Posts Tagged ‘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

 

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Dirleton Kirk and the Dunbar Creel Loaders sculpture

November 7, 2016

A recent walk in the attractive village of Dirleton which is up the coast from Dunbar, took us around the village green, past the impressive Dirleton Castle (good photos) and on to the local church yard. In Scotland, a Presbyterian church is called  a kirk which originates from the Old Norse kirkja or the Old English cirice. The word kirk was used – I assume – after the Reformation to distinguish these Protestant churches from their Catholic counterparts, called chapels. When you turn the corner to see the kirk, it is the tower that first catches your eye. On the day we visited, the RNLI flag was flying. There’s an extensive graveyard with many old headstones, some of which tell the occupations of the people buried there. As with all churchyards, the people seen to be the most important – usually the wealthiest – in the area, got the biggest headstones. There are 3 books on the headstones available.

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Dirleton Kirk (click to enlarge)

One of the most attractive features for me in the kirkyard is the presence of well coiffured yew trees (see below) whose proper name is Taxus Baccata, probably derived from the Greek for bow and the Latin for berry. The yew trees have the look of green headstones and perhaps, if you knew where to look, there might be a secret inscription inside.

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Yew trees in Dirleton Kirkyard

As you walk from the kirk back to the village green, you get a superb view of the village trees, the wide open green and the castle walls in the background. This view (photo below) was greatly enhanced on our visit by the magnificent tree with its autumn finery on display and its random scattering of leaves the ground adding to the colourful scene. We’ve had very strong NW winds this weekend in East Lothian, so it’s likely that this tree will now be fairly bare, but the elegance of its structure and branches will remain.

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Dirleton village green in the autumn

We have a new sculpture here in Dunbar. The Creel Loaders (photos below) is the work of sculptor Gardner Molloy who has done a number of public sculptures in East Lothian. This work sits at the junction of Victoria Street (on right in photo below) and Castle Gate. This is very near the harbour and the sea can be seen in the middle left.

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The Creel Loaders by Gardner Molloy

Gardner Molloy writes “My carving style is vigorous, simple and strong and I relish the use of textural tool finishes to provide contrast. I feel that neat chisel marks enhance the finished surface”. The words “vigorous, simple and strong” could be applied to the Creel Loaders on first looking at this very impressive piece of sculpture, but there is a complexity to work that emerges on closer examination. The woman’s head, which reminded me of an Egyptian goddess, is delicately carved and there is a determined (and maybe resigned) look on the woman’s face.

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The Creel Loaders – detail of the woman’s head – by Gardner Molloy

The sculpture was built to remember the harbour women of Dunbar who put a wicker creel/basket on their backs and waited while two men loaded the creel with fish – herring in particular in the early 20th century. The women then walked many miles into the countryside along the Herring Road (good photos) to sell their fish. This was backbreaking work and a perilous journey in the winter. What is often forgotten is that the women not only carried the fish as far as Lauder (33 miles/54K away) but they also often bartered their fish for fresh vegetables, which were in short supply in the poor harbour area, and carried the vegetables back home. This may account for the determined and resigned look on the woman’s face.

Of course, there is more to this sculpture than a realistic representation of an historic event. In the photo below, you can see the elegant lines, flowing curves and intricate patterns in the bodies of the people (and the cat), in the woman’s headband and in the wicker creel. There is much to admire in this superb addition to Dunbar’s public art works and repeated visits will, I’m sure, reveal even more complexity in the work.

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The Creel Loaders – side view – by Gardner Molloy

Craster and Dunstanburgh Castle

July 30, 2016

 On our visit to Bamburgh – highlighted in last week’s post – we went to the village of Craster twice. The first time was to visit the gallery there and have a drink at the Jolly Fisherman’s pub which has superb views over the sea. Craster is of course famous for its kippers which are, appropriately for this blog, smoked herring. On the way to the gallery at the top of the hill, the smoke from the kipper house was bellowing out of the roof. It had a fairly gentle smoky odour which was not very fishy, so quite pleasant. Kippers are an acquired taste and can be quite oily. For a more gentle introduction to kippers, try kipper pâté. There is an attractive little harbour (good photos) at Craster (my photo below) and on the sunny days when we visited, it was very pleasant to sit and look out over the harbour to the sea. It’s unlikely that anyone would sit there in the winter with a strong north-easterly blowing directly across the harbour and threatening to cut off part of your face.

