I Went and Did it Again …

… I set off on a “bracing coastal walk skirting the swirling sea that can be enjoyed at any time of the year” … sounds lovely doesn’t it?  Well at least it sounds poetic and romantic – it was a cliff path for goodness sake – it scares me – even if it is tarmac instead of dirt!

I hopped on a 44 to get part way along Victoria Park in Arbroath and set off from this point – looking back at the Harbour in this picture.

The tide was well out and not due to be high until around 3pm.  I walked along a path at this level which leads directly to the cliff path. As usual I had done a deal with myself – I was only going to look and if the path wasn’t suitable I wasn’t going – but once I started I had to keep going forward!  I passed a farm where we had stayed for Christmas 2004 – Dog was still a pup then!  It was sad to see that progress has been in the form of a housing estate springing up right across the road from the farm which had stood in splendid isolation.

The path was indeed a nice level tarmac path and a good width – I stood aside (on the sea side of the path) to allow a man on a mobility scooter to return to Arbroath so that lets you have an idea of how wide and level it was.  As I set off forward I couldn’t see the composition of the cliffs – or I might not have started.   They are described as being red sandstone – but in truth they look more like clay with pebbles layered in it!

Nevertheless there are some spectacular natural features created by the power of the sea and I did photograph a few where I didn’t have to go any closer to the edge.  Seaton Cliffs are popular but also regularly in the local paper for people being injured or killed whilst walking or fishing there.  As you go along there are these AS marker posts – intended to help the Coastguard locate people if there is an emergency.  I used this as a mental distraction, ensuring I remembered which was the last one I passed.

There were a good few other walkers and runners on the path today and I carry two mobile phones with assisted GPS (accurate to 10m), as well as a whistle,  a compass, a swiss army pocket toolkit, my camera and my glasses – so I have things I could use to create a signal of some sort on a bright day at least; however I was walking alone and one has to be prepared and be responsible so remembering the numbers was part of that.

Pigeons roosting on the cliff

SWT map showing ‘closed’ sections of the path

Dickmont’s Den

To me that looks more like a fjord – but anyway time for another of those – what does that place name word mean?

Modern English den comes from Middle English den (13th century), from Old English denn (before 12th century). The word is akin to Old English denu (“valley”) and Old High German tenni (“threshing floor”).

The original meaning of den is the lair of a wild animal (c. 1000).

A hollow or a cavern, that is, a type of place often used as an animal lair, is a den (before 1300).

In British, especially Scottish, dialect, a narrow ravine or a deep hollow between hills is a den (1552).

Modern English dene (pronounced deen) comes from Middle English dene, from Old English deneand denu (both before 12th century). The word is akin to Old English denn (“den”). A variant spelling since the 18th century is dean.

In British English, a deep, wooded valley, especially one with a stream flowing through it, is a dene(before 12th century).

Most of the places I know hereabouts called Den consist of  a narrow wooded valley with a burn running through

At the head of this Den I had my first chance to leave the path without going back.  The map on display showed two sections of the path as being closed because they were dangerous – the first being exactly where I was stood reading the notice and the path was not closed in anyway at all.  I decided to continue on the next little section because I knew there was another exit in a short distance.  I had spotted a fisherman sitting halfway down the cliff shortly before this and now I met the next mad human – running on the narrow path … yikes!

The path had narrowed on this section but it was still tarmac and there were several sections with gentle slopes down to the sea so I felt okay … until I met a line of runners coming the otherway!  There was not room for us all on the path so I stepped aside onto the grass.  Shortly afterwards I reached the next exit point and went to check the map on that – but it was unreadable!  I decided to go on with the next section because again I knew in a short distance there was an exit point and path through a Den.

This was possibly a step too far since the path quickly deteriorated.  Still tarmac it was covered in a layer of slimy cut vegetation and had some short but steep undulations.  There were some shallow steps which were not too bad but then I got to a part where the tarmac had collapsed leaving only a very narrow piece and then there was a hole in the tarmac which went a couple of foot down into the cliff – big enough to get a foot stuck in.

As you know I happily talk to people on my adventures but very occasionally I meet someone who makes me uncomfortable – today it had to be just after that scary piece of path.  He was sitting on a bench with his binoculars and to be honest there really wasn’t much in the way of bird activity!  I knew there were a couple just a short way behind me and I just wanted to get past him and off the path.

