In the Mire
mire [maɪə]n1. (Earth Sciences / Physical Geography) a boggy or marshy area2. mud, muck, or dirtvb1. to sink or cause to sink in a mire2.(tr) to make dirty or muddy3.(tr) to involve, esp in difficulties[from Old Norse mȳrr; related to moss]mirinessnmiryadj
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003
So today started like every other Monday recently; Dog and I set out a little after 05:45 under a brilliantly star twinkling sky with just a hunt of fog hovering at lamp post height. I enjoyed the stars, Dog enjoyed sniffing and didn’t disgrace himself and we both enjoyed breakfast when we got back.
As I waited for the bus I genuinely had settled for having a short half day out and then coming home to do some applications. Weather Guru enquired as we approached Dundee whether I had something exciting planned and I replied “no, find a quiet bench and sit and read my book for a while, especially if the weather is like yesterday” … and I did mean that! It was still at that point what I intended to do.
For some inexplicable reason instead of crossing the road and heading for a 73 to go to Barn Hill, I got on the X7. There was no moment of shall I shan’t I – I just did it and an hour later I got off in Montrose. Between Dundee and Arbroath I had decided that today I would walk out to Scurdieness Lighthouse. I was so sure my weather forecast was good that I left the kite and my umbrella at home.
I caught the 47 bus round to Ferryden Pier – it doesn’t look like a pier though! And on alighting I immediately spotted Eider ducks. This is a drake and the duck is brown but much larger than the mallard we are more used to seeing in urban settings. It is interesting that I had heard a bird call earlier which I recognised but never known who was making the noise and apparently it was one of these! There were plenty of the ducks out round the coast fishing – fewer drakes.
Initially I walked along the little street above the quay and beach; most of the cottages which have very limited outdoor space have a little seating area on the front – many of them built like settles or tall pews and others were storing firewood; some of it obviously brought in on the tide. I found this a really charming little community and can well imagine the close knit hard working fisherfolk who built the original Ferryden.
I am not sure whether these lines are used for drying nets or whether they are the drying greens for the cottages’ laundry but they were a rather striking feature as was this huge tree section clearly washed up from the storms and now tethered on the beach.
I watched this trio of Oystercatchers – sitting hunched over like old judges and aware that a woman was walking along the beach with her dog. I knew they would take flight and I am really pleased with the photo I managed to grab as they did so! I gambled on them flying straight out from the beach and had the shutter held prefocused and then guessed when to press it right down.
Thank you to my unknown accomplice for helping set this shot up unwittingly.
Then I turned back a little to take the road up to the lighthouse. Since automation the lightkeepers accommodation has been sold and so the road is now a private driveway but visitors are welcome to walk along it. It is a mostly well kept tarmac lane and easy walking. It was misty this morning so the views were limited but on a good day they must be stunning. I was pleased that I was happy to look some way down to photograph little beaches and inlets and only had one wobbly moment and one other when I was frozen and had to tell myself outloud that I could “step back now” – I cannot explain to you, unless vertigo has affected you this was how big a change this is for me.
I recall including in a previous post the origin of the name Scurdieness – this is the volcanic rock that gives rise to the name – Scurdie
. IN the first image the rock has been used to build a stane dyke and it is colonised with a glorious variety of mosses, lichens and small plants – the texture of the surface allows them an easy foothold.
In the second example, on the beach, the texture of the rock is clear and you can see a chunk of some quartzite or agate type rock embedded within the volcanic rock. I could happily spend hours looking at and photographing these pebbly beaches.
So, so far so good. As I had walked towards the lighthouse I had been thinking how nice it would be to sit on a bench at the end of the road and read for a while before returning back and taking photos in the opposite direction. There was no bench – which is a shame – and nowhere that was really suitable to sit. I didn’t fancy a rocky scramble down to the small beach and the wee stone steps were narrow, steep and had no handrail whatsoever )I am not cured yet just starting the rehab!).
