Sunday, 23 July 2017

Dunbar to Berwick upon Tweed

Running out of Scotland
I think this was Fiona's fault idea - as prep, 3 weeks before the Devil, she instigated this one with Richard, who advertised it; and Nick and I signed up to run it as July's TB. Nick and I had run it (on separate occasions) in the opposite direction last Summer. Richard had walked it with his other half, Bec, recently as well. The forecast was great and Bec was kindly driving the car back after we were dropped off in Dunbar for about a 9.35am start. What could be better?!

The start is modest and pretty - leaving Dunbar by the golf course, skirting the coast and passing by the xc route near Barns Ness Lighthouse. It was warm and the pace steady to brisk for a longish day out. It was good to catch up with Nick - he has been going well recently. And Andrew seemed well prepared and fit after training for, and completing the Lairig Ghru. He intended to run with us till St. Abbs then catch a bus and train back. Probably a wise move as the best of the day's running was in those first 22miles.

Nick and I had both ticked off the handsome wm in Berwick last year but knew there was at least one other memorial in Eyemouth. Instead we took a tiny detour off the path near Skateraw (in the shadow of Torness) to check out this WW2 memorial to six members of the Canongate Boys Club. They "...loved to camp here and gave their lives that others too might love it."

I have been on about Skateraw and a childhood holiday here that is etched into my memory. I blab on about it every time I pass! Ahh back in the day. Long before Torness!

We did a wee bit on the beaches but mostly it was running through long grasses on the coastal trails just back from the cliffs. That really was the signature dish of the day - not being able to see foot placements through the long grasses that would swish, brush and jab shins all run. Nice for a handful of miles but a bit tiresome after 20+. Pretty scenery was a distraction. It was good to be running with company, as last time I hadn't realised I had been bushwacking along non-official trails or just going the wrong way. This time Nick and Richard kept us right, and the trails (and stretches of tarmac) we followed were a lot more straightforward.

Pease Bay

I have been on about Pease Bay before, describing it as a bucket of turds. They have certainly optimised the amount of caravans clustered shoulder to shoulder in this otherwise pretty bay. However, on the upside, there are facilities; handy, 10miles into a long day. This included Strongbow Dark, a deliciously cold and blackcurranty cider which went down remarkably well for 11.30am. Not only did they serve us booze at that time on a Sunday but they let us drink it at a table outside in the sun. Pease Bay went up about 150% in my estimation. We were all in good spirits and going well. 

Strongbow Dark - gets my vote and will be appreciated 
by those who favour alco-pops and fruit flavoured pints.

It seems difficult to believe it was only 13months since I was last on this run. I was just beginning my fascination with butterflies and noted the proliferation of Painted Ladies. (Didn't see one on this run.) Back then I photographed a Wall Brown and saw quite a few. And a single specimen of Small Copper but didn't get a photo. I was anticipating seeing loads more of the same this time round and told the crew to keep eyes peeled for middle sized orange jobs. Despite the sunshine it was a poor day for lepidoptera. Although there were a good amount of Red Admirals and hundreds of Meadow Browns (and some Small Heaths and Ringlets) flying up from around the grass we were running through, there was no sign of those I had noticed last time or anything vaguely exotic. Nick pointed out several medium sized orange-ish dudes but most were the rather commonplace Meadow Browns. Near St Abbs there were 2 or 3 Fritillaries but they were too lively to snap.

an iconic garden whose residents appeared in Nick's and my blog last year

There were various parts of the route (as above) I was totally unfamiliar with having been down by the cliffs looking for the official trail and been miles off route. Needless to say this made life a good bit easier.


this place was heaving with Meadow Browns

From this point we headed to the road which made the potentially tricky nav round Dowlaw a bit easier. We then returned to the coastal trails and the roller coaster headlands that wrinkle the shoreline before St. Abbs Head.

There is an Admiralty Measured Mile between 2 pairs of masts that can be seen from the sea if you wish to test the speed of your vessel. It was one of the slower miles of our day as the path weaves up and down the undulating coast.

SS Hadfield steams up the steep climb

pointing out the wildlife

Nick channels Freddie Mercury!

the craggy coast between Fastcastle and St. Abbs Head

A very quick vote was taken and the majority (all) decided not to follow the steep climb to go round the perimeter of the St Abbs headland. Although this missed the lighthouse and some gull infested rocks it also missed some hard work. We cut across the valley taking the South side of Mire Loch, going through a pleasantly wooded and shaded area.

tempting swimming pool, Mire Loch

I had forgotten the next steep ascent back up the cliffs just before St. Abbs, but although sharp it is short and soon we were on the approach and descent to the pretty harbour village. Richard and I watched as Nick bombed down the gravelly trail. He was trying to teach his knee a lesson. It had been playing up and he thought if he ran fast in good form it might track better and stop hurting. Not sure if it was an entire success.

