Monday, 9 September 2013

when did you last see your father?

view from the train

I was a bit tired on Sunday. I was also a bit irritated by sleeping through the sunniest hours and only getting my act together for the afternoon. A blue sky morning gave way to a mixed afternoon. I defaulted back to a version of the run I did with AGH recently and followed through on the idea of visiting my departed dad in Binning Memorial Wood as I went. In case he was being elusive I took a photo or 2 from the funeral that might help track him down.

I caught the train to North Berwick and hiked up the Law in the second mile out the station. I did wonder if this was sensible with 18 miles to go but the views are almost always worth it. First bad omen of the day was a gang of ladybirds all over the summit but particularly in the puddle at the top. Why would you fly to the top of the hill then immerse yourself in a puddle?

It had been a while since I had followed the first John Muir section from the bottom of the Law towards East Linton. There is a small bit of road but mostly it is all skirting round fields and hard pack trails. Again I was cursing, knowing earlier it would all have been looking splendid in the sunshine, whereas now it was a bit duller between sunbeams.


Next bad omen was a bird, unmoving, on the path up ahead. I got the camera out as I approached, waiting for it to fly off. As I got closer it's immobility began to unnerve me and I wondered was it stuffed? Closer still, and with the pigeon's eye staring madly at me, I had to make a gesture to get a response. It opened scraggy wings and hobbled a few steps. It was well stuffed. The joy of proximity flipped over to sadness for a poor soul on its last legs, and I hurried past talking useless words of apology and commiseration.

The path continues on an undulating and winding trail for a few miles with the turn off I worked out with Amanda last time, just before Stink Farm. A lumpy farm trail skirts round the side of the Old Mansion House (a shop dummy and hanging jerkin as scarecrows making me double take) then through some trees and across the road to Binning Woods. Only I took the road North to the official entrance of the Memorial part so that I could try to replay the route to my father's last resting place. Which was basically straight up the long drive, park on the right diagonal then walk over to the trees on the left. There were a few dog walkers and grave visitors but mostly I had the place to myself. The Memorial area is defined but there are no fences and no headstones, which gives a more tranquil feel than any graveyard I have been in. Set into the ground are flat stones with engraved plaques. 

I took along this photo and compared tree roots.

One of the neighbours

I was fairly sure I was in the right spot but couldn't find a plaque with Alastair's name on it. I thought this might happen, so after a while of fruitless searching and getting distracted by an abundance of fungii, I flipped back through the photos on my camera to find the evidence of his whereabouts.


There was a good image of the tree near his grave and so I tried to compare this to the surrounding trees which are nearly all the same sort. I spent probably 30 to 40 minutes going over the area (making circles on the Garmin map) reading all the plaques and looking at the root geometry of the trees as viewed from the same direction. I became familiar with most of the residents, apologising for walking over their graves, trying to keep both the frustration and potential for laughter at bay. Eventually I gave up and continued running, loosening off stiffened limbs.

Later I exchanged messages with Caitlin who let me know herself and Elizabeth (my step-mum) kept meaning to get around to marking the spot with a plaque and stone but as yet had not. That explained it. Ali B wouldn't mind – he wasn't big on formalities.

I took a different route through the woods than last time I ran with Amanda. I kept going off trail and into the undergrowth, looking for stuff to photograph, hidden treasures. I can't say I found much but it was a lovely place to explore and I really like the spokes that extend from the hubs (as can be seen in the google satellite image I posted here) and criss cross the woods in an expansive manner. I took one of these paths and ran over to the other large hub I visited with AGH. From here it's no distance to Limetree Walk which goes directly to Ravensheugh Sands. However it is the most boring stretch of straight tarmac and I had noticed on the map that I could run parallel to this by going North on the road to next right which should take me through the woods at Garleton Walk. I had a map with me and was thinking how smart I was when I turned off the main road through an old walled gate with deep mud, scarred and troughed with tractor tyres, but heading in the right direction. It ran parallel to the boring road then turned off left and left me clambering over fallen trunks and ducking under eye jabbing branches. “So you wanted an adventure, clever clogs” I kept reminding myself.

I should have been the other side of this field, in the woods.

After a good deal of unpleasantness I reached the muddy edge of a ploughed field and followed it round to the corner of a lovely tarmac road with a dirt track heading towards the coast through more woods. This I followed and made several turns onto long straight avenues between planted fir trees, hoping I was still heading towards the beach. I didn't have a compass so couldn't be sure. In fact my line on the Garmin map (last photo) shows I did pretty well to keep going in the right direction but it was a long mile or more through the woods and I came upon several signs suggesting this was private and the public weren't welcome at such-and-such holiday homes. Eventually I came across the piggery I had tackled one infamous winter day I had tried to navigate a coastal run a few years back. Then turning into a field I saw the Bassington Rock in the distance and felt a huge relief. I had to retrace my steps rather than cross the field of horses but it was with yet more relief that I climbed then descended the dunes onto Ravensheugh Sands.

A tad too Hansel and Gretel.

At last a whiff of the coast.

The tide was in, the sun was out. Happy days. Look there's a bloke in a canoe! I was full of the joys of running in beautiful scenery when I came upon the Peffer Burn.

Peffer Burn

AGH and I had splashed through this last time – the tide was out and it spread out over the long journey to the sea to a 30 yard fan half an inch deep. However today the tide was in and it was a knee deep channel. Although tempted to de-shoe and sock (I dislike wet shoes,) I decided to check out how far upstream one needs to go before coming to a bridge. The answer is about quarter of a mile, (hurray!), over a few sleepers then back through some private ground in which religious instruction seemed to be the unlikely past-time, though strangely (it being Sunday) the huts were empty. I snuck past hoping Jesus wasn't tut-tutting. And through a lovely door (a portal?) which arrived on the other side of the Peffer Burn. I relished my dry feet.

How to avoid getting Peffer Burnt

However the high tide also made for some harsh rock hopping and after a plague of flies erupted from within those, I opted for climbing the fence and approaching Seacliff from the dry green side. There were families on the beach and even swimmers.

Billy Goats Gruff

I tried to find the Alternative John Muir route to Tantallon but did a variation of it sneaking through a stubble field to take photos of the castle ruins above the cliffs. The last omen of the day was a starling sized bird I couldn't identify with a broken wing fluttering about the field in front of me. OK, ok I get the bad omen thing, please stop with the broken animals. I then followed the field round to the road getting my shoes ankle deep in mud along the way and saying some harvest curse words, since up till then I had avoided immersion or filth. I reckoned it was over 3 miles to the station and 5 o'clock was fast approaching. Could I make the 5.20? If I didn't, it wouldn't be the worst hour to go round to Ben and Alison's for a cup of tea, but I thought it might be possible to catch the 5.20 if I stepped it up. Mile 16 of the day was 7.41 pace and far quicker than any so far. The minute hand was swooshing round though, so mile 17 was 6.56. I was now sweating heavily and wondering what the distance from the welcome sign on the Eastern outskirts of NB near Tesco's was, to the station on the west. It's 1.62 miles by the way. Mile 18 was 6.42 and the last .65 of a mile was done at 6.06 pace.

I climbed aboard the 5.20 about 90 seconds before it pulled out. I was so hot and damp I didn't bother to change into the spare shirt and shorts I carried in my back pack. I had just about recovered from the road rage by the time we pulled into Waverley and I jogged the last mile down home. Including the first and last miles, to and from the station, I totalled 20.65 for the day.

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