Thursday, 20 August 2015

August Tynecastle Bronze

Time for another TB run. I wanted to make the most of the end of a poor summer and the sun seemed to be out as much as it would be. However the vacillating forecast kept changing it's story. On Sunday evening we returned from Gullane to a Monday forecast of less sunshine than demanded taking a day off work. And being only 2 days away from completing the job I decided to knuckle down and then do the long run Wednesday. Eating my sandwiches outdoors Monday lunchtime in blistering heat I felt I may have made the wrong choice, however I got the job done by Tuesday and cycled home tired but pleased, bike groaning under the weight of panniers of paint, dustsheets and tools.

I was tired on Wednesday but determined to use the good weather to the full and decided to aim for the 9.43am E2NB train. By the time I had filled my backpack with all the stuff I could think of I only just had time to run up the road and catch the train to Longniddry. The route is one I've honed over many trips - after heading to the coast I'd follow the usual trails and beaches 13 miles to North Berwick where I'd do the 18+miles JMW to Binning Woods and then head to Tyninghame and back on the coast to Seacliff, then roads to NB. 

map: starting on the left and working the circuit anti-clockwise

First stop was Aberlady where Mary and I had come across this memorial marking Aberlady lives lost in many wars, each face of the plinth marking another campaign.

I was trying to get in the mood for a long run and ignore the weariness in my bones. I knew I probably shouldn't be forcing myself out on a long run but I had also postponed it several times. And my toe was no longer such an issue. I suspected I'd find my mojo once I got properly off-road and onto the beaches and trails. But just in case I bought an energy/caffeine drink in the grocers, and a ridiculously unhealthy sugary square slice of shortbread and chocolate poison. It worked just fine.

I was firing on all cylinders by the time I got across the bridge and through the undergrowth to the first pond where swifts skimmed the water too fast to catch (well) on the camera. I shot some film of the birds just dipping a beak along the surface as they flew by. I wondered did they have a flight path or just look out for one another. There were no mid-air crashes despite them going at top speed in what seemed a random fashion. The black headed gulls quickly form a circuit and all travel in the same direction when scavenging bread at Cramond. No dragonflies. Where were they? And the butterflies were thin on the ground given near perfect flying conditions. I took an early left and headed over to a second pond you can't see from the path. Mistake! No wildlife but plenty of jaggy stuff getting into shoes and damp patches to be avoided. Stuff that reduced the pace to a walk and I realised I'd need to step it up as I had told Mary I'd be back off the NB train for 6 and cook dinner. Starting at 10am I planned for 5 hrs running and one or 2 for dicking about taking photos, having lunch and mishaps. What could go wrong?

Down Aberlady Beach and round the corner to Gullane Point. Plenty of Lion's Mane Jellies stranded on the shore, each a giant eye, or plate of russet trifle.

This is what they look like in the water.

The low tide made for lots of long sandy bays we don't often get to run on. I wondered should I do the beach section beyond NB first rather than head inland on the John Muir Way as Tyninghame looks more spectacular with the sky reflecting in the wet sand. I would decide after lunch in NB.

By Archerfields I was channeling Dr Suess. "A lemony remedy makes an enemy of many an anemone." And by the way did you know we are all pronouncing Dr Suess wrongly? Well yes and no. The name of the childrens' author was Theodor Suess Geisel and he adopted his middle name (his mother's maiden name) as his pen name, which was pronounced Zoice. However the weight of his fanbase all pronouncing his name to rhyme with goose or thereabouts swayed the good Doctor. He has been honoured with 2 Academy Awards, 2 Emmys and the Pulitzer Prize. But not a doctorate. 

This might be the highlight of my lepidoptera career. Three Peacock butterflies on a head of Buddleia, all in the sunlight with a sweet bokeh background. I have no idea how you pronounce bokeh as I have only seen it written in photography magazines.

It was about 13 miles into North Berwick where I stopped for lunch. I say about because I forgot to restart the Garmin after stopping early on to tie a shoe lace or adjust something. Half a mile later and I notice my mileage hasn't turned over. I think I might have missed the last mile and a half of the day after hitting Tesco's and losing focus. So all distances are approximate. Anyway I bought some expensive deli type sandwiches and juice and went to sit near the aviary to eat lunch. I took about 15 minutes and most of that was horsing down overpriced sandwiches while transferring a bag of ice I bought, into the backpack reservoir, combined with a small bottle of orange and mango. So for the next 15 miles I had super-cooled fruity water which was extraordinarily fabulous. In fact it was possibly the best decision of the day. Second best was not to climb the Law immediately after lunch. Time was getting on and I would save 30 mins by pushing on. But not before taking some photos of the always interesting plants in the lodge gardens by the aviary. 

