Posts Tagged ‘Bass Rock’

Auld Year’s Night and A Walk on New Year’s Day

January 7, 2017

We had Australian friends staying over New Year. They arrived on 31st December which is known locally as Auld Year’s Day. This expression is, I think, restricted to the south eastern part of Scotland, while other parts use the term Hogmanay, the meaning of which is disputed, but it may be Scandinavian or Flemish. The term New Year’s Eve is used in other parts of Britain. Until the 1950s, New Year was the major festive event in Scotland, with people still working on Xmas Day. Bringing in the New Year in Scotland is seen as attractive by people across the world, as the cosmopolitan crowd in Edinburgh’s Princes Street on Auld Year’s Night will testify. Dunbar Running Club organise a short run on Auld Year’s Night at 7pm and my wife Val and our visitors took part, while I helped with timing. The race is known as the Black Bun Run after the tradition of giving people whisky and black bun to bring in the New Year, to ensure that people would have enough to drink and eat for the following year. I was the (non-running) President of  Dunbar Running Club for 14 years and the local paper, the East Lothian Courier would print my reports of the race – known then as The Auld Year’s Night Race, until one year the paper’s reporter used the headline Black Bun Run a Success. Thereafter, we used this title for the race. After the race, we joined the other runners (23 in total) in the nearby Masons Arms pub, for a pint of Belhaven Best ale, which is brewed just around the corner at Belhaven Brewery. Back home, we had a meal – a tasty Beef’n Beer (photo below) and brought the New Year in with rather less traditional champagne and red wine.

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Beef’n Beer done in Le Creuset pan (Click to enlarge)

On New Year’s Day, we took our friends on one of our favourite walks – to Seacliff Beach (good photos). We parked the car about a mile away from the beach. As you leave the car, just past the farm buildings, you get a magnificent view of Tantallon Castle (good photos)  and the Bass Rock and the view is enhanced (photo below) with the foreground of the emergent spring wheat’s subtle green.

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Tantallon Castle and the Bass Rock

You walk down a fairly muddy path to get to the beach but you are rewarded with a view of a long stretch of sandy beach to the right and left. We went left towards the tiny harbour – claimed to be the UK’s smallest – where there was quite a swell here with the white sea caressing the rocks.

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Swell at Seacliff Beach

On the harbourside, you can still see the remains of old iron winding gear, which, with the backdrop of Tantallon Castle (see below) makes for an intriguing view.

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Winding gear at Seacliff and Tantallon Castle

We walked back along the east side of the beach and up the sandy slope to the path/road where cars can exit. At the top of the hill, you pass under an archway and when you look back, the Bass Rock is framed by the archway. The photo below was taken on a frosty afternoon a few years ago.

seacliff-arch

Arch at Seacliff Beach

As you walk back past the farm buildings at Seacliff Farm, you pass many horses as there’s a riding school there. I managed to catch one horse having a feed and another peering at me through the bare hawthorn hedge (see below). So, an excellent walk on a bright, sunny if cold day gave us an exhilarating start to 2017.

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Horse feeding at Seacliff

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Horse through a hawthorn hedge

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Doon Hill walk, summer flowers and best bee photo?

September 1, 2015

On Sunday morning we parked the car at Oswald Dean, known locally as Oasie Dean, a valley with Spott Burn (burn in Scots = stream) running through it. We walked up towards Doon Hill past the Doonery, the site of an old threshing mill, now private houses but the former chimney of the mill has been kept. Doon Hill is best known historically as the site of the Battle of Dunbar in 1650, an inglorious day for the Scots, who had the superior position and had Cromwell’s army precariously positioned between them and the sea. One section of the Scottish army incongruously took the decision to attack the English army, thus abandoning their potentially victorious position. Defeat was thus snatched from the jaws of victory and the Scottish football (aka soccer) team has been repeating this on many occasions. The views from the foot of Doon Hill are panoramic, looking over the town of Dunbar and out to sea with the Bass Rock prominent. As ever, click on photos for enlarged views in a new tab.

Dunbar, the Bass Rock and the Fife coast from Doon Hill

Dunbar, the Bass Rock and the Fife coast from Doon Hill

View from Doon Hill

View from Doon Hill

This is the end of August, so the barley fields around Doon Hill are at their most fecund and ready for the harvest. It’s a real pleasure to walk past the barley, on this morning swaying gently in the breeze. The heads of grain are tightly packed individual food parcels and have an anarchic, unregimented view when seen close up.

