Friday, June 29, 2007

Walk 162 -- Leven to Elie

Ages: Colin was 65 years and 52 days. Rosemary was 62 years and 194 days.
Weather: Mostly sunny with scudding clouds. Much warmer, but not exactly summery!
Location: Leven to Elie.
Distance: 10½ miles.
Total distance: 1353 miles.
Terrain: Some firm-sand beach walking, some dune-walking and some grassy/gravel path which is the Fife Coastal Trail. Undulating, especially towards the end.
Tide: In.
Rivers: No.90, Hatton Burn in Lower Largo. No. 91, Cocklemill Burn near Shell Bay.
Ferries: None.
Piers: None.
Kissing gates: No.140 as we left Lower Largo. No. 141 was further on towards Elie.
Pubs: The ‘Railway Inn’ in Lower Largo where Colin drank Harviston ‘Bitter & Twisted’ and Caledonian ‘Deuchars IPA’. I had ginger beer because I didn’t like either.
‘Historic Scotland’ properties: None.
Ferris wheels: None.
Diversions: None.
How we got there and back: We were staying in a holiday cottage in the village of Craigrothie. We drove to Elie where we parked in the village car park for free. In the High Street we caught a bus to Leven Bus Station, and walked the few yards to the seafront where we finished the last Walk. We were expected to pay 20p (that’s four shillings!) each to use the toilet at the bus station, but needs must at our age! (Colin refused — with his medical problem he simply can’t afford that kind of money — it would cost him several pounds a day! He went and found a municipal bush.)
At the end we walked up from the seafront to the village car park. After a couple of cups of tea, we went shopping in Leven for some essentials, then back to our cottage in Craigrothie.

