most recent W&G experience was at Blackpool Pleasure Beach about three summers ago. It was a birthday present. I had never been to a theme park in my life and there I was with my family at Blackpool Pleasure Beach. I went on my first rollercoaster at the age of 25. But a major highlight was going to the Wallace and Gromit ride, where you sit in a slipper and get guided around a medley of scenes and lines from the various W&G films. Quite seriously, a life highlight. Even more so was the adjoining gift shop where I spent sixty British pounds on T-shirts, keyrings and plush toys. I still wear my grey T-shirt bearing the red glove worn by the Penguin on the Wrong Trousers from time to time. Anyway, a souvenir of the day was the photo I got took with Gromit. It is one of the few photos of me in my house; one of the others is me with the Scottish Cup. We actually waited until the galoot in the Wallace suit went for a fag break before pouncing to get a photo with Gromit. It’s still on the mantelpiece, pride of place.

I’ve liked Wallace and Gromit since I was a kid. I’m autistic and having a fidget toy has always been important for keeping pace with the sensory overload that is life as I know it. When I was a kid, I used to have keyrings mainly but for a while it was a little figurine of Wallace. I lost it, though. We used to walk our dog each night across Winterfield Park in Dunbar, in all weathers and all year, even in the dark with a torch. One of those dark, dark nights, I lost Wallace. The day after I carefully combed the park though it was nowhere to be seen. Somehow when I went back to school, one of my teachers produced another one. It wasn’t the same somehow but the thought was there.

A few years ago, I had a job I didn’t like. Everyone has one on their CV. It was not long after I had been to Blackpool Pleasure Beach and on my desk was not only a photo of me with Gromit but also a Gromit soft toy. It kept me in touch with my childhood side and looking to Gromit from time to time reminded me of happier times.

When I heard about Peter Sallis’s death, it reminded me of the place Wallace and Gromit has had in my life. Off-the-wall humour, quirky and detail-orientated, the world is the richer for it. As it was for the life of Peter Sallis.

 

 

Seaweed

I grew up very near the sea and while our house didn’t directly overlook the water, it was nevertheless close enough to hear the waves early in the morning when everything else was still, a vivid memory I carry with me to this day. Also deeply ingrained in me is the smell of seaweed, particularly on cold, grey days but generally present all year round, to be smelled across the town. However many times the Council tried to clear the beach, the sea always yielded more and thus every time I go near the East Beach, the seaweed smell is unmistakable. In fact I get it just about every beach I go to, wherever I am and however far I am from Dunbar. It isn’t massively unpleasant, it’s just pervasive, the kind which gets in your nostrils and seeps around windows. It’s better than manure, when the farmers are speading, but not by much.

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East Beach, Dunbar, with seaweed right there on the road
What made me think of it was seeing a Tweet this morning from the author Amy Liptrot, sharing an article about the Victorian trend of collecting seaweed, something that seems just as strange to me as eating the stuff, as of course many folk do, but it was apparently quite the craze in the 19th century. One notable collector was the writer Margaret Gatty, who produced a lavishly illustrated book called British Sea-weeds while convalescing in Brighton in 1848. One person’s nuisance is another person’s fascination, I suppose.

What I would like to do at one point, though, is go diving, particularly through a kelp forest, like those that dot the coastline around Dunbar. Kelp is another form of seaweed and kelp forests have interested me for years, though the closest I’ve ever got to them was looking down into the sea towards them. The difference between that and the stuff that coats the beaches is a smell, certainly, but mostly that it is a mystery I can see but not quite experience unless I take a dip into the waters below.

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Kelp forest

A blog announcement to finish. The other day I realised that more people have read the blog this year than in the whole of last year. And it’s only June. Thanks to all readers and followers.

Wanderlust

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This photograph was taken a couple of weeks ago when I was in the John Muir Country Park, near Dunbar. It stars in the post Ingrained but I wanted to post it again for this week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge, which is on the subject of ‘Wanderlust’. This particular scene shows a path in a woodland but to me it conjures up walking that bit further, crossing the next horizon, because it is there. John Muir, for whom the Country Park was named, wrote that so many people are scared of the woods when really they are places full of wonder and interest. I walked through these particular woods a lot when I was a kid and I was there again recently. I still could have walked them with my eyes shut. I live many miles away now and I have been to many other places in these islands. But my wanderlust started there.