Barley grains ready to harvest

Barley grains ready to harvest

Taking a wider view, the barley looks more regimented, organised in countless rows of stalks, interrupted only by the tractor tracks used to sow and spray the crops. We saw 2 combine harvesters in the adjacent field from the other side of the hill. The combine was relentlessly cutting the barley and leaving a large dust cloud behind it, while the tractor waited to be loaded with the grain, once it had been cut and processed inside the harvester.

Combine harvester near Doon Hill

Combine harvester near Doon Hill

Not far from the summit of Doon Hill is the remains of a Neolithic settlement (good photos) and there is a very informative board on the site, detailing the history of the various settlements. Reading the board’s information and looking around the large fields of grain and hearing the buzz of the combine harvester in the distance, you can’t help but think that if one of the former settlers arrived back from the dead, s/he would be completely bewildered. While the basic shape of the hill and the countryside remains and the sea can still be seen just over the hill, our long dead visitor would find it hard to understand the vastness of the grain fields or the bizarre machine eating its way through the barley.

Doon Hill settlement notice board

Doon Hill settlement notice board

Like the barley, most of the flowers in my garden are at their peak and at the back of the house, the pots are overflowing with begonias, fuchsias and lobelia, with the gladioli and sword lilies not far behind. On a sunny day, with an incoming tide, it’s a treat to sit outside and appreciate the spread of colour in front of you.

Summer flowers on the decking

Summer flowers on the decking

Summer flowers on the decking

Summer flowers on the decking

Finally, I’ve been trying to get close-up photos of bees on our lavender and hebe all summer. Most are blurred because of the constant movement of the bees and their incessantly beating wings. This one may be the clearest so far. If you look closely at the bee’s head, you can see its proboscis in the flower head.

Bee feeding on lavender

Bee feeding on lavender

Howard Towll and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie interview in Dubai

March 11, 2015

A new exhibition at SOC’s Waterstone House features 2 artists, Howard Towll and John Busby. I contacted both artists to ask for photos or permission to download and the former got back to me. Howard Towll’s exhibits were very appealing to the eye, with a mixture of wood block and lino block prints. He is also a painter and one of the striking works on his website is Curlew at Dusk – see below. Everything is subtle in this painting, in particular the reflections in the water of the curlew and of the rocks and seaweed. We get quite a few curlews on the rocks at the back of our house and through my scope, I often watch the patiently searching bird, which thrusts its long beach into the rock crevices to seek out food. One of the lino prints in the exhibition is Gannet Heads – see below. What I find most intriguing about this print is the sharp lines of the birds and their determined expressions. They could be soldiers marching to orders or runners/cyclists completely focused on winning the race. Looking through my scope, I have just had my first sighting of gannets  flying to the Bass Rock this year. My choice of the wood block prints would be Eiders, as these are another species which I often see in the sea around Dunbar. There is an attractive abstract quality to this print, which captures the soft green on the back of the male eider’s neck. The call of the male eider duck is a gurgling, burbling sound and can be heard clearly when groups of eiders are in Dunbar Harbour.

 

Curlew at dusk - H Towll

Curlew at dusk – H Towll

Gannet Heads - H Towll

Gannet Heads – H Towll

Eiders - H Towll

Eiders – H Towll

While in Dubai, we went to the Dubai Festival of Literature in the plush Intercontinental Hotel. I went to see Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie who was talking about her novel Americanah, which I reviewed on the blog last July. In her interview, Ms Adichie talked articulately and intelligently – and often quite humorously – about the novel’s contents and about her experience of living in America as a black woman. It was a fascinating insight into the novel and she explained that, as a writer, she was two people – the writer as performer on the stage being interviewed, and the writer sitting alone in her room, writing a novel. “These are not the same person” she said. One aspect of the novel which was given much attention, was hair. In the novel, the protagonist visits a hairdressing salon and there is an interesting and amusing discussion of African women in America getting their hair done. She hinted that some of the coverage in the media may have been sexist. This highly intelligent, thoughtful and very attractive writer – who has amazing hair (photos below) – held the audience spellbound for the one hour session. My wife went to see Jenni Murray who hosts Woman’s Hour in the UK and found it a fascinating talk.

Chimamanda Adichie

Chimamanda Adichie

Chimamanda Adichie

Chimamanda Adichie

A Word a Week Photograph Challenge – Frame

February 19, 2015

Here are my picks for this week’s challenge – see many more at Sue’s website.

Bass Rock through the tunnel at Seacliffe Beach

Bass Rock through the tunnel at Seacliff Beach

Double framing of flowers and picture

Double framing of flowers and picture

Alfred Hitchcock board in Zadar, Croatia

Alfred Hitchcock board in Zadar, Croatia

Double doors in Padova, Italy

Double doors in Padova, Italy

Hanging John Bellany painting in Dunbar Library

Hanging John Bellany painting in Dunbar Library

Whitesands cross country and Belhaven Beach walk

January 28, 2015

Firstly, for those in Australia, I hope that your Australia Day went well and those of you in the Sydney area didn’t get too wet. On Sunday, my wife and I were out at The Whitesands helping with marshalling and timing of the Borders Cross Country event. There were  84 junior runners and 163 seniors taking part in separate races. The races started on Whitesands Beach and the juniors ran along the beach towards Dunbar Golf Course, back over the beach, up the hill and over to Barns Ness Lighthouse. The adults went past the lighthouse, on to a stretch of beach, on to a track near the Dry Burn (burn=stream and this one dries up in summer) and back on narrow tracks to the Whitesands. The photos below show the start of the junior and adult races and the adults returning across the sands.

Junior cross country race at Whitesands

Junior cross country race at Whitesands

Adult cross country race at Whitesands

Adult cross country race at Whitesands

Adult cross country race at Whitesands

Adult cross country race at Whitesands

To Belhaven Beach, on the other side of Dunbar from the Whitesands. I’ve featured Belhaven Beach on this blog before and will again. It is a wide sweep of beach and a glorious walk at all times of the year. This week, there was a cold SW wind blowing the sand across the beach, a stunning site but I failed to do it justice with my camera, so no desert type photos of rushes of sand over sand. The sand itself is very firm in some parts, very ridged in others and very soft near the sand dunes. This was a sparkling Scottish winter afternoon, with sun now higher in the sky and delineating the metal structure of  Belhaven Bridge on the beach – in the photos below. The tide was well out for our walk, but people can get stranded as the tide comes in fast and covers the bridge’s steps. You can see two contrasting views of Belhaven Bridge from a previous post. You can walk for about 5k along the beach and back, or you can walk around the John Muir Country Park. The sea was a postcard blue next to the beach, with some interesting driftwood and views out to the Bass Rock – see photos below.

Belhaven Bridge

Belhaven Bridge

Belhaven Bridge shadow

Belhaven Bridge shadow

Runners' tracks on Belhaven Beach

Runners’ tracks on Belhaven Beach

Driftwood on Belhaven Beach with Bass Rock in the distance

Driftwood on Belhaven Beach with Bass Rock in the distance

 

Country walk and the end of the year

January 1, 2015

On Sunday, on a clear, crisp, frosty morning here in Dunbar, with a biting south westerly nipping at our faces, my wife and I went for a walk in the country. We parked at Oswald Dean – locally know as Oasie Dean – and walked up towards Doon Hill (good photos) where there is an important archaeological site near the summit. We walked towards the historic Spott House before going up the edge of a field at the foot of Doon Hill. On the way back down towards Spott Farm, there are views across to the sea and the Bass Rock. I took the photo below to show the winter bushes, the farm and the sea.

View from near Doon Hill

View from near Doon Hill

On the way back, we passed fields of newly emergent spring wheat which has a striking colour at this time of year and the colour is enhanced by the strong winter sun. I also like the defined lines of the winter crop.

Lines of Spring wheat near Spott

Lines of Spring wheat near Spott

Our route back to the car took us down Starvation Brae, the origins of which, apart from brae meaning hill in Scots, I have yet to discover. The strong December sun was in our back and, rounding one of the corners of the brae, my shadow lengthened considerably, giving an almost surreal aspect to the photo below.