This was my exit route – looking down into Seaton Den from the wooden (slightly wobbly) bridge.  At the other side of the bridge I had the option of using paths around fields at the fruit farm and walking directly back to Arbroath or walking through the Den and joining either a path or a small road further up.  Although it was mostly quite dry underfoot it was quite challenging.  There was a thick carpet of leaves covering roots, stones and eroded paths.  I set a steady pace being sensible on slopes and soon forded the burn. A little further on was a pipe forming a wee bridge back across the burn.  Shortly after this had I looked to the right and up I would have seen the path heading back towards the cliff path and a path across the fields in a straight line.

I missed that and took a wrong path initially on up the valley.  Having turned back and forded the burn again I was faced with quite a steep little scramble with some quite tricky footing.  I made it to the top and then the path was much easier.  It was a challenge and two weeks ago I could not have done the scrambling and would have turned back and taken the easy route home.  It felt good after nearly a mile to reach the road knowing that I had only experienced one small half stumble.

Deep leaf litter – covering obstacles. The second time in a week I have seen a fresh bird egg on the ground. Either those babies are hatched too late in the year to survive … or Mother bird is laying at the wrong time surely?

I paused for a drink of water and to check whether there were any buses from Auchmithie; having discovered there is a bus roughly every two hours I decided to walk on the road to Auchmithie which is where the cliff path would have eventually taken me.

Along the cliffs from above Auchmithie Harbour

Seaton Cliffs – people live in houses built on this very crumbly looking cliff!

The cliff behind Auchmithie Harbour

Waves from the incoming tide battering the ruin of Auchmithie Harbour

So I did not complete the challenge of walking the whole cliff path – I got scared on that narrow, slimy, damaged section of path.  I am not downhearted; in fact that section that scared me is supposedly one of two that is closed! Even on the websites it says the path is closed but quite clearly it isn’t so someone needs to make their mind up and close those sections, with additional signage to alternative routes, or upgrade them.  Additional signage in Seaton Den wouldn’t go amiss either.

I am glad I went on to Auchmithie and now I know about those buses (although they are not on my Megarider ticket it was only £1.25 back to Arbroath) I have choices – I can either:

  1. Catch the bus to Auchmithie and walk the path from there to Seaton Den.  Taking either the farm track and then part of the cliff path or just the farm track and local road route back in to Arbroath; or
  2. Catch the bus to Seaton Den, walk down through the Den and pick up the path I missed this morning and walk to Auchmithie

In the nicer weather I would like to spend a little time on the accessible beaches/bays but that will have to wait until next year.

As I waited for the bus at Auchmithie I was talking with a man who had just walked the path and was returning to Dundee.  He said the path improved again after the horrid section and he wouldn’t want to bring his grandchildren on the cliff path; I suggested he might like to take them to Scurdie Ness.

I scared myself, I am proud of what I did achieve and I can go back to complete the walk anytime I like.  So what did you do to scare yourself out of ordinariness today?


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About nonehpets

I have an interest in how interior design and adapting a home to support living independently for longer can be complementary. The blog Life Long Design is part of an holistic plan for establishing a social enterprise which will offer the people of Tayside opportunities to explore Telecare and the wider scope of assistive technologies. Enabling individuals to make more informed and responsible choices in the care and support they need in their independent living. I am also keen to see public transport more widely adopted and sustainable rural bus services in particular supported. The Blog Travels with a Megarider shares my journey to find serenity in my life as I make that transition form employment to social entrepreneur. One of my methods in increasing serenity is to travel as many miles as I can on a fixed price bus ticket and explore my own local places of interest. Places that I used to go past and had never stopped to look at; places of peace and tranquility; places where I have had some wonderful conversations with complete strangers. I would like to share with you a response to when I described that one paragraph in an e-mail made it sound simple: "Believe me, Cathy, it does not sound simple. You are taking on an incredible challenge for all the right reasons. It is ambitious and admirable - the sort of project that can change lives, including yours." He is right it is ambitious but when did we every achieve anything by settling for the status quo and ignoring what doesn't work for people? So I would welcome your company from time to time on this journey either simply as a reader or if you are brave enough adding your own thoughts to the comments as you feel moved.

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