Friday, April 27, 2007

Walk 158 -- Cramond, via Forth Road Bridge, to North Queensferry

Ages: Colin was 64 years and 354 days. Rosemary was 62 years and 131 days.
Weather: Sunny and bright, but a cold North wind.
Location: Cramond, via the Forth Road Bridge, to North Queensferry.
Distance: 7 miles.
Total distance: 1310 miles.
Terrain: Grassy paths, cinder tracks and tarmac. Mostly flat.
Tide: In, going out.
Rivers: No.84, Cockle Burn. No.85, the Firth of Forth.
Ferries: None.
Piers: None.
Kissing gates: None.
Pubs: ‘The Ferry Tap’ in Queensferry where we drank Ferry Tap Ale and An Teallach Ale.
‘Historic Scotland’ properties: None.
Ferris wheels: None.
Diversions: None.
How we got there and back: We were staying in a holiday cottage at Grantshouse. With an empty bike rack on the back of the car, we drove to Musselburgh where we picked up Colin’s bike — it was still there unscathed. We also did some shopping, and I tripped over a kerbstone bashing my knee and grazing my hands! I was determined to finish the planned Walks, so I took some painkillers and carried on. We drove to Lowood where Colin dropped me off. I walked slowly down to Cramond Bridge and recced out the way we would have to go in order to get back to the coast on the other side of the ferry. Then I sat on a wall to rest my knee which was bruised and aching. Meanwhile Colin drove to Queensferry and parked for free under the Forth Road Bridge. He cycled back to me, but found it hard going as there was a lot of uphill. He padlocked his bike to a fence, then we walked down a gated track to the ex-ferry-keeper’s cottage.
At the end we stopped at the car as we passed to have a cup of tea from our flask. Then we crossed the road bridge — triumphantly — into Fife! We then had to walk back across the bridge. We treated ourselves to another cup of tea before driving back to our cottage, stopping to pick up the bike on the way. The next day we drove home to Malvern. That took us seven hours — it would have been ten hours if we still lived in Bognor!

Special note: During our two week stay in Scotland we never once had to pay to park our car!

Well done the Scots!

I was right about Colin’s bike! When we reached Musselburgh this morning, with the bike-lock key safely in Colin’s pocket, there it was still padlocked to its post as we had left it, apparently untouched. I bet no one even noticed it was there! I then had to go and slip over in one of my stupid accidents, didn’t I? The grazing on my hands was only slight, but my left knee was quite painful. I was absolutely determined to do today’s Walk because we planned to cross the Forth Bridge, a very significant milestone. I think I would have done it on crutches if necessary! But it wasn’t as bad as that. I took plenty of painkillers during the day, and tried to forget about it.
We had to find our way from Cramond Bridge down to the old ferry house on the west bank of the River Almond before we could start today’s Walk. It was just over a mile along a gated track and through woods. It wasn’t signposted at all, and we got the impression that the locals would rather people forgot about it. They hadn’t banked on my determination! They can’t put
PRIVATE KEEP OUT notices everywhere as in England because all paths and tracks are open access in Scotland, except through what is obviously a private garden. And that is what the owner of the ferry cottage seems to be establishing — because new trees have been planted round the property (they were still in plastic tubes) blocking off the path which used to lead from the ferry. It all seemed very final — so much for the coastal path!
Anyway, we were there. The path itself was pleasant and well maintained. It led through woods just above the top of the beach, so we had our two favourite walking environments combined. We had glorious views across the Firth of Forth from between the trees. Pity about the constant noise of jets taking off and landing at nearby Edinburgh Airport, pity about my aching bruised knee, and pity about the bitter North wind which froze us to the bone — Spring had sprung, the leaves were out, the flowers were blooming, the birds were singing and we were happy!
We came to a junction of the paths, where a track led inland from the coast path. A home-made notice was strategically placed for people coming in the other direction saying “NO FERRY” and “EXIT – CRAMOND BRIDGE” with lots of arrows pointing inland. It looked as if it had been written in biro, and was very difficult to read. For people coming down the track from Cramond Bridge (we had diverted through the woods further back in order to start our Walk at the riverside) there was a much more official public notice. It announced this was a “SHORE WALK” — eastwards it pointed to “CRAMOND FERRY” and westwards to “QUEENSFERRY”. So this is an official public footpath after all, up until then we felt we were creeping across private land and only being tolerated because it is the law. We sat on a grassy bank to eat our pies, as by then we were quite hungry.
We didn’t tarry long because the wind was bitter, despite the bright sunshine. This was such a lovely path through the woods, and if we walked quickly we could almost get warm. We saw lots of flowers, butterflies and birds, but the best thing was the dappled sunshine filtering through the trees. It really made us feel good to be alive! Sometimes we were almost at beach level, and sometimes we were taken much higher up to avoid rocky outcrops.
We came to Cockle Burn where there was a wooden seat and swans in the stream. It was idyllic! A footbridge took us across the burn, and we could see Barnbougle Castle in the distance. Our map told us it was restored, but we didn’t find out any more about it nor see it again. When we got up to it, we found locked gates and thick woods so we couldn’t even catch sight of it.
Before that we came to a private golf course which was being set up for a gymkhana at the weekend. The grass was mown and we completely lost the path, so we just bumbled our way through where we thought we ought to be going and nobody who saw us seemed to mind. We passed Dalmeny House, a large manor house whose sumptuous gardens we were walking through. We kept our distance from the House, but we still seemed to be walking across their front lawn! Jets were streaming across the sky making a heck of a racket. Manor House or not, if you live near an airport you just have to put up with it. (I did, throughout my childhood in Farnborough, Hampshire, but now I like my peace and quiet.)
Then we found the track again which led us through more beautiful woods. We felt more comfortable when we were out of sight of the buildings.