Shadow on Starvation Brae

Shadow on Starvation Brae

At the foot of the brae lies the village of Spott (good photos), although this website contains a historical error, as it claims that Marion Lillie who was deemed a witch, was burnt to death near the village. A local historian has discovered that she was buried in Spott and therefore could not have been burned as a witch. One of the features of Spott village – it is more of a hamlet than a village nowadays – is Spott Kirk and the photos below show the kirk and what I saw as interesting shadows next to the grave stones.

Spott Kirk

Spott Kirk

Grave stone shadows at Spott Kirk

Grave stone shadows at Spott Kirk

This is the last day of December and of 2014. It is, in South East of Scotland parlance, Auld Year’s Day and the New Year will start at the end of Auld Year’s Night. There is also the Scots word Hogmanay which is generally pronounced “hog” at the beginning in the east of Scotland but “hug” in the west of Scotland. Traditionally, Auld Year’s Night was the winter festival in Scotland, with many people (e.g. in the late 1950s) still working on Xmas Day. On my poetry calendar, there is an excerpt from In Memoriam by Alfred, Lord Tennyson and the 2nd verse begins with the familiar “Ring out the old, ring in the new”. This section of the very long poem has some what might be seen as utopian ideals e.g. “Ring out the feud of rich and poor,/Ring in redress to all mankind” and this, of course, remains an ideal today. Here in Scotland, people will ask each other “What are you doing for the bells?” and this relates to how, where and with whom people are going to bring in the New Year. “The bells” are thought to relate not to church bells but to the town house bell being rung at midnight. The Scottish New Year is emphatically linked to having a good time and to drinking alcohol, and tradition has it that the New Year should be brought in by toasting friends with a malt whisky e.g. Bowmore and this is often the only time that some people will drink whisky. At the time of writing, it is already New Year’s Day in New Zealand and in half an hour, it will be a new year in Australia. To everyone wherever you are, I wish you a Guid New Year and love, luck and laughter for 2015 and beyond.

Early Spring flowers and North Berwick walk

December 9, 2014

On an outing last week, my wife and I stopped at The Walled Garden which is situated between the villages of Gullane (pr Gullin – good photos) and Direlton (pr Dirlton – good photos on site). We were going for coffee, tea and cake. Outside the restaurant/shop, were buckets with spring flowers in them for sale – a bit disconcerting at the start of December. It would be interesting to know how recently spring flowers became available so early – last 5-10 years perhaps? Despite my personal dislike of having these flowers before the New Year, I still took some nice photos – see below.

Early hyacinths

Early hyacinths

Early tulips

Early tulips

From the Walled Garden, we headed for North Berwick – just along the road – for a walk on the beach. We started at the West Beach where, on the headland, there stands an old anchor, painted black. This is appropriate for a former fishing town, where the harbour is now populated with yachts/dinghies of various sizes. The photos below show the anchor itself and a shot through the top of the anchor, showing the Bass Rock in the distance.

Anchor at West Beach North Berwick

Anchor at West Beach North Berwick

Anchor at West Beach North Berwick

Anchor at West Beach North Berwick

At the end of the West Beach is the town’s harbour, the home of a thriving yacht club. While there is little sailing in December, you cannot visit this harbour without seeing a couple of people doing maintenance on their yachts. It’s a picture postcard harbour as the photo below shows.

North Berwick harbour

North Berwick harbour

Next to the harbour is the busy Seabird Centre which has an excellent exhibition, including online cameras and live broadcasts of nesting gannets and puffins, and new seal pups at different times of the year. Outside the centre, there are sculptures of penguins and terns, and a statue of a man with binoculars looking out towards the Bass Rock – see next photos.

Penguins at N Berwick Seabird Centre

Penguins at N Berwick Seabird Centre

Tern sculpture at N Berwick Seabird Centre

Tern sculpture at N Berwick Seabird Centre

Statue at N Berwick Seabird Centre

Statue at N Berwick Seabird Centre

North Berwick is an interesting place to visit and is popular with tourists all year round. Walking over the 2 beaches or along the High Street or climbing up North Berwick Law, there is always plenty to see in this coastal town, which is 13 miles (21K) up the coast from Dunbar.

