Thursday, 25 June 2015
Every child is loved
Have you ever been inspired by a government publication?
How about this aspirational goal, part of a vision for Scotland in 2030 outlined in a consultation paper published last Friday called Creating a Fairer Scotland: What Matters to You?
Every child is loved by someone who can provide for their needs
This kind of dangerous idea is why so many people voted "yes" in September. I'm glad to see the visionary talk didn't end when the referendum motion was defeated.
Westminster: time to learn from our friends in the north country.
Monday, 22 June 2015
Solas 2015: Between the Lines
Things I learnt at Solas this year:
Two girls, a guitar and some drums: Honeyblood are great.
Every festival should have resident chickens.
Sometimes the best things are free. (The Food Ambulance, run by the Bristol Skipchen served meals made from food waste; pay what you like.)
Once again, we were delighted by the wee festival in the north.
Sunday, 29 March 2015
Stonebridge → Knettishall Heath
Distance: 6.72 miles
Ascent: 88 metres
Duration: 1 hour 48 minutes
Road to Nowhere
« Not walked | Not walked »
Icknield Way: 106 miles to Ivinghoe Beacon
Saturday, 28 March 2015
Castle Acre → Stonebridge
Distance: 21.76 miles
Ascent: 321 metres
Duration: 6 hours 5 minutes
« Not walked | Not walked »
Today's walking wasn't as arrow-straight as yesterday's. The line of Peddars Way is lost in a number of places, so the route swings back and forth, all the while following the general direction of the Straight Line which it occasionally comes close enough to kiss.
I'd expected to walk fewer miles than yesterday, but three detours nudged my distance up. Each one was a diversion to look at a church. First, the ruins of Castle Acre Priory, which can be appreciated from the common land to their east. I didn't pay to go in, but a walk around the fence revealed the huge scale of the old complex.
A tourist information sign by the side of the road promising "Historic Murals" diverted me half a mile to my second church: St Mary's, Houghton-on-the-Hill. Unfortunately the roadside sign hadn't revealed that the church is only open between 1200 and 1400 daily, so the best I could do was enjoy the tranquil setting and peer in through the heavily fortified windows. A notice outside revealed that the church has been lovingly restored over the years by "Bob", after finding the abandoned building being allegedly used by a group of satanists.
On the third occasion I was luckier. The round tower of All Saints, Threxton beckoned me off the Way, and a sign in the porch welcomingly declared "the door is never locked; stay as long as you like". Inside the pillars of the Nave leaned outwards like those in St David's cathedral.
Shortly afterwards I encountered the opposite sensation, and one that seems inevitable on any National Trail: a military firing range. The Way runs along the perimeter of the vast (120 km2) Stanford Training Area, a military site that in recent years seems to have been deliberately expanded rather than returned to the public. (It was first commandeered in 1942 at four weeks' notice; a petition to Parliament five years later requesting reinstatement apparently fell on deaf years.)
Friday, 27 March 2015
Holme next the Sea → Castle Acre
Distance: 20.35 miles
Ascent: 341 metres
Duration: 5 hours
The Roman Road
« Not walked | Not walked »
These ancient routes criss- cross our land. We know their names: Foss Way, Watling Street, Stane ?. Many have been upgraded over the years, layered with Tarmac and widened to dual carriageway. Pedlars away is different. Seemingly going nowhere, the route serves no purpose to modern life so has been left abandoned, a farm track, a walking route, an echo of the past.
Deer, partridge, pheasant, rabbit: I've collected the full set of wild animals today. And as the dunes of Holme receded and the arable fields turned to livestock I added pigs and horses to the list.
Walking such a long distance in so straight a line provides opportunity to appreciate how the landscape changes. It's a fallacy to claim that East Anglia is flat!
Castle Acre is the only village of any substance on Peddars Way, but even then I t only supports one pub and a handful of B&Bs. "There used to be seven pubs," my host told me, "the last one to close was just a couple of years ago." It's a shame, but trade in the remaining Ostrich Inn tonight suggests there's community enough to keep it running.
The castle itself is worth exploring; not. Ugh left by way of buildings, but hugely impressive earthworks and open all hours, for free! English Heritage also look after an old Priory here too, but it was closed when I arrived so other than reporting that the buildings look impressive from the road, I can't say much more about it.
Tomorrow's another 20 miler. The weather forecast doesn't look good. Wish me luck.
Saturday, 7 March 2015
Saturday, 28 February 2015
We stayed in Pittenweem while we were in Fife, and I can't recommend it highly enough.
The cottage we rented was East Haven, which is perfectly situated at one end of the High Street. There's a chippy directly opposite, and a couple of doors down from that the rather wonderful Pittenweem Chocolate Company whose Intense Hot Chocolate drinks we sampled rather too readily! At the back of their café hangs a wire mannequin in a sparkly red dress with gold wings; I like to think of it as the Pittenweem Angel.
Sadly Pittenweem High Street isn't as busy as you might like: the butcher had recently shut up shop due to retirement, but there's still a baker and general store. There are a fair few art galleries too, and no doubt the place is buzzing during the annual art festival. The biggest surprise was that there was nowhere to buy fresh fish, even odder since there's still a landing fleet and wholesalers' market on the dock.