I was back to my normal self today, no lasting effects from eating that rotten pasty. But when we arrived in Leven on the bus to start the Walk this morning, we both needed the loo. The only ones available were the bus station facilities where they were charging 20p — that’s four shillings each in old money!! I had to fork out because at our age, needs must. But Colin refused, and marched off to find a municipal bush down by the river. He said it was so secluded there I could have used it. Wish I had.
Feeling more comfortable, but quite angry, we began the Walk at 10.15. We started at the car park by the power station. It looked as if it was derelict, it was definitely an eyesore.
At the beginning of today’s Walk we had a similar experience to the last Walk — hoards of school-children on an outing to the seaside. (We think today is the last day of term in Scottish schools.) Today’s kiddies were much younger, nursery school age really, and were accompanied by lots of Mums to help out. Although the weather was warmer than it had been in previous days, most of them still felt it necessary to wear a coat. They were enjoying fairground rides on the prom in Leven. When we drove past there later in the day the ‘fair’ was completely cleared away, so we think it must have been especially set up for them.
Believe it or not, we had bought hot pasties in town! I was wary after my experience two days ago, but Colin persuaded me to go to ‘his’ shop and we had them warmed up. So we found a seat when we were past the children, and sat down to consume them while they were still hot. I enjoyed mine and had no ill effects today, thank goodness.
We walked along the prom as far as we could, then went down on to the beach. The tide was not yet in so there was a wide expanse of sand covered in worm casts and purple jellyfish. We weren’t sure if they were dead or simply dormant until the tide came back in, but there were hundreds of them!
Out to sea we had sweeping views of North Berwick and the Bass Rock — they seemed very near. It’s wonderful walking along a firm sandy beach like this one, I always enjoy it enormously.
The tide forced us up into the dunes as we approached Lower Largo. There we came across a signpost which told us we should have come down to that spot from behind the golf course, not straight up from the beach as we had. It turns out there was a ‘high tide’ route and a ‘low tide’ route for most of today’s Walk — we decided to take the ‘low tide’ route as far as possible even though we knew the tide was nearly in, but we were to be thwarted later. We came to a children’s slide which was set up as if we were meant to climb the steps and slide down it as part of the Walk. Did we? I’ll leave you to guess!
Lower Largo is a pretty little fishing village that reminded us of Cornwall somehow. There were hardly any boats in the tiny harbour, and most of them were leisure boats. The main feature is a viaduct which used to take a railway across Hatton Burn, but there is no railway now so we were wondering how much longer the viaduct would stay in place.
For Colin, the main feature was the ‘real ale’ pub, of course. He enjoyed his beer, but I didn’t like either of the ales on offer so I had ginger beer instead.
Another feature was a Victorian statue of Alexander Selkirk, who was reputed to be the original Robinson Crusoe. Apparently, in the eighteenth century, he lived on the island of Juan Fernandez in complete solitude for four years and four months. (This island is in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Chile.) Was he ship-wrecked there or did he do it voluntarily? I haven’t read Robinson Crusoe, so I don’t know. The statue was erected on the site of the cottage where he was born.
As we left Lower Largo we passed several houses that definitely had a fishing theme, again reminding us of Cornwall. We were on the track of the old railway line as we left the village so it was a good path, but we left it about a mile further on to follow the coast. We went up on to the dunes and ate our sarnies in a ruined house. We had to take the ‘high tide’ route because the tide was almost in and the sand at the top of the beach was too soft to walk on comfortably.
We walked for about two miles along the grassy dunes, admiring the flora and fauna. The scent of the wild rose is heavenly, and Colin managed to get a fantastic picture of a stonechat. After all the bad weather we have been experiencing lately, it was nice to get a day that was almost summery! We were amused by a ‘sculpture’ made of beach rubbish, and it certainly put over a message about all the garbage which is washed up on our beaches these days.
We came to some marshland before Cocklemill Burn. It is only a tiny stream, but the Fife Coastal Path diverts inland to cross over it. We didn’t want to do that, so we turned off the official path and crossed the burn using a couple of narrow plank bridges. We then went behind some trees to Ruddons Point where we sat on a rock to eat our apples. We were overlooking Shell Bay, a beautiful location for a seaside holiday. We came down and walked all round at the top of the beach. A lot of caravans were set up, and as we left the beach we passed two little girls playing with their buckets and spades by a ditch.
Then we had to rise up again, on the ‘high tide’ route. We sat on Kincraig Hill out of the wind to eat our chocolate. Colin looked at the map and reckoned it would take us one and a half hours to reach the car. In the event he was almost exactly right!
We missed the beginning of the ‘low-tide’ route round Kincraig Point, which is a series of chains to aid hikers (climbers?) over the rocks beneath the cliffs! Subsequently we learned that the Elie ‘Chain-Walk’ is quite famous locally. The first we knew about it was a notice at the top of a cleft drawing our attention to the fact that some of the links in the chain were missing so we should take extreme care. The Chain-Walk was first installed in the 1920s, and is more of a rock scramble than a walk. It consists of fixed chains and posts to help you pull yourself up or let yourself down some particularly craggy rock-faces along the bottom of the cliffs around the Point. When I looked down and saw the chains I was mighty glad we were going over the top, though I think Colin was a bit disappointed. I would have enjoyed the challenge when I was younger, but I think my rock-scrambling days are over!
Meanwhile we climbed very high on steps that were too close together to be comfortable. It was quite an effort to heave ourselves up this late in the Walk. At the top was a mast with every conceivable type of mobile phone antennae attached to it.
There was also a derelict concrete gun emplacement left over from the Second World War. Changing times!
We had a beautiful view from the top. We descended much more gently to the inevitable golf course (you wait until we get to St Andrews and Carnoustie!) and strolled round the end of Earlsferry on a grassy path. From there we went on to the beach again as the tide was beginning to go out. It was a lovely calm ending to the Walk with the gently plopping waves and eider ducks making their amusing ‘gossiping’ noises on the water. We walked through the last bit of the town to our car parked in a free car park behind the shops.

That ended Walk no.162, we shall pick up Walk no.163 next time at the exact spot where we left the seafront in Elie. It was a quarter past five, so the Walk had taken us seven hours. We had our tea, then returned to Leven to buy some essentials. After that we returned to our cottage in Craigrothie.

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