A walk along Belhaven beach: surfers, patterns and terns

Today, we went for a walk along Belhaven beach on a calm, mostly cloudy but occasionally sunny day. It will be a very different experience tomorrow with gale force winds forecast. When the tide is out, there is a wide sweep of beach and the sea is quite a distance away. It’s a very refreshing walk both now in  the summer and in winter when, if you get rugged up (as the Australians say) you can enjoy a brilliant December sunshine. It’s walk with contrasting views. As you head west, the sea is on your left and the Lammermuir Hills are in the distance on your left. Today, there was a fair swell on the tide and many surfers, canoeists and stand up paddlers were enjoying the waves. Surfing (Photo 1) has taken off at Belhaven in the past 10 years and the local Surf School does a roaring trade.

Surfing at Belhaven beach

Surfing at Belhaven beach

One of the joys of walking along a beach which is familiar to you is that the beach is never in exactly the same condition as the last time you were there. The patterns on the beach are constantly changing – indeed, they change with each incoming and outgoing tide. You may walk along the dry part of the beach with hardly a stone in sight and then, for no apparent reason, there is a line of stones which have been deposited by the last tide.

Stone pattern on Belhaven beach

Stone pattern on Belhaven beach

Then there are the patterns made in the sand by the sea. Firstly a line of ragged edges on the sand where the tide had created numerous little inlets and it was like viewing large sea inlets from a plane as you walked along.

Jagged patterns on Belhaven beach

Jagged patterns on Belhaven beach

The beach is full of patterns made by people walking or running on the sand, by birds leaving pretty patterns with their feet and lines large, deep imprints made by horses galloping along the beach. When I was growing up in Dunbar, the race trained George Boyd used to train his horses on Belhaven beach and on occasion, there were several horses on the beach, making a loud, pounding noise as they sped along the sands. You can still see horses on the beach regularly, but fewer in number and certainly not of the quality of George Boyd’s notable race winning horses. The patterns on the sand are quite dramatic.

Horses' tracks on Belhaven beach

Horses’ tracks on Belhaven beach

At the west end of Belhaven beach, there is, for a few weeks in summer, a protected colony of sandwich terns and people are advised to keep away from the nesting terns, so as to a) give the birds privacy and b) keep people away from diving terns which are likely to make direct hits on approaching human heads. The tern time is now over and the warning signs lie in a heap, until next year.

Tern colony warning signs on Belhaven beach

Tern colony warning signs on Belhaven beach


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