Friday, 18 May 2018

May Tynecastle Bronze

The great snake hunt episode 127.
When I saw the sunny (but cool) forecast for Thursday 10th May I put work stuff to one side and mounted another great snake hunt. Not discouraged by a total lack of snakes everywhere in this kingdom I thought the conditions were ideal and opted to run past a couple of sites literally heaving with an absence of snakes. And if I cranked out 30+ miles (and a war memorial) in the process I could tick off the Tynecastle Bronze run for May.

I caught the train to Dunbar - sunny Dunny - and headed off East, taking a similar line to the Multi Terrain 10miler that goes up Doon Hill. I was extremely pleased to have the whole day of sunshine ahead of me with nothing better than to fill the sd card with as many pics of butterflies and absent snakes as possible. Although I ran past the war memorial (above) I have already used that one in a previous TB run so it wouldn't count this trip. Before I was even off the main road there were a handful of whites taunting me to slow down and get some pics.

Large White

The last week or 2 have been brim full of whites. There are basically 4 types in Scotland. Large; Small; Green-veined and Orange Tip (female). Only the male OT has orange tips and has been considerably more widespread this year than last. I think I only got about one or 2 photos of OTs last year, this year, hundreds already. What they seem to have in common with many whites, is a reluctance to land on a flower and pose for a photo. I have cycled 400 yards waiting for an OT to settle as it flies the roadside checking out dandelions, almost landing, then continuing on it's way until it either flutters over a wall, a tree or parts company at a junction. It is not heartbreaking because I have already crept up on others less skittish and taken lots of orange tipped photos. However it reinforces my indifference for the whites. I find I have to get in close before the camera stops overexposing them so they do not make the best subjects. And although pretty enough up close they are a relatively blank canvas compared to the normally colourful paintings fluttering around the countryside. However if fate gives you lemons, best make lemonade. I looked upon this glut of whites as an opportunity to remind myself of the small distinctions between each of the 4 types.

sub A1

But before we do the whites; I was delighted to come across some Speckled Woods. Under the A1 there is a rise and you turn a corner. About there, running between the trees, and only 2 miles into the day, a Speckled Wood flew up. First one of the year. (And 17 days ahead of last year.) They are a modest brown and yellow and I like them way more than some other sorts, and it's difficult to say why. Maybe because they hang about in wooded areas where the sunlight dapples through the trees casting patches on which they bask and pose for photos. And they can also be quite fiesty, males protecting their patch by chasing off other males, other butterflies and even other insects tresspassing in their airspace. So I spent maybe 15 minutes or more, chatting and taking pics, even though the background of dirt path made for rather ordinary images. Great start to the run, really uplifting to see the speckleds this year again.

The literature suggest this might be a female on the left and male, right.
Female has larger yellow patches.

lots of young about at the moment

Doon Hill, amusingly signposted, is continuously up hill

last view of Dunbar and the Bass Rock,
 as I continued inland rather than up Doon Hill

Green-veined White

GV whites mating - note green-veined underwing

So at the top of the hill the path levels off and there is a old ruined cottage. I noticed a couple of whites flirting and flying into the rough land next door. I followed them in, possibly collecting my first nettle stings of the day. It is land which has not been worked and just left wild. Butterflies often prefer this to the most scenic of places, preferably with nettles and dandelions and broken bits of concrete. And so begins about 35 minutes of chasing whites and orange tips about, trying to catch them as they occasionally land on a flower head to take nectar. Many are just flying past in search of a mate, particularly the Large, and won't rest for a photo. It would be frustrating but there are so many continuously coming through, and about 1 in 6 will land at some point.

not the greatest photo but I like the colours
Orange Tips (males) get bonus points for their bright wings.

OT female - they share the olive underwing markings with the male

butterfly country!

the house would be about the centre of this mess of running about

female Orange Tip

If the female (on the leaf) wishes to let the male know she has already mated 
and doesn't require his services she raises her abdomen, to discourage him.

Green-veined White

The difference between Small Whites and Large Whites (previously called Cabbage Whites) is that the darker markings on their wing tips extend further down the outside edge on the Large. I seem to have missed getting any photos of Small Whites on this run. 

I tried to leave the ruined cottage a couple of times and then I'd glance back and see what looked like a Large White land, and I'd run back only to have it take off and whirl about in an aerial dance with another. And I'd be hooked back for another 10minutes of photo-fun. Having such a crowd of albeit flighty subjects kept pulling me in and I could have happily spent 2 hrs chasing the perfect photo. It made me warm to the Whites, although the best White photo of the day (at the top of the page) was much later on and quite unexpected.

Another mile took me down the hill, out on to the road and over to Woodhall Dean. The sign tells you to be aware of Adders between April and October though I'm unsure why. It is a beautiful (just under) 3 mile trail that goes up the side of a groove in the foothills of the Lammermuirs and comes down the other side, with mature woods and a stream at the bottom. The sides are steep and you are often walking on narrow paths up at the level of the canopies of the old oak trees. It looks as if it would be burgeoning with wildlife but apart from the beautiful trees and plants I have seen more in the way of butterflies and snakes in Tescos car park. But it won't stop me going back for more.

views across to rolling hills

The whole place looks like it could be slithering with snakes but I saw NONE. I tip-toed. Not ran, not even walked, but tip-toed so they wouldn't hear me coming. I examined woodpiles and dappled sun-spots, walked deep into the undergrowth and looked into tree stumps. Nada. Not a sausage. I reckoned conditions were perfect: a coolish day but with a warm sun to entice the adders out to warm up. No idea what was wrong. I was even getting into the mindset - you know, to catch a serial killer you have to think like a serial killer. I was trying to think like a snake. I experimented forking my tongue and saying "slithering" a lot. By half way round I was losing the faith, and just going through the motions. There are no snakes in this modern world. Which, on the upside, saves a trip to A&E with a snake bite. How would I be able to resist jumping into the undergrowth, trying to grab a tail as it slipped away, shouting come back for a photo! Bound to end in tears. And yet I thought this time, on my own, with nobody to stop me taking 10minute detours off the paths and into the untamed wilderness, legs jangling with nettlerash, twigs in my hair, surely I'd catch of a glimpse of a scaly hide? Nope. Nothing.

