Friday 8th June: excellent forecast so I thought I would revisit Saltoun Big Wood and check out the dragonpies. I was thinking I should probably be knocking out a Tynecastle Bronze rather than cycling there and then I realised I could do both by catching a train (without bike) to Drem (using my weekly ticket bought to work in NB for the week) and running 30miles from there incorporating Saltoun ponds and also Marl Loch at Aberlady since I was nearby, and see what odonata were on the wing.
the Drem begins here
The Suunto Movescount website is very good for planning runs. The nature of the monthly TB run means going to new places and finding 30 miles of fun and how can you do that without some knowledge of the countryside nearby? The Movescount website lets you plot routes on a better-than-google-maps map that shows all manner of small trails and off road avenues. So most of the 30 miles I planned to run, I had never run before. Sometimes this threw up delightful trails across fields and through woods, other times I found myself clambering into hip-deep nettles and having to climb fences and cross unsafe bridges. Also it is no respecter of property and would have had me taking a line up to the front door of a mansion, down the hall and out the back door. Which isn't always the best way to make new friends.
The good weather was later in the day and I hoped to hit the first watery bit about 1pm and the second about 3pm. I hadn't really worked out the distances and times but had it in my head I would almost certainly be following the trails from Drem to Aberlady that Toby had talked about. He said you didn't have to run on the unpavemented roads, but could follow trails from Drem easily. It started off fine - I was following the route on my Suunto in sat-nav mode and at first the trails were lovely and slowly taking me to the coast. However after a cut-across a field and another field perimeter that wasn't really marked or much short of trespassing, there followed a path choc-full of nettles and I just went alongside in the actual field. There was more of this before the trail reappeared and went down the side of a cauliflower field where loads of whites (large and others) were bobbing about. Also the most tattered small tort I've ever seen. It was flying strongly on wings almost entirely shredded.
Bad trail - the bit full of nettles set aside for walkers! Hey thanks!
shredded small tortoiseshell
I had noticed the above pond on the map and wondered if it held any delights. A quick scan and no sign of dragonflies etc. so I was about to move on when I thought I saw something in the corner...
keeping still and (nearly) out of sight
There were some nice woods and decent trails after that and loads of hoverflies hovering in patches of light between the trees that the camera couldn't focus on. And a big fat wasp or maybe a hornet - it was pretty huge - but it didn't hang about for a decent photo.
When I got to Marl Loch there were dozens of damselflies. And a few four-spotted chasers too but not as many as the other week, when I realised I wasn't going to get a decent photo unless I got into the water with them. So I sploshed into the shallows camera in hand, hoping I didn't step into a deep hole or trip over on tangles of swamp grass. Here are the shots I got then; you can judge whether they were worth it or not. (I thought so.)
I resisted the urge to get in the water again - I wanted to keep feet dry for the next 25 miles. And I hoped there would be better photos at Saltoun.
These 2 got themselves caught in a spider's web so I fetched them out.
everybody was at it
except maybe this lacewing
After a quick check to see if there were any common blues near the remains of the butterfly bush (there weren't) I resumed the unknown trails to Saltoun Wood. It took me nearly out the West side of Aberlady then inland on these pleasant paths through woods and along the sides of fields. I could tell from the sat-nav I was to cut right at the corner of the field below and was concerned I couldn't see a path through the undergrowth. Until I got into the bushes and there was a small (ill-advised) bridge. Ignoring the sign saying Bridge Unsafe Do Not Use I tiptoed over. After another couple of fields I crossed the road we drive down most weekends to Gullane and over the railway bridge and up a couple of miles of tarmac.
across the A1
I had opted for another couple of miles of tarmac so that I could go through Butterdean Wood. Another place I was unfamiliar with and so wanted to check out. It was pleasant enough, possibly worth a return, but lacking any ponds or streams.
