St Abbs Head walk: coal man, sure-footed sheep and green shoots

A walk around the headland at St Abbs Head earlier this week. I’ve mentioned visits here quite a few times before, but I thought I’d provide a bit more detail this time and devote the whole column to the walk. We set out on a cold, crisp, big-blue sky morning, well rugged up in our winter jackets and walking boots. We walked west to east as there was a slight breeze from the SW. At the start of the walk, you go down a lane past a B&B, which has a large conservatory where people have breakfast. One of the striking things you notice on the shelves round the windows is several jars of knitting needles, of various thicknesses – unusual. Further down the lane, a coal lorry passed us, going to the cottages at the end of the lane. It looked like a father and son business, and the son carried the coal bags into an outside coal shed. The 1st photo shows the young man with a hundred weight of coal on his back. It’s a rare sight these days. When I was growing up, every house had coal fires and there were 2 coal businesses in Dunbar then. Seamus Heaney’s Two Lorries features “Agnew the coal man” delivering “silk black” coal.All around this walk are sheer cliffs which in early summer are full of screaming guillemots, huddled together like mussel shells on the rocks, thousands of birds crammed into very confined spaces. In November, there is an almost eerie quiet and what you notice is the absence of birds. You pass groups of sheep at various places around the cliffs, and near the end of the cliff walk, we saw a few sheep standing on a vertiginous slope – see 2nd photo. A walker passed us  on our muddy path and greeted us with “I wish I was as sure-footed as these sheep”.

Although it’s early winter, in the fields around St Abbs, the winter wheat is starting to show through and it provides a very gentle green to brighten up the landscape, with all the brown ploughed fields nearby. The 3rd photo shows such a field and I liked the sweep of the green lines at the corner of the field. If you look at the countryside, even at this time of the year, there is always a spark of colour to be seen. I’ve put a selection of photos from the walk here.

The coal man delivers


Vertiginous sheep

Winter wheat coming through




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