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Craster harbour

There is no parking in Craster, so you park (very cheaply) at a car park nearby and walk into the village past the numerous holiday homes which appear to dominate the village. You pass through Craster if you are walking to Dunstanburgh Castle (good photos). The castle dates back to the 14th century. It is a magnificent ruin and must have been an impressive stronghold in its heyday. The castle is built on a promontory with sea at its back. This meant that anyone trying to capture the castle would be unlikely to attack by sea and if they attacked by land, the occupants of the castle would see the enemy approaching from a great distance. The castle has a significant place in English history and was owned by various nobles as well as the king of England. The first photo shows the approach to the castle on a track leading from Craster. People, cows and sheep mingle freely on the track.

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The walk to Dunstanburgh Castle

Closer up, you can see the extent of the castle and how it dominates all the land around. Apart from the height of the castle and the 2 metre thick walls, what impressed me about this castle (and many others) is the achievement of the stonemasons who constructed this stunning edifice in the 14th century with little more than their tools and block and tackle for lifting. I always like to imagine being a peasant working in a nearby field and watching the castle getting bigger and bigger in a previously unimaginable way. Castles of course were built to show power, to impress and to threaten, as well as for protection and relative comfort.

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Dunstanburgh Castle

The views from the castle walls are enthralling. It overlooks Embleton Bay and the golf course nearby and you can see for miles along the coast as in the photo below.

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Looking north from Dunstanburgh Castle

This was a huge castle with a range of living areas and many people would have lived in the castle to serve noblemen and women who owned the castle, including servants, cooks, blacksmiths and masons. The extent of the castle can be seen from the battlements as shown below. The castle is well worth visiting if you are in the area.

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Dunstanburgh Castle

Six little terns, wintry St Abbs harbour and green shoots

December 16, 2015

I’m reading the new Poetry Book Society ChoiceLes Murray‘s Waiting for the Past. Murray’s poems are dense with images and he has the poet’s knack of reducing into a few words what the rest of us would need a paragraph to explain. One of the early poems in the book is entitled Dynamic Rest:

Six little terns

feet gripping sand

on a windy beach

 

six more just above

white with opened wings

busy exchange of feet

 

reaching down lifting off

terns rising up through terms

all quivering parallel

 

drift ahead and settle

bracing their eyes

against the brunt of wind

So we have four short verses and like all the poems in this book, you need to read and re-read to gain an insight into the depth of what the poems is about and what happens in the poem. The title is an oxymoron in that dynamic and rest appear to be contradictory. My English teacher at school, Mrs McKie, would be impressed that I remembered the term oxymoron. The terns are “resting” on the beach and in the air, and in the last verse, they “settle”. Murray imagines the birds – I assume that you cannot see birds “bracing their eyes” – perhaps narrowing their eyes in the face of a strong (and cold?) wind. The last phrase is “the brunt of wind” i.e. not the brunt of the wind, suggesting a forceful and unpleasant wind for the birds. The wind also affects the birds on the ground as their feet have to grip the sand. So the poem is dynamic, with “terns rising up through terns” and there is constant movement in this attempt at rest. Murray’s white terns are common in Australia and have striking blue/black beaks and black eyes.

White tern (Public domain photo from http://www.ozanimals.com/Bird/White-Tern/Gygis/alba.html)

White tern (Public domain photo from http://www.ozanimals.com/Bird/White-Tern/Gygis/alba.html)

We drove down to St Abbs Head on Sunday on a cold and damp winter’s day. It was grey all day and dark in the morning until 8am and dark again at 4pm. Despite this, we were well rugged up for a short walk, there was still plenty to see. The harbour, which still contains the now defunct lifeboat station, has fewer boats, with some on the shore for maintenance (see photos). The sea, of course, never stops and the waves were gently caressing the sea walls – the wind was light and south westerly, so no dramatic coastal scene on Sunday, but the sea still looked cold. There were some people about but you felt an absence – of tourists, divers and fishermen that throng the harbour in the summer.