The harvest in E Lothian seems to be partially underway with some fields being cleared while others stand chock full of crops. I took a short cut through a couple of stubble fields over to where a detour off the John Muir Way leads past the Balgone Estate curling pool. I went along to the old jetty and was initially disappointed about the lack of bustle. Last time there were dozens of damselflies emerging from the pond and if you stood for long enough they would climb up your leg. However as I waited and searched I found a few to photograph but more in the foliage than on the trunks of the bullrushes. I also saw a couple of shadows streak through the undergrowth but couldn't see what they were. This made me more determined to unearth what was responsible and sure enough after careful searching I found a few tiny frogs; very agile and very swift, moving about below the first layer of vegetation. Full house for the swans on the far side, raising a handful of cygnets. Somehow 20 minutes have passed without any running.

Just as I was returning to the JMW a plane flew low overhead. Like almost touching the tree tops low. It then made several approaches to a grass airstrip but no lower than about 12' before rising and going round for another look. I have no idea whether the cross wind was too strong for a landing or whether it was just practice. The wind sock would suggest it is more than just an emergency landing. I had never noticed it until today. After 3 or 4 approaches the plane headed off, as did I. Video was taken.

They were brewing up at stink farm. My oh my, were they ever. I turned left just before and went through the field edging the mansion-house, then into Newbyth Woods and across the road into Binning Wood.

I was thinking about how I could cut the corner off and miss the long drag up Limetrees Walk. About a mile or more of hard footwork and not much to look at. But a lorry was coming along the A198 and it had been a while since I ran the long straight road. So I disengaged the brain and floated and soon I was in the woods at the bottom which looked different with all the foliage on the trees and the bracken on the floor. I got lost, which is kind of the purpose but also I was watching my time as I was already late and had too many miles still to go to be arsing around in the undergrowth forcing a path through the rhododendrons until back onto the trail that leads out onto the headland. I noticed my camera battery was nearly dead. Since the sky was clouding over this wasn't much of a problem. I was trying not to take the same photos I always take. And I always take too many of the sandscape looking up to the Bass Rock. Today I just kept running and the camera in my pocket. Over halfway up the beach I shout hello to an older lady who walked with a bump in her hip. After she had gone a hundred yards I decide to go for a dook. I am hot and sweaty and the sea is looking chilly cool but with big waves rolling in. I put all my stuff on a poly bag in a vain attempt to keep the sand out. Then strip down to shorts and walk into the crashing waves. I notice the limping lady is returning. For goodness sake, the whole beach is empty. I wait until she has passed my pile of clothes like maybe she was going to nick my camera and break into a run. Then I walk into the crashing surf. I dip my head under and it is immensely refreshing, perhaps too refreshing. Okay no swimming today. My legs are going numb. I get out and use a camping towel (folds up small, dries big) to get most of the wet and sand off but I still have socks full of both when they go on. But I feel renewed as I run up to the Peffer Burn. Not brand new but definitely better than before. I have run around marathon distance, mostly off road, none of your easy tarmac miles. 

Peffer Burn has gone mental and spread out like a small lake. I wander round the edge not knowing why it's grown like this. Must be a build up of sand and beach where it pours out into the sea. I had no intention of crossing as the coast beyond is hard going. I went over to the concrete miles that climb up past Seacliff and out onto the main road, Tam Bides Here and the slow sign. The heat and the humidity mean I obey the letter of the law and I am not risking the alternate route Ben says leads round to the back of the Law. I have run out of ice water and have a date with Tesco's. A couple of blanked miles later and I am walking the aisles with armfuls of cold liquids. I drink 750mls in the car park (doesn't even touch the sides) and run to the station. In the 20 minute wait for the train I text Mary to apologise for not cooking her dinner. "Great but late." Superb day out. 5 hrs running, 8 hrs taken.


  1. Sensational photos as ever! How much nature must you see in a week! The butterflies and jellyfish are particularly lovely.


  3. p.s. where is my dinner, I am hungry!