Posts Tagged ‘dunbar harbour’

Back to St Abbs and Spring flowers (2)

March 26, 2017

On Sunday, another visit to one of our favourite places, St Abbs Head (good photos), featured many times on this blog. It’s a small village but you can vary your walks and views nearby and always see something just a bit different from the last time. We parked at the National Trust car park and walked down past the farm on our left, which had a shed full of sheep just about to lamb. We saw some lambs in a nearby field and I managed to capture them amongst some shapely reflections of the trees.

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Lambs at St Abbs (Click to enlarge)

We went up the first part of the cliff top walk – going west to east – but only wanted a short walk, so we didn’t go any further. On the way back, you look across the to village of St Abbs Head, past the ragged shaped outcrop of rock (Photo below). It made me wonder whether, in a hundred or two hundred years, that rock column, sculpted by the weather, will still be there. It’s a superb view, taking in the harbour and all the houses built on the once empty cliffs above. There was only a gentle swell on the sea that day, with the waves edging slowly around the rocks, and not crashing over them as they often do.

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Rock column and St Abbs Head village

The next photo is from an angle I don’t think I’ve taken a shot from before. It is looking back across the edge of the harbour towards the clifftop walk, with the impressive Northfield House prominent on the cliff. The rock column in the photo above is just to the top right of this photo. Behind the house on the left with the red roof, with chimneys at either end (like the house to its right), there is a wooden staircase which leads you up to the impressive St Abbs Visitor Centre, which is well worth a visit.

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View across St Abbs Head arbour to the cliff walk

We walked back to the car park and, at the end of the farm buildings, I came across a trailer load of neeps – see photo below. In Scotland, we call them neeps or turnips. In England, they are called Swedes. What people in other parts of Britain call turnips, which are much smaller than neeps, we call white turnips. Around Dunbar, you will also hear people referring to Tumshies, another name for neeps/Swedes/turnips. Very confusing? For your amusement, but maybe not illumination, read this excellent Guardian article on the subject.

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A trailer load of neeps at St Abbs Head.

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Close up of neeps at St Abbs Head

And so to the second reflection on Spring flowers. In many towns in Scotland, councils in recent years have greatly expanded the planting of Spring flowers and it is not unusual to see great swathes of bright yellow and white crocuses at the entrance to these towns. Councils also planted thousand of daffodils and it is they which now take centre stage, as the crocuses have faded. There is something uplifting about seeing large groups of daffodils and I think Wordsworth had something to say on the topic in two versions (see website). I took a photo of daffodils on a banking at The Glebe in Dunbar. This small park overlooks the sea and the harbour entrance. The photo looks towards the remains of Dunbar Castle(good photos).

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Daffodils on a banking The Glebe, Dunbar

My aim every year is to take very clear close-up photos of flowers, to get to the heart of them and look at them as abstract shapes as well as attractive flowers. In the first photo below, I took two contrasting daffodils, one with white petals and one with yellow petals. They are both enchanting flowers but maybe the white petals emphasise the yellow, choir boys’ ruff of the flower’s centre more. Both have delicate stigma which thrust out to attract the pollen seekers. They are like mini corn on the cob with extensions.

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Two daffodils in my garden

In the final photo, I like the delicate folds in the prawn cracker petals and the ragged edge of the flower is similar to the rock face above at St Abbs. Also, the colour in the flower is not uniformly yellow but contains various shades, making it even more attractive.

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Yellow and white daffodil in my garden

 

Harbour reflections and making Minestrone

December 14, 2016

I took my camera for a walk along to Dunbar Harbour (good photos) last week. The day was so wind free that the water in the harbour hardly moved and the wee boats, which are usually swaying gently to an unheard waltz tune on the accordion, were statuesque. It’s very unusual not to have any kind of wind in Dunbar and at one point, it looked as if the sea had given up coming into the harbour, as the water appeared – very briefly – to be motionless. Then a gentle ripple spread from the entrance to the harbour across to the boats.

