Seizing the day

Although this continues to be a terrible period for many people, the vaccines and the lockdowns seem to be giving the people in Edinburgh an opportunity to reclaim their city for a while. Last week I realised that I may never see places like the Royal Mile without crowds again, so I have been exploring the old town and added some short central walks to my City Strolls on Viewranger / Outdooractive.

I hope you will enjoy these short walks as the restrictions are lifted from tomorrow. Remember to follow the guidelines and leave no trace.

Rosie 🌹

Walking on the Wild Side

For out of town readers, Edinburgh and most of Scotland is in full lockdown again. All residents must stay at home and only go out for essential journeys and local exercise. I would like to assure readers that ALL photos posted since the first lockdown, and any posted in the coming weeks, are taken during permitted exercise in my local area, as I don’t have a car, and haven’t used buses for quite a while.

As a distraction, these are some pics of the city gradually being reclaimed or re-wilded by nature, as ground maintenance contracts ground to a halt last Spring. I have found something uplifting about watching this process and seeing the distinction between town and country blurring just a little.

Please stay as safe as you can and follow the guidelines. 🌹

Exploring Edinburgh

Although these are strange and difficult times, there is some consolation in having the time to explore Edinburgh more – away from the main thoroughfares. It is a such a good way of getting to know and love my new home, as well as keeping things in perspective.

Locked Down in Lothian

I feel quite bonded to my local community and environment in Edinburgh after over a year and a half of living here, and 10 weeks of lockdown. Although there are many people and things I have missed during this time, three things I don’t miss are cars, motorbikes and planes. I have not experienced air quality like this since I was a child, and I will be very sad when all the motor vehicles return to the roads and the planes to the air. If only this could be a catalyst for real change instead of just a temporary suspension, our quality of life would be so much better.

Anyway, I kept a photo diary as a way to remember my lockdown in years to come. These are a few images from my one hour walks, which are to be increased from tomorrow in Scotland. I found a surprising amount of variety in my small patch of land.

Although I have been lucky enough not to need the services of the NHS so far, I would like to thank the shop workers at my local shops, my postal workers, delivery people and refuse collectors, who have kept my world turning in such important ways. My sincere condolences to anyone who has lost loved ones.

Exploring my neighbourhood

In 2015 I had to compromise all my adventure plans and explore what was on my doorstep due to family responsibilities, dreadful public transport and lack of resources. As a lover of wild places it was hard not to view this as a demotion. Following 5 long distance trails and 15 years of walking in some of Britain’s least populated hills in Northumberland and the Scottish Borders, it is easy to become a bit of a purist.

Heading inland along the banks of the Tyne towards North Shields
Heading inland along the banks of the Tyne towards North Shields

I was trying to expunge my urban roots after a long spell living in London, but some people have reminded me that there are things see and some valuable wild space in large cities if you know where to look.

Newcastle Quayside from the Millennium Bridge
Newcastle Quayside from the Millennium Bridge

Inspired by some groups trying to create National City Parks in London and Glasgow, and by Alastair Humphreys promoting the idea of finding do-able adventures on your doorstep, I have been exploring my local area a bit.

North Shields Fish Quay Area
Union Quay by North Shields Fish Quay

I thought I knew this area so well that it had nothing to teach me.

Bolam Coyne in the Byker Wall development by Ralph Erskine
Grade 2 Listed Bolam Coyne in the Byker Wall development by Ralph Erskine

For those of us who live in cities, we either discount this kind of walking and sit at home reading other people’s wild adventures, or we get out and explore wherever we find ourselves.

A Tyneside Nanoadventure

This microadventure could more aptly be described as a nanoadventure really. It involved a modest attempt at creating a short route, rather than following somebody else’s route from a book or website. My short tick-list stipulated that it must be local, accessible by public transport and interesting, preferably involving some places I hadn’t been before. The final result is also on YouTube and ViewRanger / Outdooractive now if you would like to give it a go.

For me a great walk should always involve a good beginning and a good finish, rather than just going from Place A to Place B. I opted for going from St Mary’s Lighthouse in Whitley Bay to North Shields Fish Quay, both notable landmarks on the north east coast which I hadn’t been to before. The distance of my short but varied walk was roughly 5 miles, with plenty to see and do plus some decent cafes and bars – both worthwhile features to incorporate into a walk.

St Mary's Lighthouse
St Mary’s Lighthouse

Traces of history and heritage are everywhere along this stretch of the coast. Tynemouth Castle is located on a rocky promontory overlooking Tynemouth Pier. Apparently the moated towers, gatehouse and keep are combined with the ruins of the Benedictine priory where early kings of Northumbria were buried.

Tynemouth Castle and priory
Tynemouth Castle and priory

Whitley Bay and Tynemouth were popular resorts in the age before international travel became available to ordinary people. Now the fascinating relics of that time have been left to dissolve slowly back into the landscape. There are old paddling pools and swimming pools gradually filling with sand, rotting beach huts and corroded iron railing lining the empty esplanades. At the time of writing, Whitley Bay would almost qualify as an English ghost town.

Remains of an open air swimming pool at Tynemouth
Remains of an open air swimming pool at Tynemouth

I tried to keep away from the roadside development and to stay on the beach and the esplanades, which give a much greater insight into the history of the area. Although they have faded, I noticed that rock pooling has replaced the rides and candy floss sellers along the coast when I was young.

Rockpooling on the coast near Whitley Bay
Rockpooling on the coast near Whitley Bay

I carried on past Tynemouth Castle and around the corner into the River Tyne. This is the main artery of the city, but I had actually never visited the mouth of the river.

The mouth of the River Tyne from the north bank near North Shields
The mouth of the River Tyne from the north bank near North Shields

Here the atmosphere imperceptibly changes from faded seaside resort to the modern day hustle and bustle of a busy river, with ferries plying to and fro, a lifeboat station poised for action, fish processing plants, smokehouses and dock buildings gradually increasing in density towards North Shields Fish Quay a mile or so inland.

Heading inland along the banks of the Tyne towards North Shields
Heading inland along the banks of the Tyne towards North Shields

On this short walk, I learned a lot about the economic and social past of this area. I also mixed with the ghosts of childhood trips to the seaside which littered parts of this route for me.