The village itself is a network of narrow wynds leading to the sea and hidden corners. It's been a joy to explore.
Further afield we can recommend the Ardross Farm Shop for all the things you can't buy in the High Street, even better if reached by the path along the low cliffs.
Two weeks ago we'd never set foot in Fife. Today we understand why many consider it to be a rather special place.
Friday, 27 February 2015
Dundee → Carnoustie
« Leuchars | Not walked »
A final walk of the week. Another tarmac trudge
There's a cycle path running due east out of Dundee all the way to Carnoustie. With the exception of a couple of detours we followed it all the way.
The first diversion was around the modern developments at Dundee Harbour. We passed the Frigate Unicorn, said to be the oldest UK-built ship still afloat; the ship was built during a period of relative peace and never had masts installed - instead, it has a strange and slightly flattened roof. We then crossed the Victoria Docks into a curious small shopping centre and office complex on the north side before rejoining the cyclists.
The development here is similar to that which we've seen in abandoned wharves elsewhere in the country, but doesn't quite match the usual vigour and arrogance. I don't think that's a bad thing.
Broughty Ferry came next, where we were welcomed by a flock of swans sitting in the middle of the road. All my previous knowledge of Broughty came from watching the comedy series "Bob Servant Independent" a couple of years ago. At the castle we met up with Mum once again, and all pushed on together along the prom through Monifieth, past the firing range at Buddon to reach the golf courses at Carnoustie.
It may have been possible to walk round the range via Buddon Ness but we'd seen a lone red warning flag flying when we passed through on the train in the morning and decided it was best to keep things simple rather than have to turn back after getting 90% of the way along the headland.
Notes for future walkers:
- The cycle path that follows the railway east out of Dundee runs through Dundee Docks. Between NO 419 308 and NO 433 310 cyclists are required to present photo ID and pedestrians are barred. There's easy access across the railway to a pavement running alongside the A92/A930.
Thursday, 26 February 2015
Leuchars → Dundee
Yesterday Mum did the rural, first half of the walk and left us for the tarmac of the second half. Today she had her coffee while we walked the rural starting leg and we picked her up for the closing tarmac trudge.
After passing Leuchars airbase (complete with shed for "Pipes and Drums" section) we crossed Tents Muir Common into Tentsmuir forest. Although it's said to be a stronghold of the red squirrel, the forest didn't reveal any of its inhabitants to us today.
It's still a stunningly beautiful walk, with plenty to see. At Tentsmuir Point we reached the mouth of the River Tay and turned west once more, soon finding the Harbour Café in Tayport where we fortified ourselves with coffee after collecting Mum. It's a great coffee shop, run as a local community enterprise. We'd highly recommend a short stop.
The highlight of the walk was next: the Tay Road Bridge. At a mile and a half, it's just a little shorter than the Forth Road Bridge but feels longer due to its arrow-straight alignment and lack of visual landmarks such as suspension towers.
Dundee was our target for the week and we'd intended to celebrate with a slice of the town's cake. Curiously the coffee shop we visited wasn't able to oblige; clearly there's a little work to be done yet in promoting the town's image.
All day I've been singing to myself Michael Marra's songs. Known as the Bard of Dundee, I'd seen him perform twice live — supporting Deacon Blue when I was a student in London, then just a couple of years ago headlining the second Solas festival. As we crossed the bridge the floodlights of Tannadice Park were visible on the skyline and "Hamish" (also known as "Grace Kelly's visit to Tannadice") looped round my head.
I'd hoped we'd have been able to celebrate crossing the river with a quick drink in Marra's favourite pub, the Taybridge Bar but alas time didn't allow. We listened to "Frida Kahlo's Visit to the Tay Bridge Bar" on the way back to our cottage instead.
Wednesday, 25 February 2015
Kingsbarns → Leuchars
Mum has joined us for the rest of the week, so today we took things slightly slower.
A delightful feature towards the start of the walk was the wooded glen of the Kenly Water. Snowdrops carpeted the glade, easily beating what we saw of the Cambo Estate yesterday (which is famed for its snowdrop collection).
The path kissed the edge of the village of Boarhills and gave us the opportunity to examine a doocot (dovecot) up close. Seemingly every farm in Fife has a ruined dovecot: a small building two storeys high with a sloping roof. Inside the walls are lined with nesting boxes for the meat supply.
We rejoined the coastline at Buddo Rock, another sandstone sculpture that put yesterday's caves at Cailpie to shame. Beyond the path got muddier and slipperier, with a number of climbs to the top of the cliffs. The geology remained fascinating, with plenty of stacks and isolated rock structures to look at, many of them named on the map such as the Rock and Spindle which to us looked more like a steam locomotive.
Eventually we reached St Andrews. Following the most coastal road meant we saw little of the town, instead passing by numerous college buildings before reaching the clubhouse of the Royal and Ancient.
Emma and I left Mum in a coffee shop in town while we zipped along the last five miles to Leuchars. The route we took was the surfaced cycle path that runs alongside the A91 and A919 through Guardbridge. The rain began to fall and the wind picked up once again, so there's not much to report.