Then I saw this – the tattiest and yet most inviting little kissing gate ever – complete with a signpost telling me that Sandy Braes was 500m and the next destination 1200m, oh and a warning that there was livestock so dogs on leads.
Without over thinking it I found myself on the ‘wrong side’ of the gate. Now I need you to know I was not wearing walking boots – well I wouldn’t be if I planned to sit and read in the sunshine would I? I was wearing my latest pair of Fitflop sandals which are a lovely beige suedette. In fact when I bought them I was so concerned about the light colour I bought a cleaning kit and have been very impressed with how they have coped with some of the wet and sandy beach walks they have undertaken (including full immersion whilst paddling burns).
So there I am on this short, spring turf which is reasonably close cropped and even better the livestock droppings are clearly not fresh and are dried out. I tell myself I will just walk a short way, take a few photographs of the foreshore and perhaps see if there is a comfy rock to sit on for a wee while. The grass was still dewy so I had damp toes – but that is fine. Still no sign of any livestock but then I find their tracks – carved deep into the mud right across the narrow way through.
I clambered slightly inelegantly down onto a pebbly slope and then across some flattish rocks … I was about to turn back when I saw that I could get right along flat rocks, across some pebbles and bypass the muddy bit – so I did. I went a wee bit further and found another muddy bit. I thought about turning back but by now the scramble over the rocks was a bigger obstacle in my mind that this mud. This time I balanced along the green islands in their tracks and got almost to the other end; then I needed to clamber down onto another pebbly beach. It was a bit of a step down onto damp grass so I was sensible – I turned round and went down backwards (do I hear you laughing – is that not how we taught our weens (bairns/small children) to safely navigate stairs? well isn’t it?). Then I slid down the next bit on my bum – there was a faint ripping sound but that is no worries, being colder weather I am layered up and had leggings under my jeans.
I looked ahead and could see no further obstacles. So I carried on (well I definitely was not going back now). Unfortunately there was another mud patch. This time I was really brave – I jumped a wee burn and then balanced along the edge of a small cliff – okay it was only about 3 foot high and it was pebbles below but even so – that was a scary thing for me. This is patch number 3 and I walked on the bright green strip along the edge above the beach.
And it was all worth it for this view of the lighthouse and these stacks on the shore.
So now I got to a kissing gate (without a gate) … they are not made for large people with backpacks on – and for a brief moment I did think I had got stuck; maybe that would have been a good thing. As I looked across the little headland and bay I could see the mud churners … black and white cattle gathered in the field below their farm. I briefly considered turning round – not because cows scare me but because I did not wish to cause them any distress. But really how much worse could it be if I continued?
I had to take several detours to avoid their bits of cow churned bog but eventually got down onto the beach and washed my feet and shoes in a wee burn. I stood on a rock for a moment to dry off and then considered my route. The ruined Mill I wanted to see was across in the next field – but there was a fence across the beach. I went around the beach and field edge giving the cattle plenty of space and they really seemed pretty unconcerned.
I photographed the Mill and pulled up the walk instructions on my phone. Now these were for travelling in the opposite direction and they told me that after coming between the ruined buildings I would see a rusty white gate – I could see several gates but none fitting this description! Looking at that second photograph the ground doesn’t look too churned does it?
I could do one of three things – paddle though liquid dung to that boundary which looked quite dry; return some way back and once well past the herd pick my way up the field going round their churned up tracks; or walk up that piece of grass using the islands in the churned stuff like I did previously. I put the camera strap round my neck and over my shoulder; zipped my phone in my gilet pocket and went for option 3.
I was doing okay an had covered about 3/4 of the distance when a tussock gave more than I anticipated. The next was worse but I was committed and didn’t want to stop … then one shoe stuck a little … then the other … and then I was on my knees in the mire! Sorry I did not stop to take pictures.
I was quickly able to stand back upright but my shoes were now stuck in the mire behind me so I did the only thing I could do … I gathered them up and paddled the rest of the way bare footed. I didn’t dare turn around but I swear there was giggling coming from the herd behind me. Before anyone says about cows being dangerous and stamping on people – yes it has happened occasionally – but usually where calfies are involved and this herd were heifers. I had considered the mood of the herd for sometime before approaching and amazingly I was actually really calm when I went down.
