Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Aberlady - Out on the bay

Winter is when I always find myself at Aberlady Bay. In the cold months the shallows and mudflats are picked over by thousands of waders, constantly moving and probing. There is always something to see. The calls of curlews can be heard as well, carried on stiff winds that clip the small trees and bushes into eastwards straggling topiary. And at dusk the skies fill with noisy winter geese, their neat skeins silhouetted against golden clouds.

A walk to the bay starts at the old wooden bridge that crosses the river. It has weathered into its position over the years and the elements have faded the wood so it looks like old bone. I look down between the slats and today, after the rains, the water is fast and muddy, the colour of a strong white tea.

On the other side of the bridge the trail passes through dense thickets of sea buckthorn. It forms a tunnel around the path and even on the wildest day, it blocks the wind. Small unseen birds twitter deep inside. In winter the sea buckthorn is covered with dazzling orange berries and today they contrast with a blue sky above.

Beyond here the trail opens out onto grasslands and dunes and big skies. The grasses catch the peachy winter sunlight and bend and sway in the wind. The path climbs over the dunes and drops steeply to the vast sandy beach. In places the sand is scoured smooth by the wind and in other places it's rippled by the receeding tide.

The biting cold winds push frothy white waves into shore and the sea is turbulent and wild. Across the water to the north is the dark outline of the low hills of Fife. To the west the Edinburgh hills, Arthur's Seat and the Pentlands, are hazy in the golden light of the sinking sun.

Fact File
Start/finish: Aberlady
Transport: Bus 124/x24 from Princes Street to Aberlady
Route: Get off the bus at the bus stop after the double bend on the main street and continue walking around the edge of the bay on the footpath beside the road. At a small car park which also has cycle parking, cross the wooden bridge over the river. Follow the main trail and at the first split stay left. At the next path junction take the track to the left towards the bay along the edge of a field and follow it to the beach. You can vary the return by taking one of the paths that leaves the beach over the dunes and returns to the bridge.

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