Did see this chap; about an inch and half long, big enough to only want to handle with a stick. However he was placid enough to climb onto my stick and look me right in the eye and say 'no snakes here buddy' while I tried to focus the lens on himself rather than the background. And didn't suddenly open a huge pair of wings and fly into my face. I hate it when that happens.

ghosty trees

The only butterfly in the whole of Woodhall Dean, a comma.
And it flew off without even opening its wings. 

I was so short of subjects I even had a session with this mildly repellent fly.

I took a small path which led to down the stream.

Where I met this rather sleepy Green-veined White getting high on nectar and happy to stand still for the length of time I took to take a few shots, heavy on spangly bokeh from the water behind.

I left a little downhearted about the whole snake gig, but hey the sun was still in the sky and I was off to another very similar venue, high on the list of all time favourite spots, Pressmennan Woods. I followed the route Nick had shown us in February when we ran a TB from Longniddry to Dunbar via Pressmennan and Woodhall Dean. Not that I have a good memory - I was following the route in reverse on my Suunto sat-nav. Which helped on several occasions, coming to a junction you would swear you'd never seen in your puff. The Suunto says turn right and who am I to argue? It took me in the back door to Pressmennan at the opposite end from the car park and signage. 

On the way there I passed through this field of frisky cattle. They came over for a word, just a chat, perhaps about any food I might want to share with them and not about a stampling to death underfoot. They moved like zombies at first, a sort of aimless wandering, but when I moved towards the safety of the thin dirt trails through the gorse bushes they quickened their pace. So we never got to the OMG interface where push comes to shove and I stayed within the fence, looking to skirt round the edge of the field rather than admit defeat and leave the field. 

I took a direct line to the gate and noted that if we all raced there, they would probably outrun me. I'm not sure who started running first but presently we were all running and sure enough it looked like they would make the corner before I did. I stopped running and climbed over the barbed fence I had been running parallel to. I apologised to the cattle, for spoiling their stampling, in the traditional manner. I gave them 2 sets of the Vs and shouted "Fuck You Lot". "But we only wanted to see what was in your bag", they said. "What, by stamping on it?" says I checking the fence had no gaps or broken bits.

race you to the corner?

When I got to Pressmennan I descended to the lake-side path. I had an appointment with the U-lock I had inadvertently left there, by the swimming place, when Mary and I cycled there the week previous. To my pleasure it was there in the grass where I had left it by mistake. This was good news as they are expensive to replace. But meant I now had an extra 1.75metric tonnes to carry in my backpack. Shoogling all the way for the next 16 miles. Bruised shoulder. (One tear sad face emoji.)

there'll be none of that



blossom in Stenton

I had thought I might go for a dip in Pressmennan Lake but decided against. I had been taking ages to run any distance and kept stopping for butterflies. I decided to push on. My next port of call was the coop in East Linton. Although I was still following the route Nick had led us in Feb I was having thoughts about swapping at East Linton to the JMW and heading back to North Berwick rather than Longniddry. 

that moment when a chaffinch drops off the telephone cable 
but hasn't opened its wings yet

I had a little business in NB I could sort if the train wasn't waiting on the platform and I know that route so well it is like meeting an old friend for a pint. I bought 4 containers of fluids at the coop. Small fizzy water into the reservoir along with Robinsons juice (lemon and lime). Emerge energy/caffeine drink which I drank half of and poured the rest away. (Small buzz required but I want to sleep tonight.) Can of Coors light beer. Drank in just about one gulp. It was cold and fantastic and as pleasant an anesthetic as a body could wish for. Trotted off to pick up the John Muir Way feeling suitably refreshed. They seem to have developed a large composting site since I was last here and it was doing an excellent trade with the gulls. I trust someone from SEPA is keeping an eye on this.

stink farm, ahhh the good times

Given I had run a mile up to Waverley and would be doing another back down later, I was looking to run at least 28.1miles before catching the train to make the Tynecastle Bonze minimum requirements. I did worry I might get to the station at North Berwick only having clocked up 27.5. The thought of doing laps of the car park or worse, up and down the corridor of the 19.25 was too much, so I took, very bravely I think you'll agree, the long cut, round Balgone House and the curling lakes. It probably added a half a mile+ and was really very unwelcome, though once I had commited to it, well you know, it passed by without incident.

The sun was still out but it wasn't as nice as I have made it look here.

So I checked out the station and as luck would have it I had just missed a train. This gave me time to visit first St Baldreds where I collected the last of 3 war memorials I have used for TB runs. Thank you St Baldred it was lovely, although that is too minimal to really call a remembrance garden. I also called by Mrs. K to discuss a painting job and mooch a cup of Earl Grey before catching the next train home.

This might be the slowest TB run yet - taking nearly 9hrs to cover 29+2miles. Plenty of delightful distractions and really a very lovely day out, despite the absence of snakes. My legs felt really fine, both stepping off the train and the next day. I really love much of the ground covered on this run and having the time to mess about chasing butterflies and taking photos is a rare luxury. And I highly recommend it.

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