Yesterday saw us setting off again with the walking group to East Lothian to hike along part of the Herring Road. This is the route - 33 miles - taken in the 18th and 19th centuries by fishwives carrying baskets of salted herring weighing over a hundredweight (50 kilograms) from Dunbar to Lauder. Imagine doing this in the winter. Well, imagine doing it even yesterday. And this would be before these paths were laid down for the benefit of (sigh) those who come here to shoot grouse.
We covered only about eight of the thirty-three miles. It was, frankly, enough. According to George, who's our resident nature expert, we saw "Great Crested Grebe , Dabchick, Swallow, Sandmartin, House Martin, Snipe, Meadow Pipit, Skylark, Chaffinch, Tufted Duck, Mallard, Canada Geese, Greylag Geese, Pheasant, Red Grouse, Curlew, Oystercatcher, Redshank, Blackheaded Gull, Wheatear, Pied Wagtail and the highlight of the day, well spotted by Brian, a male Cuckoo." And we also met this fine Highland cow, various horses and those well-known Scottish natives, llamas.
This is George, communing with the cow (or possibly bull - it was hairy enough for this not be to entirely clear, at least to me). George is a minor celebrity in Scotland. He's a presenter on the BBC Scottish gardening programme and everyone who gardens in Scotland is likely to recognise him. It's interesting, on our walks, to observe other walkers doing a bit of a double-take when they pass him - either surprised that it's him, or wondering when they've seen him before. He's a great walking companion because he knows all about botany (he used to be head of education at the Botanic Gardens) but also about birds and other wildlife.
We liked this notice, near the only house we passed.
Mainly it was just moorland, the sound of birds and quite a bit of baaing. Not a vehicle could be heard for most of the walk. Bliss.
There was also the gentle splashing of the burn (stream).
This was the only road sign.
Eventually we came to the Whiteadder Loch and a mile or two later, reached the small village of Gifford and the Lanterne Rouge café. The owner was startled to see thirteen of us in his little café so late in the afternoon and apologised that he didn't have much food left. However, he brought to our table everything that he had and, loaves-and-fishes-like, it was plenty: we all got a cake, thus replacing the calories that we'd spent some hours burning off.
I imagine the fishwives had to make do with some oatcakes - sort of hard oat biscuits, cooked on a griddle - and herring. What effete softies we are in comparison with our forebears.