If you haven’t been to my particular corner of the Internet before, welcome! I post fairly often about any number of different things. Recent posts have included What the…?Writing about autismThe Battery and Notes From Walnut Tree Farm.

Impulses

I’m not very impulsive. I usually think on things then never act on them. Occasionally I do but there’s usually a day trip involved somewhere along the line. A few weeks ago, I was in East Lothian for the day, a fine visit to my home county on a pleasant sunny Sunday afternoon. We had just been to Tantallon Castle, possibly one of the finest castles on this great planet of ours, and were driving to Pressmennan Wood when on impulse I asked my dad to stop the car at a place called Pitcox, not far from Dunbar. The reason I did was because of an old signpost that stood at the road junction there, produced by East Lothian County Council at least before 1974. The signpost marked four directions, towards Stenton, Garvald, Gifford, Pathhead Farm, Halls Farm, Bourhouse, Spott and Dunbar. I can’t quite explain the attraction of the signpost beyond I just like the link to the old-fashioned way of doing things. East Lothian is still a very old-fashioned sort of place and there are a few of these signposts dotted around the county, including one in the very heart of Haddington on the junction of Station Road and West Road. In this age of sat-nav and Google Maps, navigation by instinct, knowledge and simple guiding seems to have gone by the wayside. The world is deeply complex and all we can do as people is find something to relate to, even if it might not be totally obvious. It’s the psychogeographer in me that made me stop. There are wonders to be found in the unlikeliest of places. The Impressionist Camille Pissarro said it best:

‘Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where others see nothing’.

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I realise I haven’t written so much here about psychogeography. I became interested in it a few years ago after reading some articles on the subject by the novelist Will Self who walked from his house in west London to New York, or at least from his house to Heathrow then from JFK into Manhattan. I think Will Self is up his own arse – he tends to throw spanners into the dictionary and use a polysyllabic word when a decent, shorter one might do – but psychogeography struck a chord with me. It is a French Situationist concept come up with by a philosopher called Guy Debord, who sought to make sense of the anonymous big city by getting lost in it on what he called a derive or aimless drift. His big city was Paris. Mine was Edinburgh.

The capital of Scotland is a city I know very well. I was born there, I went to primary school there. I’m even going there tomorrow to see Hibs. One of the reasons I know it so well is because when I used to go on day trips, all I could often afford was to go to Edinburgh and explore. I often went on derives around the New Town, often starting on Dublin Street by the Portrait Gallery and seeing where I ended up. Waverley Station was inevitably my final destination but it was the getting there that made it interesting, following psychogeographical concepts and taking random left and right turns. I haven’t been on such a walk for a while but I still turn off on a tangent from time to time even when I supposedly have a fixed route in mind to follow. The other week I was heading to Easter Road and walked up Leith Walk since I was running early. I ended up taking a diversion through the New Kirkgate shopping centre (less said the better) and found Trinity House museum then ducked through the very fine and springlike South Leith kirkyard.

The project I started a few weeks ago, Streets of Glasgow, has a psychogeographical dimension to it. I’ve lived in Glasgow for nearly four years but I still haven’t scratched the surface of it yet. Far from it. The walk on Buchanan Street was brilliant, a few snatched minutes in a lunchbreak from a training course, and I hope to get out some more in the coming weeks. In the meantime, there are always new things to spot when looking the right way, like the ghost sign I spotted on Nelson Mandela Place walking back from the bus station the other week.

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Just shy of a year ago, I went to York, one of my favourite cities. One of the highlights was the National Railway Museum, which I always refer to affectionately as the most autistic place on Earth. In the Station Hall was a signpost which tickled me when I saw it then and sums up much of my outlook on life. One direction points ‘To the glorious and unknown’. It might be just a little bit impulsive but that’s all good with me.

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Before I forget, very soon, probably some time in June, will be the 300th post on this here blog. I like to mark these things, as with The things I love are not at home and Post 101: Talking, so for the first time, I am going to crowdsource what I write about for the 300th post. So, if there are any suggestions, based around what tends to appear here, please do let me know, either through the comments section or by other means if you know them.

 

What the…?

First, a disclaimer. This post is mildly sweary. It is part of the story to be sweary this time and I have a policy of not using asterisks as the world doesn’t need to be bowdlerised.

