Passing through the world at a walking pace one is acutely aware of the changing seasons; as though every step helps turn the Earth as it rotates on its axis. My walk up the Firth of Clyde, and then along canal towpaths from Glasgow to Edinburgh, had coincided with the transition from summer to autumn.
It was if the summer had stubbornly refused to pass away: straining and yearning, pouring every last remaining ounce of light and warmth into long, cloudless days of luminous blue.
At the same time autumn had seemed to be reining itself in, holding back the gathering momentum of the new season, as the blazing, vibrant fiery colours burgeoned in depth and intensity.
Eventually though, the world released its grip: summer faded and autumn glided in. Leaves hung like old flags on a windless day, loose, limp, colours fading, as though exhausted by the effort. For the first time when walking I wore a fleece over my T shirt. One chilly morning in Edinburgh everyone seemed to be wearing gloves and scarves. Another day I walked in the rain through dripping woods beside the Firth of Forth, the Forth Bridge looking like a brontosaurus family wading in from Fife through the mist; only my third rainy day since Liverpool.
After the long narrow views of the canals, beyond Edinburgh the whole world seemed to open out in front of me; like seeing a film in Sensurround after days spent crouched in front of the TV.
From the centre of Edinburgh I walked down to the port of Leith, and had my first view of the North Sea, and from there in intermittent drizzle along the coast for nearly 25 miles to North Berwick, (my fourth rainy day). Beyond Leith, just as I was noting that the North Sea is indeed grey, cold and uninviting, I came upon a party of Scots in swimming briefs limbering up on the beach prior to charging en masse into the unwelcoming waves. Mercifully they did not ask me to join them.
I followed the John Muir Way inland to East Linton and then back to the coast at Dunbar. Around Dunbar the coast path skirts a number of golf courses (Scotland’s so-called “Golf Coast”, boom! boom!). The etiquette, enforced by a stern stare or an arched eyebrow, appeared to be that, before proceeding, passers-by should stop beside the greens to allow golfers to take their shots undisturbed. Having made a magnificent drive and waiting for his friend to tee off, a man walked over and joined me on the path; we talked in respectfully hushed tones and he asked me where I was heading; “Cockburnspath” I replied, pronouncing the name phonetically. The man gave a theatrical flourish and with a smile of mock condescension corrected me, “Actually, we pronounce it Co’burnspath … like the port!”. We both roared with laughter, to the evident detriment of his friend’s game!
Even though it was only a matter of days since I had been on Scotland’s southwest coast I was constantly aware of the sheer width of the world: seeing the sea extending to the horizon again, the sweep of clifftop views, long sandy beaches and a succession of points and promontories leading southwards down the coast towards England and the border.
People often ask me where I am going. Time was when I would say “to Carlisle”, then it became “Glasgow”, and more recently “to Edinburgh”. Now I say “to Scarborough”. “Why Scarborough?” they invariably ask. “Because last year I walked there, round the coast, from Devon to London and up to Scarborough, and in another 150 miles I will have joined up the two walks!”.
© Nick Creagh-Osborne and manwalkstheworld.com 2015.