St Abbs Head harbour in winter

St Abbs Head harbour in winter

St Abbs Head harbour in winter

St Abbs Head harbour in winter

St Abbs Head harbour in winter

St Abbs Head harbour in winter

Before walking to the harbour, we parked at the Nature Centre and visited the excellent Number Four Gallery. On the way to the gallery, I remarked that it would not be long until we saw snowdrops here. Looking down at the leaf strewn ground, there was no sign of growth, but when I pushed back some leaves, the green shoots of the snowdrops were well above the ground – see photo. I pushed the leaves back over the stems for protection. I remembered the final lines of Shelley’s Ode to the West Wind – “O Wind, / If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?”. Apparently not, as the snowdrop growth looked strong and healthy and the green provided a good contrast to the ever-fading leaves from the trees, although some ivy leaves were still green.

Emerging snowdrops at St Abbs Head

Emerging snowdrops at St Abbs Head

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.

 

Trip to Kirkcudbright and Dumfries

November 8, 2014

No blog last week as we were in Dubai – see next week’s blog. On a recent visit to my sister in Dumfries, we went to the attractive town of Kirkcudbright (Pr Kirk – ood – bri). Kirkcudbright is a fishing town on the far south west of Scotland, but is also known as an artists’ town, because of the large number of artistic and craft people who love there. We first visited the harbour, with an impressive wooden sculpture which is dedicated to families who lost fishermen at sea. The photo below shows the sculpture.

Wooden sculpture at Kirkcudbright harbour

Wooden sculpture at Kirkcudbright harbour

There are many interesting buildings in the town, including McLellan’s Castle (good photos) and an impressive curved building – like something you might see on a crescent in Bath – in the High Street – photo below. We went to an excellent food fair in the town hall where there was a wide variety of locally produced vegetables, cakes and pies. An example of the vegetables – delicious dirty carrots – is shown below.

House on High Street Kirkcudbright

House on High Street Kirkcudbright

Kirkcudbright carrots

Kirkcudbright carrots

The main part of our visit was in Dumfries, the county town of Dumfries and Galloway. Dumfries (good photos) is a very historic town, dating back to 1186 and was, over the centuries, involved in skirmishes between the English and the Scots, and loyalties amongst the townsfolk often shifted from one nation to the other. It’s a town whose distinguishing natural feature is the River Nith which flows rapidly near the centre. there are a number of bridges – old and new – across the river, the most impressive of which is the DevorgillaBridge, originally built in the 13th century. The photos below show the river and its bridges.

Devorgilla Bridge Dumfries

Devorgilla Bridge Dumfries

Autumn at the River Nith

Autumn at the River Nith

River Nith

River Nith

Bridge over the River Nith

Bridge over the River Nith

Creel meal and harbour walk

January 11, 2014

On 31 December, known in Dunbar as Auld Year’s Day and Auld Year’s Night (or Nicht) and known elsewhere as New Year’s Eve or Hogmanay around Scotland, we went for a taster meal, with our son Jonathan and daughter in law Rebecca (who took the photos) to the local, award winning Creel Restaurant, which has featured here before, but certainly deserves another mention. The first course was a cappuccino of local fish and shellfish (Photo 1) , and for me, this is the chef’s signature dish – he may or may not agree. It has an intense flavour of fish soup and you get hints of crab, prawn and haddock (smoked and unsmoked). A small cup is enough and I’ve yet to taste better. This was followed (no photo) by delicious scallops, served in a scallop shell, with a delicate Thai flavouring and vermicelli (very thin noodles). The chef included the scallop roe (the orange bit) although some recipes suggest not to do this. A very attractive and flavoursome dish. Next up (Photo 2) was monkfish done in Japanese breadcrumbs. Now, when you cook monkfish, you have to be very careful not to over cook it, as it can go rubbery. This was perfectly cooked, allowed the monkfish’s mildish flavour to come through. If there was a main dish, it was the cannon of lamb with mashed baby potatoes and pea puree (Photo 3). This is the lamb equivalent of fillet steak and it was superbly cooked and presented, with tender meat, a rich but not over powering sauce and tasty pea puree. Overall, a great combination. The final dish (i.e. before coffee/tea and mince pies) was a choice between pecan brownie (Photo 4) and cheese and biscuits. We ordered 2 of each and made the most of it. I’m not a great brownie fan, but this was excellent. A real treat of a meal as a final bit of luxury before going home to bring in the New Year.