That being out of the way. Last weekend Hibs won the Championship. We will be promoted to the Scottish Premiership next season, which is brilliant. We won the league with a 3-0 win against Queen of the South, after Falkirk drew with St Mirren. When we won the Scottish Cup last year, there was an epic pitch invasion which is still being investigated by Police Scotland. Near the end of the Queen of the South game, the stewards started putting up barriers separated by flimsy red and white tape right in front of the East Stand, which is where the rowdier elements of the Hibs support sit and also where I sit. The absurdity of this made me laugh but what made me howl was the response of the singing section, which was the chant ‘What the fucking hell is that?’ to the tune of ‘You’re Not Singing Anymore’. Class.

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Why I’m telling you this is I had a similar response to this when I was in Dunbar the other day. In fact, twice. When I was at high school, I didn’t have a lot of friends. I often went out for a walk at lunchtime and ended up in one of two places, on the Prom or if I felt like walking further, to the bottom of a park called the Glebe, on a point jutting out into the sea. I walked along there to find a fence a good ten feet from where the cliff dropped and right in front of where I used to sit. My response was ‘What the fucking hell is that?’ Seriously, East Lothian Council! Without sounding like the Daily Mail, health and safety gone mad. Indeed whenever I am in Dunbar I make a point of sitting there for a while. I did this time too, by climbing through the fence and plonking myself on the grass and eating my pieces, on the wrong side closest to the sea. It was brilliant as the sun came out and I sat in my T-shirt as I ate and looked over to the harbour and to the folk climbing on the rocks nearby.

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Time number two was when I walked on the Prom. As long as I have been alive, the Prom path has always been cracked. Indeed when I was a kid I used to walk along the cracks for much of the route. But a small part, as it passes the Pin, has been tarred. No idea why. No other part of the path, which runs to about half a mile, has been tarred. It was very recent, not recent enough to draw your name in it or anything but only a week or two old. Even newer was a John Muir quote chalked onto the tarmac, namely:

‘These temple-destroyers, devotees of ravaging commercialism, seem to have a perfect contempt for Nature, and instead of lifting their eyes to the God of the mountains, lift them to the Almighty Dollar.’ (The Yosemite by John Muir, Chapter 15, http://vault.sierraclub.org/john_muir_exhibit/writings/the_yosemite/chapter_15.aspx)

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I spend a lot of my life thinking thoughts along the lines of ‘What the fucking hell is that?’ One of the ways I keep sane is marvelling at how absurd the world is, in how people think and what people think is a good idea. I don’t normally sing it, though, but I might just have to start, even just to be absurd myself for a bit.

Ingrained

The very first post on this blog, way back in August 2015, was a dwam about vivid memories of places that occur to you seemingly without warning:

‘I was just thinking about a place near where I grew up in East Lothian. Just outside Dunbar is the John Muir Country Park, stretching from Dunbar Castle to Tyninghame. It is a very varied place, encompassing golf courses, beaches and an animal park. I spent a lot of time there as a kid. Anyway, the particular part of the park that came to mind a few minutes ago is at the far end of the dump road, where it meets the Biel Burn near West Barns. There is a bridge there, leading towards the sand dunes or the firs, what is locally known as ‘John Muir’, and I was just thinking of walking there. It is nearly always muddy and usually smells rank (there is a water treatment works nearby) but the path leads to good places, whichever way you take.’

I hadn’t been there in years, in fact well before I moved to Glasgow. When I was in Dunbar recently, I hadn’t planned to be out there at all but when I was walking around the Prom, I looked across Belhaven Bay and saw the trees. I didn’t plan to walk so far, though, across what the map calls the Hedderwick Plantation but what I know as ‘John Muir’. I did because I was just enjoying setting one foot before another. I haven’t been there in quite a few years – I now live at the other side of the country, I have done many jobs since – but as soon as I got past the Linkfield car park, my feet guided me through the woods as if I had just been there the day before, feeling utterly at home, recognising paths leading this way and that. Even the smells were familiar, tree smells and from the beach across the dunes. There were a few folk in the woods but not nearly as many as were across the way in the East Links farm park looking at llamas and that. It was their loss. After a few minutes, I was alone and I felt utterly content, thrilled to be in a place where I spent a lot of time as a kid and finding it had changed not a bit in the intervening decade.