I did not stop to check the colour of the nearest gate; I eased the sprung latch and popped through carefully closing and securing it behind me. Then I stood on the grass and tried to clean my feet. I have a spare pair of old fitflops in my back pack every day (ideal for beach yomps) so the now not very beige pair were packed in a plastic bag and stowed. There was nothing I could do to clean off my jeans but I had some wipes and my bottle of water to clean the worst off my feet before sticking them in the replacement sandals.
Just to prove that not only were the heifers laughing at me – they must have been beaming the story around the world – within 5 minutes of leaving that field I received an e-mail from … MOO.com … actually I would love to enter their MOO awards but since my business isn’t started yet I will have to hope they run it again in future …
I did take this photo with the phone and send my daughter a text to say “perhaps I should have turned back at the first cow bog instead of falling into the fifth one while they laughed at me!”
It was only mud … no poo and it was only on the front of my jeans, around the hems and on my feet. My hands were muddy but there was nothing above the wrist or on my top half. There was something incredibly liberating about walking up that farm track caked in mud and feeling really blase about it all! I knew my leggings were damp around the knee and I knew they wouldn’t be happy for me to board a bus with wet muddy jeans so I walked most of the 2.4 miles back to Ferryden as I was. Just before the village I stripped off my jeans and shoved them in a plastic bag in my pack and tied my neon green shell jacket round my waist and pulled down my fleece layer and my gilet zipped up. I felt naked … but the people I met along the way, on the bus and in Montrose didn’t bat an eyelid. I am not sure whether they assumed I had been running or something or whether we have just become accustomed to scantily clad people on our streets.
Anyway I felt very self conscious so I called into a high street chain and bough a new pair of jeans (I was heading towards needing some anyway because all this exercise is changing my shape – but it was an expense I could have done without for a few weeks). I just had 5 minutes spare before the X7 back to Dundee. The X7 and the 20 don’t quite mesh so I had almost an hour – but that was enough time to find a bench in the sun to eat the salad I had for lunch and to go get a take away latte.
Back at the bus station a young man approached me to ask if I was waiting for the X7 to Arbroath; then he wanted to know what I had been doing, then he told me what he had been doing before asking me about my muddy feet!
The 20 was delayed; another group of bingo buddies were pleased to see me – they have missed me the past few weeks apparently so we had a natter. When the bus arrived the driver (not one of the local team) got off and went to the office without a word. Eventually he headed back, stopping to chat with another driver. This riled the queue because it is a busy journey at that time and before loading h was already 5 minutes late. He muttered that he hadn’t gone for a cup of tea but that the bus had a broken headlight and he had been trying to phone about it. Why did he not say that before he disappeared and everyone would have been more patient; a little bit of information and old fashioned civility cost nothing to offer and go along way in creating loyal customers!
Safely home – eventually (almost 20 minutes late) it was time for hot soapy water for my feet to soak in; a washing machine for the jeans and my Fitflops are now beige again having been scrubbed – but will be wet for a day or two. I must mind and ask Weather Guru if he would mind laughing at me next time I say I will sit on a bench and read quietly.
Despite getting very muddy feet and knees today I have:
- Walked 6 miles with less pain;
- Realised that my strength and stamina is improving (for example two weeks ago if I had needed to step up a 25cm high ledge of grass from pebbles – I would have had to use my hands to steady myself -today I just stepped up several times all on my right foot – the one with the weak ankle;
- Problem solved and used different solutions;
- Thoroughly enjoyed myself and would do the whole walk again tomorrow – with boots on though!
- Was spontaneous and took risks – not things that I recognise myself being comfortable with; although others think I do it regularly;
- Did not sit on a bench and read!
I will go back to that route again at some point and will definitely go explore those volcanic rock pebble beaches. Oh and don’t worry about laughing about me being in the mire – I am laughing too so you are laughing with me rather than at me and laughter is so good for us.