The Creel is just next to Dunbar harbour, which has also featured a few times here. Yesterday, I took my camera with me along to the harbour, on a bright, sunny and not too cold day. At the harbourside, I saw 2 seals casually swimming about in the water, but they were not close enough to take a decent photo, as I did not have my extra zoom lens with me. I was fortunate, however, that when I look up from the seals, I saw the local boat  The Tangaroa (Photo 5)sail through the harbour entrance and park. The catch was unloaded as catches from small boats have been unloaded in this harbour for hundreds of years – by hand. The man in the boat tied a rope through the holes in the sides of the fish box, and the younger man on the harbourside pulled up the boxes. In the first box were (Photo 6), he told me, velvet crabs which are smaller than the brown crabs , which are next to the unhappy looking fish – they look equally unhappy when alive (Photo 7). The main catch was lobster (Photo 8) and you can see that the lobsters have had their claws taped up, to prevent damage. Fishermen can gain a good price for lobsters, but nothing like the profit which restaurant owners can make when putting lobster dishes on the menu. I like both the real and the surreal appearances of the fish and shellfish in these photos e.g. in the velvet crab photo, the crab legs could be part of an Australian Aboriginal painting.

Fish capuccino

Fish capuccino

Monkfish in Japanese breadcrumbs

Monkfish in Japanese breadcrumbs

Cannon of lamb

Cannon of lamb

Pecan brownie

Pecan brownie

Tangaroa

Tangaroa

Velvet crabs

Velvet crabs

Fish and brown crabs

Fish and brown crabs

Lobsters

Lobsters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Orkney: Skara Brae, Ring of Brodgar and hand-dived scallops

September 21, 2013

Returned from a 5 day trip to Orkney, or more correctly, the Orkney Islands, awash with new knowledge, great experiences and some great photos. We sailed to Orkney with our long-time friends Ian and Isobel, who were celebrating a notable anniversary. We went across to Orkney on the Hamnavoe Ferry (see photos 1 and 2) and landed in Stromness. Hamnavoe is the Norse name for Stromness and is the title of a famous poem by the Orkney Poet George Mackay Brown. Our first visit was to Orkney’s most famous attraction Skara Brae (see photos 3 and 4). This is the site of an excavation of a 5000 (as in five thousand) year old settlement which is situated at the edge of a beautiful sweeping beach. When you are there are, and you touch the stones of the very well constructed walls in the houses, it is hard to conceive of what 5000 years means, and that you are handling the same stone as one of the people who lived in the house. The houses are of the same design, with a hearth in the middle of the house, stone shelves for keeping materials and small sections divided by thin slabs of stone, which were the bed spaces. The houses are what we now call open plan and are, by our standards, very small.

We then went the short distance to the standing stones at the Ring of Brodgar (photos 5 and 6). This is a ring of large stones which are built in a circle. One of the fascinations of stone circles such at this, is that little is known about a) why the stones were built there and b) what activities took place in and around the stones. There is much speculation of course – ancient rituals addressed to the gods of the time, ceremonies such as weddings, communal gatherings at certain times of the year? All are possible.

Back in Stromness, we were walking back to the car along the harbour front when I spotted a small fishing boat coming in to land. It had white sacks on the deck and from experience at Dunbar harbour, I knew these to be scallops. I talked to the fisherman coming off the boat – the Girl Kilda – and he confirmed that they were scallops but told me that they were hand-dived scallops, picked from the seabed individually by the three men on board, and you could see the divers’ wetsuits hanging on the deck. I had never heard of hand-dived scallops, only those netted by trawling the ocean floor. The fisherman said “Would you like a couple?”. I replied that I would and he proceeded to put twelve scallops into a bag, and would not take any money for them. Back at our rented flat, Isobel and I worked out how to open the lovely scallop shells with slicing the scallop itself in half – you push the knife in fully along the bottom of the lower shell and prise the shell open. It took a few halved scallops to work this out. We then cooked them in butter (photo 7) and served them on a bed of rocket with lemon (photo 8) – they were melt in the mouth tasty. The rest of the scallops landed, we were told, went to live markets in France and Spain and sometimes in Japan. The scallops are kept in pools of water and sold live. The end of a very memorable day.

Lifebelt on the Hamnavoe Ferry

Lifebelt on the Hamnavoe Ferry

Wake of the Hamnavoe Ferry

Wake of the Hamnavoe Ferry

Skara Brae

Skara Brae

Skara Brae house

Skara Brae house

Ring of Brodgar

Ring of Brodgar

Ring of Brodgar

Ring of Brodgar

Cooking scallops

Cooking scallops

A plate of scallops

A plate of scallops