The two photos below are taken at the east end of the harbour and the perfect reflection in the 1st photo shows how calm the water became. There’s a hint of movement in the water in the 2nd photo and the wee boat looks isolated. This is because all the small yachts that lie in the harbour in the summer have been removed for safety. I like the way the harbour walls are reflected in the water in the 2nd photo.

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Calm day at Dunbar Harbour

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Calm day at Dunbar Harbour

The next 2 photos are taken at the castle end of the harbour. In the first photo, the reflections look as if they might come from an impressionist painting e.g. the squiggly lines in the castle walls’ reflection. It was a cold day but the colours in the boats and in the fish boxes on the quayside inserted a warm feature into this walker’s experience. In the both photos, the castle ruins still show the white patches left by the nesting kittiwakes, who visited in the summer. The kittiwakes have featured on this blog more than once e.g. here. In the 2nd photo, the wider angle shows the castle ruins and the narrow entrance to the harbour. Another unusual feature of this visit to the harbour was the absence of birds on the water, as you often get small groups of eider duck. On this RSPB site, you can listen to the gurgling, whoo-hooing of the eider duck, and you can usually hear this from the harbourside.

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Fishing boats near Dunbar Castle

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Reflections of the ruins of Dunbar Castle

Having made lentil and vegetable, tomato and lentil, and parsnip and pear soup recently, I thought that it must be the turn of minestrone. The term minestrone comes from the Latin minestra meaning soup with pasta (and/or other ingredients) and one as a suffix meaning large, thus giving us a soup with big vegetables. The soup is mentioned in a cookbook by Apicus (the whole book from Project Gutenberg here) published in 30CE, so it has ancient traditions. You could spend the rest of your life looking at the myriad of minestrone recipes on the web i.e. almost anything goes as long as you have vegetables and pasta in it. Almost all recipes include tomatoes. Today, my minestrone has a large leek, 3 stalks of celery, diced turnip (aka swede) and carrot, dried basil and oregano, a tin of tomatoes, 2 tbs tomatoes puree and a litre of chicken stock. I put a little oil in the bottom of my large soup pan and added the basil and oregano. I then sweated the leeks and celery, and added the turnip and carrot until it looks like this:

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Sweating the vegetables in the making of minestrone

I then added the tomatoes, tomato puree and broken spaghetti, brought it  to the boil and simmered it for c20 minutes. I always find that you should never eat minestrone soup right away – let the flavours develop for at least 8 hours or preferably overnight. You can then have a colourful, tasty and winter warming soup which served up will look something like this photo from last year. Have it for lunch with crusty bread and if you are lucky like me, go for a walk along to the harbour with your camera afterwards.

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A plate of minestrone soup with basil leaves

Nora Webster, Brooklyn, late autumn harbour and sudsy sea

November 28, 2015

A double dose of author Colm Tóibín this week. Firstly, I finished reading Tóibín’s remarkable novel Nora Webster. On the face of it, this is a simple tale of a woman whose husband has died and is struggling to cope with the too early onset of widowhood. A lesser writer than Tóibín might have presented Nora Webster, a woman living in a small town in the  Irish Republic, in a sentimental and melodramatic way. However, Tóibín writes a compelling story, taking episodes from the lives of Nora and her family, their relatives, friends and (sometimes unwished for) acquaintances, and identifying the complexities of their lives. As the novel progresses, Nora becomes stronger and more independent, having to a certain extent lived in the shadow of her late husband Maurice, a popular school teacher. The author describes apparently small events in her life in detail but the prose is never dense, and the reader gains an understanding of Nora as a person e.g. her developing love of music, and not just as a mother or sister. There are some very moving scenes in this book, both in Nora’s recollection of her time with her husband and in her relationship with her two sons and (to a lesser extent) two daughters. This is a book of high quality and if you haven’t read it, then you surely must.