Eventually we rounded a Point and were immediately out of the wind — bliss! The difference in temperature was quite startling. We also caught tantalising glimpses of the Forth Railway Bridge through the trees — it was very exciting!
We saw a tanker berth out in the Firth of Forth, but no ships at it today. Our track led us past three concrete notices telling us we were crossing a “BP PIPELINE” so there was to be “NO EXCAVATION”. Without excavating anything, we carried on along the track until eventually the famous Forth Railway Bridge was revealed in all its glory, a magnificent sight! That was our goal for this series of Walks — to hike across the road bridge which is just beyond it.
We came through a yard and on to a road directly under the railway bridge. It is well used — there were frequent trains, some with strings of trucks. It is good to see freight being moved by train — keeps the lorries off our overcrowded roads.
We walked through Queensferry, a small town situated on the south bank of the Firth of Forth, mainly between the two bridges. It is a quaint little town with cobbled streets and a Victorian pillar box which we were disappointed to see was blocked off. So now it is there for ornament only, like a museum piece. (In Malvern we have at least two Victorian pillar boxes, and they are in daily use as intended when they were put in place.) We had to call in at ‘The Ferry Tap’ ale house, of course, for refreshment — after all it is a CAMRA pub.
Then we walked under the road bridge to the harbour car park where Colin had left the car this morning. But that wasn’t the end of the Walk. We had a cup of tea, and donned several more layers of fleece etc under our coats — we knew it was going to be bitterly cold up on the bridge. Then we found our way, by devious means, up on to the road bridge — it wasn’t obvious or easy. Tucked under the bridge is an old toll house surrounded by parked cars, it looked a bit out of place in this modern world.
There is a walkway across the bridge so it was quite legitimate us being up there. It was just finding the way up that had been difficult. But we were triumphant! We didn’t mind the biting wind because the sun was shining, the views were spectacular, and we had walked there along the coast from Bognor Regis every inch of the way! We stopped a couple who were walking their dog the other way and asked them to take a photo of us. They were very willing, but hadn’t a clue. The man tried twice, but both times managed to chop our heads off. So the woman, who was holding a doggy poo bag, took over. Her efforts weren’t much better, so we thanked them kindly and walked on. Fortunately we met a runner further on, and he did know how to use a camera so we got the picture we wanted. (We just can’t understand how some people can make such a pig’s ear of taking a simple photo when there are large clear screens on the backs of cameras these days. They can’t look at it, and just point the camera anywhere squeezing the shutter whilst hoping for the best.)
The railway bridge looked great from up there, even though some of it was covered in scaffolding and what looked like white plaster. (It looked as if it was being mended with Blu-Tack!) The cantilever bridge is a magnificent example of Victorian engineering, and is in constant daily use to this day. Despite needing constant maintenance, it is lasting longer than the road bridge we were walking over. Recently it has been discovered that the thousands of wires which make up the cables of this suspension bridge are snapping due to rust! There is nothing they can do to mend the ones that have already broken. If they can’t stop the rot, the bridge’s days are numbered. By 2014 it will be restricted to cars only, and by 2018 it will be closed altogether! There are no plans to build a new one, and judging by the amount of traffic using it while we walked across, it’s closure will have a devastating effect on the local economy. All they seem to be doing at the moment is using little microphones to listen to the wires snapping so they can calculate the rate at which it is happening.
We walked just to the other side, over some houses which have been built almost directly underneath the bridge! It looked like a luxury estate and fairly new — what a place to choose to live! The noise and lack of privacy would send me bananas!
We stopped at a foundation stone unveiled by the Queen when she opened the bridge in September 1964. Just three weeks previous to that, we had been in Scotland on holiday with my parents and some of my brothers and sisters. (Colin and I were newly engaged at the time, but we didn’t get married for another two years.) We toured Scotland in an old Bedford van, storing our tent and camping equipment on the roof. On reaching Queensferry, we crossed the Firth of Forth by car ferry. I remember we admired the magnificent new bridge which was about to open, and I also remember the ferryman bemoaning the fact that he would be out of a job in three weeks time. I don’t think a little ferry boat will suffice when the bridge closes in 2018 — times have changed somewhat.
We decided to end the Walk there, but Colin scooted up 109 steps (he counted them) to get a better view of the bridge we had just crossed, because it was a bit obscured by bushes and trees where we were standing. Now that we are over the Firth of Forth and in Fife, we feel we are really in Scotland!
That ended Walk no.158, we shall pick up Walk no.159 next time by the foundation stone on the north side of the Forth Road bridge. We walked back across the bridge and returned to the car in the harbour car park. There we had another cup of tea from our flask before driving back to our cottage in Grantshouse, stopping at Cramond Bridge to pick up the bike on the way. The next day we drove home to Malvern, and already it really feels like home. It took us seven hours — it would have been another three hours if we’d had to drive on to Bognor!

No comments: