Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Prestonpans to Musselburgh. Last Section of Day Walk.

                                               ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN.
This is the last section of my day walk from Seton Sands to Musselburgh. It was action packed with many points of interest, hence splitting it into three different parts. This is the sea wall at Prestonpans, guarding the town from the winter storms that batter this coastline on occasions. At low tide you can walk under it easily enough but the tide was still coming in when I arrived here so I was in two minds whether to go for it or not. Be very embarrassing if I got stranded halfway around, cut off by the waves. As I still had my boots on and dry socks in my rucksack I decided to attempt it quickly before it got any higher. This section, facing the sea, used to have good murals along it but they have been washed off. It's over ten years since I last visited this area, by bike.
The next stretch was the most committing, no high crashing waves to deal with just slippy rocks and knee deep wading in places but I managed to get past to safe ground again. I may not be rock climbing, back packing or caving anymore but I do manage occasional modest thrills when the mood takes me.
At this point I doubled back inland to find some more murals- this time in the local park. More modern themes here- travel. It looks like children's work but given a choice between children's art exhibits and modern art displays I've seen in various galleries the children are streets ahead.
According to the info this was local primary school children but there's a strong hint of Gustav Klimt during his Gold Leaf Period in this so maybe teacher had a hand as well, suggestion wise. Klimt was apparently influenced by the work of Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh, Charles Rennie's artist wife who exhibited in Vienna in 1900 and created a stir with her elaborate, highly detailed, nature art. It may just be my imagination or a gifted young pupil but there's a level of sophistication in this particular panel at odds with the age group and the rest of this mural. Or that's my take on it anyway.
The other panels are done in a similar style but not as refined or as obviously artistic in general concept.
A mural of the town, also found in the local park. Preston Tower and Cockenzie's coal fired Power Station in the background. If you ever visit Prestonpans don't worry - still dozens of new murals to find and see.
Coal Mine, Gothenburg Public House and Totem Pole in this one. Also children's play area.
And this is it here.
Wildflower borders also adorn the park and surrounding district but funnily enough I didn't spot a single bee, wasp or butterfly on any of these patches. Maybe it was the strong constant wind, although this park is sheltered, the late season- end of September- or some other factor but it seemed strange with such a rich abundance of flowers to be so bare of insects.
All over this east coast district, roundabouts, grass verges, and parks are awash with colourful strips like these so you would think they would be teaming with life. On three separate visits in September though I've not seen much- maybe with such a good prolonged summer, especially on the already sunny east coast, everything has already hatched, mated and died by this point.
This stretch of the John Muir Way between Prestonpans and Musselburgh feels more open with acres of grassy meadows and very few trees. It wasn't always like this though. Look at this picture above with this rectangle of scrub border. It's been left that way for a reason.
Morrison's Haven. Same place up until the 1960s when it was filled in. The sea edge is now fifty paces further away to the left. In it's time it was a busy port, large enough to rival Leith docks and closer to the coal fields. It was only after the Second World War it went into decline after 600 years of use.
This is an enjoyable stretch on a good day, cycling or walking, but lacking much shelter if foul weather conditions are encountered.
The view in the other direction looking towards Musselburgh. The faded sign below says Danger. Active Lagoon. Keep Out. It would have been liquid under this metal walkway ten years ago- a lake of mud and water. Now solid, safe to walk on, and taken over by weeds.
When I first came here, over a decade ago, it was filled with several active ash lagoons, Large reservoir sized shallow lakes filled with ash waste piped in from Cockenzie Power Station. At the time it was built in the 1960s it was the largest coal fired power station in the UK and its bulk and soaring twin chimneys dominated the small town beside it and the coastline for many miles around. I remember being very impressed by its size cycling towards it and also stunned by the visual impact of the ash lagoons. The coal waste had to go somewhere so it was dumped here in large settling ponds. Uniformly grey, lifeless, and barren they were a sight to behold- like discovering an entire alien planet from a science fiction film set plopped down near Edinburgh. I was completely entranced by them as these vast lagoons were like nothing I had ever seen before in Scotland and probably never will again. Mordor made visible and in the middle of all this dark satanic waste an ash mountain rose up like a towering pit bing. My very own Mount Doom. All it needed was lava pouring out of it to be perfect.  Naturally, I had to climb it.
This was the view over ten years ago from the halfway rim with the bulk of ash mountain still to climb surrounded by the largest lagoon. A sizable river of thick silt pours into this mud basin... the outflow from the power station several miles distant. A few warning signs but no fences, barriers, or obstructions to keep you out. The mud looked fairly deep in these lagoons  but I wasn't stupid enough to try it out. I really should have used a stick to find out in retrospect just how deep it was though, if only for research purposes, but I didn't have one handy and I was just blown away by the sheer scale of this place. I raved about it afterwards to anyone that would listen, and described the unique atmosphere of this place to my friends but as usual they were not interested at all and only cared about normal hills and this one wasn't on any lists. True pioneers walk a singular path I often find. The road less travelled. This was before the John Muir Way even existed as a long distance walk so I never met a soul here apart from a few locals.
It was a very special area to me though so it was with some sadness and regret that I traced out all that remained of the settling lagoons. The edge of one of the ponds here. In the far distance is the start of this day walk at Seton Sands where my morning began.
The main settling pond- now dried out and overgrown with weeds. Although high on the scale for harmful emissions and pollution it did feel like visiting a mighty fallen beast where only some of the bones are left visible and intact, half buried in the ground. Although green friendly the modern gas turbine replacement version situated nearby was low slung, modern, modest and drab in scale... and never even merited a photo attempt from me. I assumed that was what I was looking at as a replacement but was so underwhelmed by its blandness in the landscape I never even detoured out of my way to find out as it was extra mileage for what resembled low key ordinary industrial estate factory units. Just a box really with no interesting features.
Part of this former lagoon district however  is a nature reserve now and I did make a detour here to visit several shallow ponds filled with bird life. With the strong winds along the coast making sea conditions rough a large amount of waders preferred more sheltered conditions inland and this place fitted the bill perfectly with a surrounding belt of trees and several bird hides. Oyster catchers and geese here.
Redshank and sandpiper at a guess.
A wagtail chasing after flies.
And finally Musselburgh was reached where I got a bus back to Edinburgh... then one to Glasgow... then finally one back to my house. A 12 hour round trip in total and six different buses but so worth it. Musselburgh Race Course has existed since the early 1800s but it fell away and looked rather deserted during my first bike runs here. It's now been fully restored and has an active racing calendar again and full facilities. A nine hole golf course exists in the middle section, which is a bit of an oddity, with galloping horses racing around the oval on the outside. Dual purpose so very practical land use.
Musselburgh is worth a visit as well in its own right with a scenic harbour area, the River Esk as an attractive town feature, numerous local shops, and sands. Plenty of bees on these flowers. You can also walk along the shoreline here from Musselburgh to Portobello which is another fine walk of a few hours duration, mostly on pleasant beaches with enjoyable views.
 Musselburgh Harbour. Very glad to see it after a long day. Up at 7:00 am back in house by 7:00pm.