Nora Webster by Colm Toibin

Nora Webster by Colm Toibin

This week, we went to the cinema to see Brooklyn, based on Colm Tóibín’s novel of the same name. The film also has a very strong female character. Eilish is a young woman growing up in (like Nora Webster) a small Irish town in the Republic, but unlike Nora, she is due to emigrate to the USA at the start of the film. The story follows her to Brooklyn and highlights her homesickness and then her growing maturity and relationship with a young Italian. Eilish returns to Ireland when her sister dies and the film develops into a tale of the complexities of love and morality. I haven’t read the novel but I’m sure that Eilish’s character is more fully drawn in prose. The actress Saoirse (pr Seer – sha) Ronan is superb in the part. There is also humour in the film and while, at times, it veers on the edge of tweeness and sentimentality, it nevertheless tells a powerful story and it is certainly worth seeing.

November is nearly gone and we’ve had a taste of winter in Dunbar already with ice lining the sides of the country roads on my cycle ride last weekend. We’ve also had strong winds and big tides and this was reflected on my walk on Sunday morning. I stopped at the Old Harbour aka The Cromwell Harbour, which was built in the late 17th century. In summer, the occasional fishing boat is moored, often for work to be done. On Sunday, it was packed with fishing boats, sheltering from the heavy swell that affects the main harbour at this time of year. The boats nestled together in this sheltered haven.

Fishing boats in the Old Harbour

Fishing boats in the Old Harbour

Fishing boats in the Old Harbour

Fishing boats in the Old Harbour

By contrast, the Victoria Harbour which was built in the 1830s, was nearly empty. It’s an unusual sight to see so much of the water in the harbour and on Sunday, it looked abandoned, as if a storm (or malevolent sea serpent) had arrived and driven all the boats out to sea. The photos below show the harbour last Sunday and in the summertime.

Victoria Harbour bereft of boats

Victoria Harbour bereft of boats

Dunbar Harbour in summer

Dunbar Harbour in summer

In my poetry calendar this week, these lines appeared:

“The ocean’s grey today, like someone’s dingy laundry,/ the flop and slosh of sudsy waves agitate on the sand,/ and the sky’s like the inside of an ashtray at some salty dive”.

They are from the poem “The Winter Sea” by the Pennsylvanian poet Barbara Crooker and I like the laundry metaphor. As I walked back from the harbour, I passed the east beach, which used to be covered in pristine sand but over the past 5 years or so, the sand has gone to be replaced with stones and often large mounds of seaweed. The waves were rushing to the shore and there was certainly a distinct “flop and slosh”.

"Flop and slosh" on the east beach

“Flop and slosh” on the east beach

Dunbar harbour (again) and Abbey St Bathans

August 25, 2015

There’s a biblical saying indicating (roughly) that there is no end to the making of books and there is no end to me taking photographs of my local harbour, which has featured a few times on this blog e.g. here and here. One reason for this is that the light is never exactly the same at Dunbar harbour, the tide is never at exactly the same height and the boats and yachts in the harbour are never exactly in the same place. These most recent photos were taken on a cloudy evening although there was enough light from the west to illuminate the water and enable the reflections to appear. The sounds of the harbour are always changing and the most significant recent change has been a dramatic decrease in sound as the calls of the kittiwakes no longer pierce the evening calm. The birds which nested on the castle walls ( see my photos) since April have gone back out to sea until next year.

Dunbar harbour on a cloudy evening

Dunbar harbour on a cloudy evening

Reflections in Dunbar harbour

Reflections in Dunbar harbour

Creels, yachts and castle ruins at Dunbar Harbour

Creels, yachts and castle ruins at Dunbar Harbour

It’s been a good few years since we ventured to Abbey St Bathans. From Dunbar, this is a pleasant drive – and a hard cycle run because of the many hills encountered. There are some nice walks from where you park near the bridge which is part of the route on the Southern Upland Way, a popular walking route.

