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Tuesday, 14 April 2009

North Berwick

NORTH Berwick, not Berwick-on-Tweed! A couple of folk I talked to recently have thought I meant Berwick, but it is North Berwick, east of Edinburgh, on the coast of the Firth of Forth that I visited recently with my friend, Jean, who lives in a gorgeous little village not too far away from there.
Our plan was to have lunch together, and the surprise was that it was to be at her daughter, Mandy's pub! Now what I didn't know was that Mandy and her partner Richard had taken on the licence of the Ship Inn, just a few weeks before! (While most of the buildings in this photo are painted white, the Ship is the brown, unpainted building with the chairs and tables outside under the awning.)

We had a lovely lunch and chat with Mandy before she had to rush off to the Cash and Carry, for supplies. It must be very exciting for the two of them to be running their own business and I wish them both lots of luck, lots of returning customers, and a great life.

Later, Jean and I took a walk through the grounds of The Lodge, the white building you can see at the end of the road, and happened upon this wee guy up in a tree. He's a grey squirrel, an introduced species, that is threatening the survival of our native red squirrels - but isn't he bonnie! He sat and watched us watching him and very obligingly let me take several photos before taking off up into the higher branches and disappearing.

The Lodge is really a series of buildings of different eras, and although I don't know its history, I can tell you that it is now converted into residential apartments. I'd think it would be a nice, if not expensive, place to live, right in the centre of the town.

In the gardens at the back, quite accessible to anyone, there is an aviary full of budgeriegars and cockatiels. Here's Jean with some of the birdies!

This is another view from the gardens, of Berwick Law - law being a word for a hill in the south of Scotland. In its infancy, this area saw much volcanic activity, followed by an ice age that wore down the softer stone, leaving behind the harder volcanic plugs that formed the present day hill and some of the islands in the Firth of Forth, in an otherwise fairly flat landscape. If you click on the photo to enlarge it you will see on the top of the law, there is an arch that has stood there for many years, originally made from the jawbone of a whale. I can think of at least another three of these jawbone arches - very un-pc these days - that were erected probably in the Victorian era, though the original one here was much earlier, and is now a rather more pc version moulded in fibreglass.

From the lodge we walked back along the former town market place, Quality Street (past the Ship again), and into Victoria Street, heading for the harbour area, and the seabird centre,


announced by this gigantic Arctic tern on its pedestal!





Islands of the Firth of Forth






Looking along the west beach , where my sister and I played often as kids



The area around the harbour has changed a great deal throughout history, and a huge church once stood on land beside the sea.
All that remains today are some of the foundations and a small porch that probably only survived through being used in later days as a bothy and store for fishermen and their gear. At least half the church fell into the sea in the 17th century when storms eroded the land it stood on.


Out at sea to the right of the last photo is one of those volcanic plugs I mentioned earlier. This is the Bass Rock (Bass rhymes with mass in this instance), with its lighthouse and the biggest gannet colony in Europe, I believe. The seabird centre has CCTV cameras out there relaying live pictures of the gannet activity back to the Centre . Of course other seabirds also consider this "home" - colourful comic puffins and delicate little kittiwakes amongst them. The Bass also featured in Robert Louis Stevenson's novel "Catriona", in the Tale of Tod Lapraik. You will find a lot of information about the Bass on Wikipedia, which I find very interesting!

The Seabird Centre also boasts a rather nice cafe so Jean and I sat looking out to sea at a table by the large window drinking large cups of tea and scoffing scones, before we headed back to the car for the drive back to our respective homes! Another lovely day out - and as Jean said, it felt like a small holiday!
This last picture looks back to the town across the east sands, from the harbour. The white and blue building in the centre I remember as a cafe where we got our icecreams,sometimes sitting in, with a bowl of different flavoured ices, and sometimes taking away ice cream cones to eat on the beach, where they no doubt got sand blown onto them by the sea breeze. The little red roofed building to its right was a shop where you could buy spades and pails for playing in the sand, and fishing nets to catch the little flat flounders that wriggled under your feet as they tried to make themselves invisible in the sandy water's edge. At the edge of the beach here, was - and still is - a walled paddling pool, invisible when the tide is in but full of water when the tide has gone out, with wide walls that were fun to walk round. Before the Seabird Centre was built, there was an open air swimming pool built over the rocky promontary. That was my favourite place, being a real little water-baby early on in life! I recall a thunderstorm one day while I sat on the raft in the middle of the pool, totally unable to move from fear, and mum calling for me to swim over to the edge of the pool - no great distance - and come out and get dried! I am no better in thunderstorms these days than I was then! Oh, but what good memories I have of the North Berwick of my childhood.

Talk again soon.

1 comment:

Mardean said...

I love reading both of your blogs from here in New Hampshire (USA). Your description of North Berwick was fun to read, because every morning I check the online cameras of the Scottish Seabird Centre. Thank you for letting us "join" your travels and adventures.