Saturday, 18 October 2014

the crystal maze

I was counting the early mornings till a lie in on Saturday. A bit more than usual exposure to the elements this week, although only to paint the outside of a front door and frame. But enough to leave me tired for Wednesday night at club and whacked after 5 Rad Road Reps on Thursday in the dark.

When Lucy said long run in the sunshine this was the picture I had in mind.

So I should have been less welcoming of a text from Lucy pointing out the fab forecast and suggesting some longer miles in the sunshine on Saturday. I got up an hour earlier than for work to catch the bus to Dunbar. The trains weren't running on the line to NB and Dunbar and the bus service to NB was 90mins. Only 50 to Dunbar. If I had any sense I'd have checked the bus timetable rather than pay the train prices (wot no reductiuon?) for the slower bus replacement service. However I clearly have no sense so took the 50mins to meet Lucy and her hangover (hiya Steven and Keith!) outside the Dunbar Railway Station IN THE RAIN! That was definitely not part of the bargain so because we are both lightweights we went to a cafe to avoid the precipitation and I had a small slab of salty caramel brownie or something that was filled with crack cocaine and worth the trip alone.



John Muir as a bronze boy


I had printed out a map of a 24 mile circuit starting and finishing at Stenton with no idea how much of it was do-able and what sort of ground was covered. It was based on three or 4 photos Stuart Hay posted on facebook last weekend when I was gasping round the Skyline. When I saw those photos I thought oh I wished I was there instead of the Skyline. He had mentioned Crichness and Crystal Rig windfarm and Whiteadder Reservoir. Which covered about 6 miles. I made the rest up and we set off to take in Pressmennan Lake since this was nearby and another place on my must visit wish list - since I heard Lesley M goes swimming there.

War Memorial for the Tynecastle Bronzers

Birthday Tree


The rain obligingly cleared up and by the time we got to peeing beside the churchyard it was much nearer the forecast weather although a fairly stiff breeze was on the cards for up the hills. First though some idyllic trails round Pressmennan Lake. Really delightful running here with the dappled sunlight lighting up the Autumn colours. I was concerned that this would be the highlight of the day and all in the first handful of miles. I also wanted to check out the submergathon possibilities. Although a lot of the edge of the lake is busy with foliage I'm sure it would make a pretty good freshwater venue.

Then off up the road to the Lammermuirs.

excellent frog

I had studied the map on the bus to hopefully avoid having to stop to check it every 5 minutes. (My map reading is mixed - Lucy proved to be more capable than usual today on several occasions, and I proved to be very thick. I blame the long week and early start!) The route I had chosen turned out to be nearly perfect for what we were looking to run with a mixture of road, then off road then some more road. The first half worked out perfectly; in fact it was almost going too well. OK, time for a disaster.

The line across the hills was superb although the wind threatened to blow the ears off your head. Still it would be behind us on the return journey.

Then quite a long stretch of road along to (and past) Whiteadder Reservoir. There was some talk about the pronunciation of Whiteadder; Lucy had been told it should be said as if the E wasn't there. This seemed so stupid with a capitol S that I don't care if everyone in world says it like that, while there is an E in there I am pronouncing it White like the paint or Whit - eader, and certainly NOT whit-adder. That would be idiotic. Further conversation about Longformacus (I long for Macus, vs I have a Long formacus) Maudlin vs Magdalene and the like, ensued.

Meanwhile some rain came and went.

The sun came out, the Autumn colours were in abundance and I could scarce contain my enthusiasm.

Lucy with the map last time it was seen!

Shortly after Hungry Snout (I kid you not) we took a left off the main road to follow a river up into the hills. We also had some food - I got out a sandwich I had prepared the night before and put away the map I'd been carrying in my left hand (and camera in the right). I had a feeling of absence in my hands when we resumed running that I couldn't pinpoint as Lucy was bending my head with a few rounds of 20 questions when I should have been asking just one. Where was the fucking map? It must have fallen out my pack while we were running. I left Lucy sitting behind a small cattle shed out the wind while I ran back to see if I could find the map but after about a kilometer I returned empty handed. I was annoyed I had lost ANOTHER map. (Last time was on Tiree!) I must have some subconscious desire to dispense with geographical certainties. When I returned, Lucy said she suspected she had had a dead sheep for company behind her in the shed. Yup, sure enough, lovely!

