Friday, July 06, 2007

Walk 168 -- Tayport to Dundee

Ages: Colin was 65 years and 59 days. Rosemary was 62 years and 201 days.
: Steady, hard rain all day. But no wind and quite warm.
Location: Tayport to Dundee.
Distance: 4 miles.
Total distance: 1401 miles.
Terrain: Gravel/grass path which led down to the beach. Shingle walking which got progressively harder. So we climbed over two barbed wire fences and went up a steep grassy track to get back to the tarmacked cycle path we had intended to be on all along! After that, all concrete.
Tide: Going out.
Rivers: No.101, the River Tay. We crossed on Britain’s longest road bridge which is 1½miles long. It spans Britain’s biggest (not longest) river which discharges more water into the sea than the Severn and Thames combined.
Ferries: None.
Piers: None.
Kissing gates: None.
Pubs: ‘The Counting House’ (Weatherspoons) where Colin drank Harriestoun’s ‘Ruby Murray’ and Cairngorm ‘Wild Cat’. I had a Czech lager — ‘Herold Blond’. We also had our lunch there — out of the rain!
‘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. In view of the weather, we went on to Plan B and curtailed the original planned Walk. We drove to Tayport, parked at the harbour where we parked yesterday, and started the Walk from there.
At the end, we found the pub and had our lunch in the dry. Then we had a quick look round the centre of Dundee, and didn’t find much of interest. So we made our way to the bus station which was very crowded and not exactly a pleasant place to wait three quarters of an hour on a very wet Summer’s day. (Perhaps we were just feeling tired and jaded, though we were elated at having achieved fourteen hundred miles of the Trek!) We caught the last bus back to Tayport, though it was not even four o’clock in the afternoon. We drove straight back to our cottage in Craigrothie.
The next day we packed up our stuff and drove home to Malvern. As the Malvern Hills appeared on the horizon we both shouted “Home!” We don’t miss Bognor one jot!

What a thoroughly miserable day! It rained hard for the whole of our last Walk this session, and the sky was dark and grey. Colin had to hold his umbrella over the camera for every photo that was taken, so we didn’t take many.
From the harbour we walked westwards out of Tayport. We expected to follow a cycleway all the way to the Tay Bridge, but instead the gravel path became grassy, then it deteriorated, became overgrown and we ended up next to the shingle beach. There was a ‘sort-of’ path along a grass bank at first, but we found we were walking too close to a barbed wire fence for comfort. This got worse as the bank became more and more eroded, so we went on to the beach because it was easier. We passed a small redundant lighthouse, and a flowering shrub which was trying to remind us it was supposed to be Summer!
There were some beautiful stones washed up on the beach. It was tempting to gather loads to take home, but in the end we just looked at them and left them where they were. The Geology of Scotland is very old and extremely complex. Rocks get washed down the river from the hills miles away, so we don’t know where they originated. We think the one we photographed was a granite.
It was only about a mile to the bridge, but the beach got impossible before we got there. We reverted to the grass bank, then climbed over a barbed wire fence which was shielded with sacking so it looked as if we were supposed to go that way. But we had another barbed wire fence to negotiate, and this one was not shielded at all. However, we got over it without scratching ourselves or tearing any clothing (remember we were both fully kitted up in our wet-weather gear — expensive wet-weather gear in my case!) A grass track took us up to the cycleway where there was a ladder stile. This again gave us the impression that we were supposed to go that way, so why did we have to climb over two barbed wire fences in order to get there?
We walked along to a picnic site at the end of the bridge where there was a toilet block, and we could also have bought some hot greasy food — but we didn’t. There was a sculpture that consisted of coloured ribbons (I think) and a memorial to four men who lost their lives building the Tay Road Bridge in the 1960s. But only their initials and surnames were on the memorial, we did think they should have put their Christian names on. It seemed so impersonal the way it was done.
There was another illustrated board with the title: BEAUTIFUL RAILWAY BRIDGE OF THE SILV’RY TAY. A map was spread across the middle, and several pictures were explained with the following paragraphs:
Follow the swirl of the tide around the broken pillars that mark the ninety lives that were taken away. On 28 December 1879, the old rail bridge collapsed in a storm as a train was passing over.
Look down from your airy saddles as commuters in their metal containers head for their workplaces in Dundee.
Imagine the wash of the ferries that once carried the barons to their fortunes of jute.
Raw jute was once made into a cheap cloth for sacks, hessian, canvas and floor cloth in the Dundee mills.
And so we walked on to the longest road bridge in Britain! It spans the biggest river in this country, for the Tay discharges more water into the sea than the Thames and Severn combined! The bridge is one and a half miles long, and it has seventy-five numbered lamp-posts. We could work out when we were a third of the way across — for it was at that point that we passed the 1400 mile mark. Fourteen hundred miles along the coast from Bognor Regis — we can hardly believe it!
The footpath goes along the centre of the bridge, fenced off from the speeding traffic either side. This meant we were walking between streams of vehicles whizzing by in each direction, and it never stopped raining hard at any time during the forty minutes it took us to walk over. It was exhilarating, but it was also pretty miserable.
At the further end there was a metal staircase which led us down to the riverside, and also a lift which looked as if it was redundant. We looked at a couple of plaques. One told us that work commenced on the bridge on March 29th 1963. and it took three and a half years to build. At 7365 feet in length, it is the longest road bridge in Britain. The other told us the bridge was opened by the Queen on August 18th 1966.
Plan A had been to park several miles out of Dundee to the East, catch a combination of two buses to get back to Tayport, have a pub lunch in Dundee after the first four miles of the Walk, then continue to the car. Plan B had been to park in Tayport, continue the Walk after a pub lunch in Dundee, then catch a combination of buses to get back to the car in Tayport. In view of the weather, we opted for Plan C — which was to get to a pub pronto and stay there!

That ended Walk no.168, we shall pick up Walk no.169 next time in Dundee at the end of the Tay Bridge It was half past twelve, so the Walk had taken us less than two and a half hours. We found our way to Colin’s chosen pub, Weatherspoons, passing some black penguins on the way(?) We enjoyed good beer and a nice meal in the dry. It was still raining when we came out. The Catholic Cathedral — when we eventually found it — was locked. The Protestant one wasn’t very interesting, it was too modern for our taste. So we went to the bus station and found we had three quarters of an hour to wait for the bus to Tayport — the last one of the day at only 15.35! Eventually we got back to the car, had a cup of tea and returned to our holiday cottage in Craigrothie.
The next day we packed up and drove home to Malvern.

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