Southern Upland Way signpost

Southern Upland Way signpost

The fast flowing Whiteadder (pr Whittader) River flows through this hamlet and there is a swinging bridge upstream which was built by the Gurkas in 1987. The church (good photos) is famous for being built on the site of a 12th century abbey.  Nowadays, there is a trout farm and a restaurant/gallery along the road from the church.  Over the road is an extensive sawmill – an unusual sight in the 21st century – but it gladdens the eye to see the piles of tree trunks sculpturally assembled across the mill yard. There is also always a lovely smell from the drying logs.

Whiteadder River at Abbey St Bathans

Whiteadder River at Abbey St Bathans

Sawmill at Abbey St Bathans

Sawmill at Abbey St Bathans

 

Kittiwakes, wild flowers and salmon en croute

July 21, 2015

I took my camera and zoom lens to Dunbar harbour for my annual attempt to get good shots of the kittiwakes which nest on the walls of the ruins of Dunbar Castle (good photos). Every April, the kittiwakes arrive and the harbour is enlivened with their calls – kitty-wake, kitty wake (click on audio). When the nesting season gets going in full, there can be a cacophony of noise at the harbour as hundreds of birds can be heard yelling out. For visitors to the harbour, there is an opportunity to get close to the birds and the chicks can be clearly seen with the naked eye from the harbourside. From time to time, a group of artists will arrive and sketch the birds. Over the years, I’ve tried to get the best shots I can of adult and chick kittiwakes and last year’s snaps can be seen here. This year’s selection follows. As ever, click to enlarge.

Kittiwake chick at Dunbar castle

Kittiwake chick at Dunbar castle

Kittiwake adult and chick at Dunbar castle

Kittiwake adult and chick at Dunbar castle

Kittiwake adult and chick at Dunbar castle

Kittiwake adult and chick at Dunbar castle

Kittiwake adults and chicks at Dunbar castle

Kittiwake adults and chicks at Dunbar castle

In Dunbar this summer, there are several areas of wildflowers which have brightened up the town and the following photos were taken at Lauderdale Park. The colours provided by the poppies, cornflower and other flowers are a lively mix and a real pleasure for the viewer.

Wildflowers at Lauderdale Park, Dunbar

Wildflowers at Lauderdale Park, Dunbar

Wildflowers at Lauderdale Park, Dunbar

Wildflowers at Lauderdale Park, Dunbar

This week we have, as the Australians say, visiting rellies – so what to cook for the first evening meal? We went for a Jamie Oliver recipe Salmon en Croute as it is different from the standard salmon inside a pastry envelope. In this recipe, I bought some ready to use puff pastry, pre-rolled for convenience and laid it on a tray dusted with flour. I used 4 salmon fillets instead of one large fillet. The JO recipe uses black olive tapenade but as we’re no olive fans, I used a jar of sun-dried tomato pesto and spread a teaspoonful of pesto over each salmon. You then put 3/4 basil leaves on each fillet, followed by sliced tomato and salt and pepper. The final ingredient is mozzarella and I sliced it thinly and put 3 slices on each fillet. To make a pastry case, you fold up the sides of the pastry and pinch each corner to keep it firm. The pastry is brushed with beaten egg and put in a 200 degree oven for 35 minutes. It is very tasty and also looks attractive in the dish and on the plate. Here is my completed dish. So, easy to prepare and it looks more complicated than it is, so your guests will be impressed.

Salmon en croute

Salmon en croute

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

Lifeboat, wood rings and Michael Longley’s poems

February 23, 2015

A walk through Dunbar harbour last Sunday coincided with the arrival of the local lifeboat from its moorings at Torness Power Station. The lifeboat station at Dunbar has a long history and includes some famous rescues. The modern lifeboats is a sleek, orange,  vessel which appears to float across the waves and this is a huge contrast to the original lifeboats which were rowed out to stricken vessels. Those rowing the lifeboats were often in danger of losing their own lives, as in the 1810 rescue of HMS Pallas. Despite the potential unsinkability of modern lifeboats, rescuing people in heavy seas is still a dangerous mission for the volunteer lifeboat crew seen in the photos below.