Question was who had being paying attention? I felt sure we kept to the riverside path once we crossed the bridge. Lucy felt we should climb the tarmac hill as she had been that way before. Since I had thrown the map away I also had lost my bargaining tool so the tarmac hill it was. And it joined up to roughly where we wanted to be which was Crystal Rig wind farm. I think we missed the particular fir lined trail that had originally inspired this trip but to make up for that I took the photo below in impersonation of Stuart's turbine selfie.

This was the only (tiny) sign we were going in the correct direction

I liked how the panorama mode struggles with the moving blades.

The windfarm was impressive but I felt they had probably overdone it with 60 turbines. I think 10 would have been better for aesthetic purposes. We had looked at the Information Board before we started through the maze of roads and trails knowing roughly where we wanted to get to (despite the loss of map.) However the problem was that so many of the roads meandered up to a turbine then terminated there. Often with a high fence discouraging cross country travel. We had to retrace our steps a couple of times and eventually when we got to the outskirts of turbine city and found another Information Board were pleased to be heading in pretty much the right direction.

The green arrow is where we started from, and the red marker is where we exited. I think we might have been looking to go North but N West was better than N East.

The fence line path was waterlogged and initially hard going. I was fairly sure Stuart Hay wouldn't have used this route more than once

It did improve though as did our spirits when we got to the point you could see the coast.

Blue skies were short lived.

rainclouds were gathering

You can see from the stride in this blokes trousers he is coming over to see who is kidnapping his dog. He chatted for a bit when he found out we weren't complete tinkers and he felt the need to confess to shooting things. Perhaps to find out if we were wishy washy liberal vegetarians. We kept schtum about that and any notions that wholesale slaughter for the purposes of entertainment is at best dubious, however we did work out his name as it was on the reg of his Range Rover even though he had misspelt it. (Surely 2 Ts if it's the same as the letting agencies reg Deuchrie, Dunbar, EH42.) Nice house and garden though.

topiary, Stenton

mmmm Marmite, get stuck in!

Lucy kindly drove me back to Dunbar train station to catch the bus. Happily there was one about 6 mins after we arrived. Not long enough to have a wash and change in the toilets so I had to struggle out of damp shorts and t-shirt and into dry compression tights on the back seat of the bus while trying not to moon the Eastbound carriageway of the A1. This and various stretching exercises kept me from seizing absolutely solid as I still had some running business left for the day. The Garmin showed 25.97 miles and with the couple to-and-from Waverley that would make just under 28. Two short of a Tynecastle Bronze (30+) It wasn't going to be pretty but I had to run another 2 miles before heading home. Don't think I enjoyed that for a second.


The bus dropped me in Market St. giving me the chance to climb the Scotsman Steps: a 7 storey urinal which had housed a piece of Martin Creed art for a few years. Somehow I had never taken the opportunity to visit it. I can't say I was much impressed - he had just clad the steps in marble. And you can be damn sure he didn't carry out the work himself. It looks like a showroom display for a tiler and worktop shop, with every step in a different hue. Did he put them in order of light to dark or patterned to plain? No, as usual with Creed there is no sign of intelligence or design (or craft) just a mundanely executed idea. The marble is attractive but I don't think the artist can take any credit for that. The only slight resonance I got is that it looks even more like a toilet than it did before. I think in 100 years time they will discuss this current era as being devoid of content and ideas, of artists throwing out the baby with the bathwater, of dispensing with skill and craft and floundering to produce anything of lasting merit. All the talent has moved into film, video and motion graphics leaving the fine art department bereft of the vitality it last had in the 1900s.

So what do I like? Well I like this tag for having a lot more zest and vitality than EVERYTHING done by Creed. All that marble must have taken men a lot more talented than Creed a long time to fit. This tag has a movement and lightness of touch at about one 10,000ths of the cost. It is jazz, it is quirky, it holds a meaning but keeps it secret, it has a confident line and execution, something long overdue for Creed.

Here is where we went. The blue arrowed line was the original plan, the fushia dots the actual line we took. The dots measured around 26 miles (although I switched the Garmin off inadvertently at some point) and that includes 1.3 miles backtracking looking for the map. Also you can't run round Pressmennan Lake - don't try, it will go badly: stick to the oval loop on the South side marked on the info board at the car park. And wear wellies if you are not wanting wet muddy feet.
A brilliant day out: a great combo of high energy weather, fab scenery and very jolly company!

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