The Alternative John Muir Way majors on scenic value and a variety of obstacles to keep you alert through dunes, beach, cliffs, boulders, barbed wire and electric fence crossings, a fortified castle to storm, breaking wave-leaping and a long dark spiral staircase to climb. A big anticyclone provided perfect conditions with sunshine and a light sea breeze to start. 21 appeared for around 55km of running and/ or cycling with the usual off/ on road variations for the cyclists. Patricia and Richard swopped very attentive sag wagon services throughout the route, Mark James having collected the van for us before rushing off to Norway.
We faced a rising tide that was to present some interesting route-choices for the first 30km as the field kept splitting between boulder-hopping wave leapers and cliff-top scramblers. The sun, breeze and gently lapping waves provided a fantastic first leg to North Berwick during which we inspected East Lothian golf courses, Uri Geller’s island with spoon bending powers, a golf course ghetto fence with land grab and vandalism of sea buckthorn on a SSSI site, and forest demolition to make way for golfing villas as a contribution to East Lothian’s golf coast hedonism. These were amply compensated by the superb sandy coves and strands extending all the way to North Berwick.
The North Berwick Sea Bird Centre provided a welcome coffee stop and van support point before we resumed the journey up and down the cliffs past Canty Bay and the old Gin Head radar station to the moat creep to get past Tantallon Castle. The rising tide at the boulder beach shoreline option to Seacliffe forced us to stick to the cliff top until we were able to return to the shore below the old ruin of 1750 Seacliffe House. The closing tide trap at the Sphinx rock was easily passed by about half the group with the others taking to the cliff top. Progress to the Ravensheugh van rendezvous was straightforward thereafter along the edge of a pounding surf at the foot of the dunes. The passage past Ravensheugh Rock needed a brief sprint timed between waves crashing against the rock wall, or a detour over the top. Around the corner we were greeted by a synchronised rhythmic drumming group performing some kind of meditation ritual in the acoustic crag corner. One or two enjoyed a final full immersion with a quick swim before we collected bikes and drinks at the van.
With all these diversions we were half an hour behind programme and made a swift passage through Binning Wood to lunch at East Linton. Eric demonstrated the formidable performance of his electric-assist bike, powering it through Binning Wood like a Sherman tank through the Ardennes. At East Linton, Barbel, Heidi and Kara had a great spread waiting for us, plus a gymnastic display for further entertainment (except Barbel, too busy in the kitchen). The group tends to fragment more after lunch, with the end-to-end runners taking an early start for the bucolic River Tyne path, with cyclists breaking up into a road and an off-road group timing a later start aimed at catching the runners before the Hopetoun monument. Mark H decided that he needed to rest a few latent aches before the London Marathon and borrowed Barbel’s bike to finish the circuit, off road on a road bike. The ground was dry and he managed very well. Barbed wire and electric fences tend to thwart the pace of the cyclists on the final ascent to the Hopetoun monument.
After a final feed and drink at the van the downhill finish was weary but routine. We were all in, in both respects, by 6pm at the bay footbridge, with the sun sinking and the oyster catchers calling as the falling tide exposed their evening feed on Aberlady Bay. The only injuries were a few blisters and sunburn.
Thanks to Carnethy HR for food and transport costs, to all cake/ bread etc. contributors, and to Patricia, Richard and Mark (James) for driver services. There may be photos from others.
Featuring – Gio Macdonald, Dorothy and Billy Elliott, Patricia McMaster, Peter Buchanan, Nick Williamson, Chris Henty, Jeff Roberts, Lee Murphy, Richard Lathe, Mark Hartree, Gordon Eadie, Hilary Spenceley, Eric Brown, Brian Waldie, Brian Dempster