Dunbar lifeboat

Dunbar lifeboat

Dunbar lifeboat

Dunbar lifeboat

Dunbar lifeboat in Dunbar harbour

Dunbar lifeboat in Dunbar harbour

On another visit to Yellowcraig beach, there was tree felling going on in the nearby wood and large stacks of both hardwood and softwood sat by the roadside. I was fascinated by the detail in the tree rings at the ends of the fallen tree trunks. Looking up “tree rings” I discover that the science of tree rings is dendrochronology but I was more interested in the visual aspects and further research showed examples of tree rings in art and photographic images in tree ring research. I like the abstract quality of the tree rings, seen as collection of shapes rather than as an object. In some photos, you could be looking at a photo from space, perhaps at some previously hidden archaeological site. The photo of the hardwood logs below reminds me of the wood stove we had in one of our houses. We got them delivered in the lane next to the house and I would cart them into the shed on a wheelbarrow. Inevitably, someone coming down the lane would tell me that the logs would heat me up twice.

Tree rings as abstractions

Tree rings as abstractions

Tree rings or photo from space?

Tree rings or photo from space?

Hardwood tree trunks

Hardwood tree trunks

I’ve now finished Michael Longley’s glorious collection The Stairwell, featured not that long ago on this blog. The collection features a range of poems including sections on his granddaughter, his father who fought in the 1st World War and his recently deceased twin. I found the first section the most powerful with the latter two rather uneven. Having said that, Longley sets such a high standard that even what might appear his “lighter” poems, might stand out in another collection. One poems talks of his father remembering “.. at Passchendaele/Where men and horses drowned in mud/ His bog apprenticeship, mud turf”. In the poems about his twin, Longley refers to Achilles and the man he called brother Patroclus, to great effect. He also sees his twin as possibly “.. skinny dipping at Allaran/ Where the jellies won’t sting …” and the poem ends with him protecting his brother against accident “I’ll carry the torch across the duach”. Longley explains that duach is “the Irish for sandbanks or dunes”. If you’ve never bought a poetry book, buy this one, as you’ll read it again and again.

A Word a Week Photograph challenge – Pots

January 15, 2015

Here’s the pick of my photos of pots – see many more at Sue’s website.

Steaming pot in Dubai Indian restaurant kitchen

Steaming pot in Dubai Indian restaurant kitchen

Lobster pots at Dunbar harbour (Summer)

Lobster pots at Dunbar harbour (Summer)

Spring flowers in a clay pot

Spring flowers in a clay pot

Lobster pots at Dunbar harbour (Winter)

Lobster pots at Dunbar harbour (Winter)

A Word a Week Photograph Challenge – Shell

December 4, 2014

Another good challenge for photophiles this week. Mine are below but see Sue’s website for many more great shots.

Shells on Tauranga Beach, NZ

Shells on Tauranga Beach, NZ

Boot among the shells on Dunbar East Beach

Boot among the shells on Dunbar East Beach

Oysters at Somerset Cottage Restaurant, Tauranga NZ

Oysters at Somerset Cottage Restaurant, Tauranga NZ

Prawns at Dunbar Harbour

Prawns at Dunbar Harbour

A Word a Week Photograph challenge – spray

October 9, 2014

Here are my photos from a stormy day at Dunbar Harbour. See Sue’s website for many more.

Spray over the sea wall of Dunbar Harbour

Spray over the sea wall of Dunbar Harbour

Spray over the sea wall of Dunbar Harbour

Spray over the sea wall of Dunbar Harbour

Spray over the sea wall of Dunbar Harbour

Spray over the sea wall of Dunbar Harbour

Seal in the harbouring ignoring the spray

Seal in the harbouring ignoring the spray