 

Atocha Station, visit to Toledo and walk up Lammer Law

October 23, 2014

Two different countries and two different experiences this week. When my pal Roger and I were in Madrid, we took the advice given to us by many people to catch the train to Toledo. We travelled from the architecturally striking Atocha Station. This is not your ordinary railway station, as the exterior (photo below) is made of steel and glass, and the curved roof is also of glass. As you walk into the station, you pass the extensive botanic garden, which gives a freshness to the environment. At the end of the a garden is a pond, where we saw goldfish in the water and lots of small turtles wither swimming or lying on the rocks.

Atocha Station, Madrid

Atocha Station, Madrid

The train was full – a good piece of advice is, if going to Toledo, always to book the day before via the ticket machine – and very comfortable. On reaching Toledo, you have the option of a 6 Euro taxi ride or a 1.50 Euro bus ride or a mile/1.62k steep walk. It says a mile walk at the station but it seemed longer on the bus. We headed for the famous Toledo Cathedral (many good photos on this site) and bought tickets, which included an audio tour. The cathedral, both externally and internally is a stunning building. The audio tour was excellent as it told you the history of the building e.g. it was built on the site of a mosque, and took 267 years to complete, and pointed out the different architectural and design features in the cathedral. It also indicated the religious significance of parts of the cathedral. Humanist or theist, you cannot help but be impressed by the grandeur of the internal pillars, the painted ceilings, the frescos, the impressive metallurgy on the many altars, and the world famous paintings by El Greco. We were only in Toledo for 5 hours and that is not enough. The streets are thronged with tourists and full of little alleyways. We happened upon an exhibition about Leonardo the Inventor which was a fascinating display of wooden models of some of Leonardo’s inventions relating to lifting weights and – the most interesting – flight. While he did not actually invent a flying machine that could actually fly, Leonardo da Vinci designed machines with all the elements of modern aeroplanes. You could easily spend a couple of days in Toledo, seeing its many other attractions, for example  the very attractive Toledo Station (good photos on this site) – see photo below.

Toledo Station

Toledo Station

Last week, my wife and I went for a longish walk to the top of Lammer Law (good photos on this site). We parked at woods near Longyester Farm and there it was a steady climb up the Law (Scots word for hill). As you climb, the views get more panoramic. Interesting sights on the way up (and down) were extensive stone walls (1st photo below), autumnal grasses (2nd photo), glimpse of the Hopes Reservoir (previously featured on this blog here) (3rd photo),  a stunning view of the 3 volcanic edifices, from left to right  – North Berwick Law, the Bass Rock, Traprain Law and  (4th photo), and a determined looking bullock (5th photo).

Stone wall near Lammer Law

Stone wall near Lammer Law

Autumnal grasses on Lammer Law

Autumnal grasses on Lammer Law

Hopes Reservoir from Lammer Law

Hopes Reservoir from Lammer Law

Panoramic view across East Lothian from Lammer Law

Panoramic view across East Lothian from Lammer Law

Staring bullock at Longyester Farm

Staring bullock at Longyester Farm

 

 

Weekly photo challenge – endurance

September 23, 2014

Another word with different meanings for this week’s challenge. Here are mine and see many more suggestions at Sue’s website.

Brad Khalefeldt from Wagga Wagga winning the 2006 Commonwealth gold medal for the triathalon

Brad Khalefeldt from Wagga Wagga winning the 2006 Commonwealth gold medal for the triathlon

Runners on the tough Traprain Law Race

Runners on the tough Traprain Law Race

Horse stoically enduring a very hard frost

Horse stoically enduring a very hard frost

The ruins of Dunbar Castle - 900 years old

The ruins of Dunbar Castle – 900 years old

Evening sun on the Bass Rock - 350 million years old

Evening sun on the Bass Rock – 350 million years old

A Word a Week Photo Challenge: High

December 1, 2013

Here are my pick for this week’s challenge – see more on Sue’s website.

Cakes for high tea at the Burj Al Arab, Dubai

Cakes for high tea at the Burj Al Arab, Dubai

Looking down to North Berwick and Bass Rock

Looking down to North Berwick and Bass Rock

Seagull frenzy at high tide in Dunbar

Seagull frenzy at high tide in Dunbar

 

View of Dubai from 125th floor of the Burj Khalifa

View of Dubai from 125th floor of the Burj Khalifa

Looking down on guillemot colonies at St Abbs Head

Looking down on guillemot colonies at St Abbs Head

Ceiling of Pisa Cathedral

Ceiling of Pisa Cathedral