After waving off Andrew, we went to a small cafe in St Abbs. It may just have been it was hot and we had run 22 miles and weren't in the mood for inefficiency, but the service and staff were a joke. Rather than trust them to be able to fill a reservoir from a tap or let me near the sink to do the same, I just bought 3 bottles of water at a pound a go and filled it sitting at a table outside. I ate some grapes I had put in the freezer overnight then wrapped in silver paper. They were still cold and absolutely delicious!

The next bay just around the corner is Coldingham. 
Large houses look down on a pretty row of changing huts.

The path is dotted with helpful duckboards that navigate the dips and turns for the next mile before a climb up to field perimeters through more long grasses and the approach to Eyemouth. We passed by the war memorial then went to the Contented Sole for a pint. It was bustling and friendly although we were all beginning to feel the distance, having run a hilly hot marathon.

set up self timer then forgot to say look at the camera

still not looking!

Getting going after Eyemouth was testing! The route snakes round the estuary then climbs a long gradual ascent by the golf course to yet more field perimeters and long-grass trails. Burnmouth can be seen in the distance; an attractive fishing village of 2 halfs huddled beneath tallish headland. Last trip here I lost a lot of time running back and forth climbing walls and getting nettle rash before backtracking and retreating to the road. I never did find the correct route which (in this direction) goes along the row of seafront houses and up through their back gardens and across the fields to run parallel to the train line.

one half

the other

If we were fresh and not 30 miles into a run this switchback climb up through the backgardens of the furthest East houses would have been lovely. Instead it was a bit of a chore. I reassured Fiona, mistakenly, that the profile map in the pub suggested it was all downhill from here to Berwick. I had to apologise at least twice as we came upon a couple of significant rises.

fake news
only saw one of these

Nick, god bless him, would stop every now and then to point out a medium sized orange or brown job but inevitably they were Meadow Browns, Ringlets or at best Small Heaths. 

as if

suspect the council over-budgetted for signage

felt there should have been a Harry Hill badger leaning against this sign, smoking

From this point onwards the trail follows the rail line into Berwick. No problem last time as I was fresh and it was not so overgrown. This time it seemed to go on for ever. I was really bored with running through knee length grass, uncertain if you were going to step into a rabbit hole. I thought we'd be done long before the Suunto read 35miles. Last time Mr Garmin measured 35.5miles and this time we missed about a mile not going round St. Abbs head. So I was confused when we passed 35 miles and still hadn't arrived at the station. (unsmiley face!)

on the what?

Fiona and Richard did a great job of it. Not a word of complaint out of either the whole way, and it was a long and tough day out. Actually, Fiona might have said a bad word, or had a look on her face after stepping in a muddy puddle a hundred yards before we left the trails for the tarmac of Berwick. Last possible chance to get dirty feet and she managed to get at least one shoe nicely filthed up for the journey home. Nick had also hit that puddle and shouted back "soft ground" saving my shoes. Not that my feet were pristine. (When I eventually showered it looked like I'd been climbing chimneys barefoot.) Anyway top marks to all for strength under duress: I told Fiona this training would stand her in good stead for the Devil. That she would be overtaking folk who would be walking and in tears, during the final miles of the ultra.

icing on the cake - Nick gets stung by a bee!

from trail to tarmac - ahh that's better!

We just had time for a couple of pints before catching the train home.

For the first time that day I was happy to have bothered carrying a change of clothes in my back pack. Had a quick wash and change in pub toilets and emerged fresh and clean-ish (still minging by normal standards!) for the train ride home. And to contemplate the mysteries of life: like why was train awash with litter and rubbish like hundreds of folk had just emptied their pockets all over the carriage? And why was the price of a single to Dunbar more expensive than the price of a longer journey to Edinburgh? (Nick astutely purchased the latter.) And where were the butterflies? 

37 miles plus one either side

However it was an excellent day out in great company, and a better route-finding than last time so things are improving. If you want food and drink to taste MUCH better forget masterchef. Just go run 35 miles. It also improves your figure and the quality of your mattress. (Slept like a b@st@rd!) But remember to take the following day off work - it doesn't improve EVERYTHING!

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