Back to Blighty

Rest Day, 27th September: North Berwick

As I dropped Sara off at North Berwick station, I wasn’t sure whether she was going to Hereford, Bedford or Stevenage. I’m not sure if she knew either. Nonetheless, her week of support was a grand one and it was a hurried goodbye with deepest thanks as she rushed to catch the approaching train. This rather long walking project of mine had become a huge team effort and if it wasn’t for the support of friends, family and even relative strangers my effort would have foundered a long time ago.  For every week they have given up to aid my slightly selfish quest, my biggest hope has been that all of them had a bit of fun doing it and I think, so far, my hope had been fulfilled.

Old uni friend, Woody, arrived at the same station later in the day and the evening was spent having a good catch up with another introduction to Snickers with her list of broken bits getting a little longer with every new driver. We were probably up a little bit later than was good for me, but 30 years of absence do take a while to catch up on.

Stage 187, 28th September: North Berwick to Thorntonloch

Despite the late night, things had to continue and I hiked straight out of the campsite for a brief roadside walk to Tantallon Castle. With a rocky yet accessible foreshore, I headed down to the waterside and stayed down to walk along Peffer Sands before finally heading inland via a woodland track to cross my first River Tyne. As I emerged from the woods onto the drive of a large apartment converted country house I was challenged for only the third time of the entire trip. Again a polite and brief chat turned into a friendly encounter and I left to turn back down river for the John Muir Country Park and a meeting with Woody for lunch.

Dunbar and the hackers of Dunbar Golf Club came and went quickly and it wasn’t long before I met up with Woody again near my latest nuclear power station at Torness. We watched over the sea wall as a dozen anglers gathered to fish the warm water of the power station outfall. Clearly, three eyed fish were a desirable catch. But they weren’t alone in their choice of prey. A pod of dolphin were actively trawling the waves nearby and with their tail slapping antics we gathered that they were in full hunting mode. A fairly flat and uneventful day had ended with a spectacle worthy of the finest days. Mood changes can come easily sometimes.

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Stage 188, 29th September: Thorntonloch to Eyemouth

The warmth of the morning sun meant that the day started as my first shirtsleeve one for many weeks. The sea was flat calm and the sky as clear as I’d had all year. Woody joined me for the first hour along the foreshore and up the shallow cliff towards the picturesque harbour village of Cove. With Woody turning back, I entered the village alone again. I made my way around to Pease Bay with its glorious beach utterly spoilt by the massive static caravan park immediately edging the sand. The bay would have been photogenic beyond words if the park wasn’t there. Instead, my camera stayed firmly zipped away in its case and I made my way over the hill towards Siccar Point.

Woody had reminded me of the geological importance of Siccar Point. In truth I had completely forgotten the place and as I diverted away from my planned route I didn’t even have a vague recollection of ever having been there before on a field trip thirty or so years ago. Nonetheless, Hutton’s Unconformity deserved a visit, particularly as an information board proclaimed Siccar Point to be “arguably the most important geological site in the world”. In writing this I felt an irresistible urge to describe  an unconformity and particularly why Hutton’s was so important. To reduce possible boredom I elected not to get nerdy or upset the Old Testament believers, but I’m sure google would give an answer to those with interest.

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From Siccar Point the path disappeared. I was happy to edge the fields to find a track and good route back towards my original planned one. By the time I rediscovered the official path at Dowlaw, I felt I had forged a new and perfectly acceptable section.  The path was now well-marked and very well maintained, not that the Ordnance Survey people were aware of its existence enough to mark it on my map.

From here on in, it was a repetitive series of climbs over rolling hill tops with steep high cliffs all around St Abb’s Head and on to the very pretty village of St Abbs. The cliffs to the South of the village were topped with elegant houses and a child friendly sandy bay was still busy with Scottish Bank Holiday families enjoying what I suspected would be the last viable sunshine of the year. I made my last climb of the day and followed the cliff top for three more miles around to Eyemouth. The 4,000 ft of ascent had caught me out today. I hadn’t expected it at all and it was the first day of such magnitude since Morvern back in July. I might have been tired but the weather and the scenery had put today firmly into my top ten for the journey so far.

Stage 189, Eyemouth to Lindisfarne Causeway

The autumn sunshine continued as I prepared to say my goodbyes to Scotland. I made my way through Eyemouth and up alongside the main East coast railway line. The cliffs were gentle and very forgiving as I headed earnestly South and back into England after 16 weeks in the beautiful land of tartan and sheep. Scotland has always given me good memories and this prolonged visit was no exception. Yes there were some grim days, some dull days, some hard days and a fair few wet ones too, but I have no doubt that the section of coast from Oban to Durness had given me many of my best experiences and will probably, no certainly, remain firm favourites forever.

When I reached the border, the crossing was a bit of a let down. The sign up on the railway line was much more impressive than the cheap wooden path-side sign. So to make up for it, I photographed both (more than once and from several angles) and asked a walking couple from Cumbria to take my picture alongside the cheap wooden one. I felt they should swap sign positions as the rail one was probably wasted on the train passengers who don’t get to see their sign too well when they flash past at 100 miles per hour.

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The cliff top rail-side walk continued until I dropped into Berwick-upon-Tweed and crossed the oldest of the three bridges spanning the river. I strolled along the promenade at Berwick’s suburb of Spittal and onto the beach before a brief cliff walk bridged me back down onto the sands for a long intended walk to Holy Island and Lindisfarne causeway. Sadly a river blocked my path and I ducked inland over the scrub and dunes to rediscover the official coast path. Snickers was waiting at the end of Lindisfarne causeway and was accompanied by a small gathering of people watching the tide creep in, all secretly hoping to see a car get swamped as it made a dash for the mainland. We couldn’t be bothered to watch the paint drying qualities of a creeping tide so we elected for a quick pint instead.

 

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