The End.


Linda W. said...

I liked all the artwork you found on this walk, especially the ones by the children.

Carol said...

Maybe the wasps, butterflies and bees didn't like the murals? ;-)

It's amazing what a good job nature does of reclaiming all our industrial sites - shame it will never be able to do the same for nuclear waste!

Andy said...

Fine finish to a great work. Whilst I despair sometimes at the casual disfiguration of the natural environment, some of the photos here remind that given time and a little encouragement and protection, nature is able to make a recovery

Anabel Marsh said...

Fabulous murals. That was interesting about the ash lagoons, I haven’t come across such things. I would lie to have seen them and had your before and after view. As someone else says, nature can regenerate itself.

Rosemary said...

I didn't know that Klimt was influenced by the work of Rennie Mackintosh and his wife. I have been their fan ever since I first discovered about them when I lived in Glasgow in the early 1960s. It may seem surprising, but back then if you mentioned their names, most people had never heard of them.

russell said...

As in my post about the Gothenburg pub, apologies if you know this already. The Musselburgh Old Links in the middle of the race course is perhaps the oldest golf course in the world.There are records proving it was in existence in 1672 but Mary Queen of Scots may have played gold here in 1567. The Open was played here 6 times between 1874 and 1889. The course is open to the public and an annual season ticket is £175.Over 60s can buy a 5 day annual ticket for £82. - Just under 40P a day!

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Linda.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Carol,
I think they are experimenting with certain fungus groups at the moment that 'eat' toxic waste and clean it- that may even include nuclear at some stage. They are also designing micro robots(still in early development currently )that will get even smaller- nano technology- and eventually down to 'programmed particles' tiny robots so small they tackle things at a molecular level so they might be an answer.
That used to be just science fiction like Michael Crichton's Prey novel( a terrific read by the way)but it is working its way towards reality year by year.

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Andy,
Hope for the future but it's getting hammered on so many different fronts at the moment with invasive species being high on the list in every country.

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Anabel, I used to have a full set of ash lagoon photos but lost most after a computer crash without any warning.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Rosemary,
Mainly influenced by his wife as they both created art with women as the central feature and CRM did not. You can see the difference in Klimt's early work then his work after seeing hers during his gold period as his females become less obvious and melt more into their intricate surrounding landscapes- so you have to search for them more. As far as I know she never really changed her own style that much but it was influential at that time on several different artists in Europe. Now sadly she is often just lumped in as 'Mackintosh's wife.' Several places I've been in hardly mention her contribution at all yet sometimes her panels are the best feature in the visited house to my tastes and very complex in design, patterns layered on exactly like icing sugar on a cake.

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Russell,
I did look it up to see if it was a 9 hole version but didn't know about the MQO Scots connection or the oldest course in the world. Some more East Coast adventures still to come.