Running down the hill I saw this scene (above) and wished I was going that way. It turned out I was, as the road finished up 100 yards round the corner in a farm courtyard and I was carrying on using the trails on the right side of the river for a mile or 2. I was very pleased with the route I had mapped out the night before thinking well that looks like it might be nice, but not realising just how picturesque it was going to be.
I went under the bridge then understood from the sat-nav I should be on top of the bridge and following the road. Which turned into the grounds of Saltoun Hall. Several signs said it was private and that oiks were not welcome. I began to feel uncomfortable. The gps said go right up to the front door. I declined. I slunk into the trees and saw a gardener or butler sitting at a table outside next to some bits and pieces mending something. I cleared my throat and told him I had come the wrong way and asked how to get to Saltoun Big Wood. He had never heard of it (about a mile away) but pointed me in roughly the right direction and told me to climb the fence and keep going but in a very friendly way. I met back up with my gps route but still had a few nettly fields to skirt through before I got back onto welcome tarmac and the last half mile to the dragonfly pond.
And not before time. It was after 4pm when I got there and I was concerned the insects would all be finished flying for the day. However the hot sunshine kept them buzzing around the pond and there was a great number of damselflies and 4-spotted chasers. I stayed there taking photos for an hour, eventually putting the camera down for 5 mins to eat a sandwich, then reluctantly resuming the run, doing a quick circuit of the woods before leaving over the west side, heading towards Pencaitland.
The only other person I met was at the pond, another photographer (with dslr and long lens) struggling to take in-flight photos of the chasers.
The creatures were all very obliging, enjoying the shallows and reeds right at the side of the pond making getting in close with the camera fairly easy. So much so I was not only getting loads of pics (I think about 7~800 over the whole day, most taken at the pond) but I was moving the camera round to get the most attractive background while keeping the subjects centred in the frame.
this newt had a tadpole/frog in it's mouth
I tried to get some chasers in flight but they weren't much good
newt and boatman
It was after 5pm when I left, and although the forecast was great for a few hours yet I was keen to push on. I was a bit light headed from the strong sun all day and feeling thirsty. I had filled my reservoir with water the night before then left it in the freezer, so it stayed cool for a long time, but it was getting towards empty and I wasn't sure if there would be any shops en route.
Jennifer, bone expert, what animal was this?
I reckon maybe deer - it was just larger than fist sized.
When my sat-nav took me close to this stream I popped down for a drink. I was so thirsty I got out my filter soft flask and filled it twice (0.6lt x 2) then filled it a third time and carried it with me. I began to feel much better almost instantly. Nice flavourless water. A quite cold. After a bit I came to the far end of the Pencaitland Railway cyclepath.
My original plan had been to follow it all the way to Musselburgh. However that was going to be 34/36 miles and I am not a huge fan of the last 3 or 4 as I have done them too many times at the end of a long harsh run, so had changed plans to go round the Winton Trails then head through Tranent and down to Longniddry Station. Which would get the mileage up to about 29 plus I'd have the 2, up and down the road to/from the station.
Silver-ground Carpet Moth?
Again the gps had no respect for Winton House and took me right under it's front windows before going on some dubious trails round the grounds before crossing the road and going round the Winton Trails as featured in the Pentcaitland (now Winton) Trail 10k. They used to be among my favourite trails and though they were fine enough, I didn't recognise much, nor did they seem particularly spellbinding. Maybe I was just a bit tired and with the sun going down, they seemed a bit gloomy.
up the road to New Winton
The last couple of miles passed quite quickly and this was helped by again choosing a pretty good line from Tranent down to the A1 on choice trails ducking through supermarket car parks and round by Meadowmill Track. Then along the railway until the station came into view. To top off a perfect day the train was due in 4 mins after I arrived at the platform. Couldn't have timed it better if I'd planned it.
30 secs after I took this photo there was an announcement about standing back
from the rails as high speed trains blah blah blah.
6hrs running 7hrs total, 29.8miles
plus 1 to Waverley, plus 1 from Waverley
plus 1 to Waverley, plus 1 from Waverley