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I soon reached the bridge. I had seen a photo of it a few days ago on Facebook and it must have stuck in my brain. I have long thought that if ever I get a memorial bench, by that bridge would be where it would go. It is a very secluded place, at the back of Hedderwick, right by the mouth of the river Tyne, looking across towards Tyninghame Links and up into East Lothian, with Traprain Law, Pencraig Hill and the Hopetoun Monument. It was remarkably still when I was there, save some runners and a guy walking his dogs, and I loved being there, especially because they have plonked a bench there, randomly as part of the Legacy 2014 project following the Commonwealth Games. I live in the big city and there are times when I feel overwhelmed by that, the noise, hustle, bustle and all round madness. Sitting right there I felt very far from all that, with the bird noises and the Isle of May out in the distance across the dunes. I rested my feet and looked at my OS map, wondering for a moment about whether I could walk the 4 miles more to East Linton. In the end, I decided against it, wanting to enjoy the rest of the long loop around the edge of the trees and walk back along the dump road to the Prom and back to the train. Eventually, I set off again, once more letting my feet guide me, stopping to look at the tank traps and old huts from the Second World War and generally letting my mind wander further.

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I walked back to Dunbar station, another few miles, some of them rainy, naturally smack dab in the middle of the golf course at Winterfield. The dump road I wrote about in this blog’s first post was on the route and I stopped a minute looking across Seafield Pond towards the old Battleblent Hotel and West Barns. On the way along, there was a heron on the pond. As I was reaching for my phone to get a photo, the heron got up and flew over the wall, a clear lesson as to why sometimes you should just capture the scene in your mind’s eye. When I reached the Prom it was wet but I didn’t really care. I had loved the walk, with not so many thoughts but a song going through my head (‘Clash Of The Ash’ by Runrig, incidentally, which I have just learned is about shinty) and stopping now and then for a photo.

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Sometimes memories are difficult to live up to. Places you once liked, that had resonance, don’t rise to the expectations placed on them. I was glad just to be there, for a step out of my life and for the walk to be so deeply familiar, those paths ingrained in my memory, not just in my mind but almost in my feet as I was led on almost without conscious thought into a place I knew so well.

The Battery

Dunbar has two harbours: the Cromwell or Old Harbour and the Victoria Harbour, otherwise known as the New Harbour. Each has its own history – the New hewn from the rock of the Castle, watched by a young John Muir before he went off to America, the Old where Charles Edward Stuart landed around the time of the Battle of Prestonpans. I grew up not far from them both so they’re familiar to me as places where I would walk or even go on a boat from time to time. I remember being at the Old Harbour a few times as the sun was going up, around 5 in the morning, the sky lightening and broadening as all around was still.

Recently Dunbar was witness to the Aurora Borealis or the northern lights. I’ve never seen them though I’ve seen many fine solar displays there in my time, including a total eclipse as I walked along the High Street. I saw a photograph on Facebook of the end of the Aurora over Lamer Island, part of the New harbour, and it reminded me of being there as a kid. Lamer Island, or the Battery as I knew it, has the harbour wall and a derelict military hospital on it. The derelict military hospital is a ruin, a gateway leading to a grassy bit bounded by walls that rise higher over the sea beyond. I always liked to imagine it defending against naval sieges and barrages, even while it never actually saw anything of the kind. I liked to walk around it and just imagine.

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The Victoria Harbour, Dunbar, with Lamer Island behind

It’s interesting that since I moved away, I’ve written more about Dunbar and East Lothian. I was lucky to grow up where I did, even if I didn’t always think it at the time. Writing helps bring out thoughts and recollections almost without realising it. It also leads to actively looking out for new ideas, especially when writing a blog like this, and sometimes they just come to you, with a glance or a swipe on social media. Whatever works. The best ideas come completely unexpectedly in my experience, as with the best things in life at large.

A week or so after this post was originally written, back in March, I was in touch with the Dunbar Shore and Harbour Neighbourhood Group who provided some intriguing information about Lamer Island. They have a project to use the now ruined space where the hospital was to bring together a new visitor centre, coastal garden and interpretation space, making the most of its fine setting with views across the Forth, to the North Sea and both of the harbours. Good luck to them – I’ll look forward to seeing what they do.