07 May 2020 by Ramblers Scotland president Lucy Wallace
As part of our #RoamSweetHome campaign, Ramblers Scotland president Lucy Wallace is sharing her Lockdown Diaries. Lucy has been getting to know every intimate detail of the short walks from her home on the Isle of Arran – and in this latest blog, she invites us along too.
Lucy enjoying a short walk during lockdown
Leaving my front door, I step down to street level and head towards the sea. I can’t see it from home, but when I leave my little cul-de-sac and turn towards the Village Green, I am only yards away from the beach.
The Green forms a grassy strip that protects our village from the winter storms and now, in May’s full glory, it is constellated with thousands of daisies and dandelions. It is an unintended consequence of coronavirus cutbacks, the pause in municipal grass cutting has laid out a feast for insects.
From the Green I can turn in either direction along the coast. We are very lucky here on the east Arran coast, and either options are good, but this morning I’m going south, because it’s early, there is not a soul about, and the tide is just perfect for a walk along the boardwalk.
Steps on the boardwalk
The boardwalk at Lamlash forms part of Arran’s Coastal Way. This 65-mile circular route was the brainchild of local mountaineers Dick Sim and Hugh McKerrell.
I never met Hugh, but I knew Dick as a quiet man with a warm smile. Dick’s unassuming air concealed decades of experience establishing new rock climbs on Arran’s rough granite.
Thus it was logical that in his later years, Dick would continue in this pioneering vein, putting his passion in to creating a walkers route that hugs the coastline of Arran.
Ramblers Scotland’s vice-president Cameron McNeish officially opened the route in 2003 and since 2017 it has been recognised as one of Scotland’s Great Trails.
Arran Coastal Way
This boardwalk section winds through wet coastal woodland, linking stretches of pebble beach. To walk it, timing is crucial; not always accessible at high tide, the wooden walkway is narrow, which presents a social distancing problem; one I can only avoid by using it at very quiet times of the day.
My route from the Green to the boardwalk takes me on a little cut-through, lined with willows and gorse, linking Lamlash to its sleepy satellite, Cordon.
Lamlash is in fact a collection of hamlets with long remembered place names and convoluted histories.
As native Arranachs drift away, and new folk come, these names are sadly falling out of use. Cordon, Benlister, Margnaheglish, Kerr’s Port, The Heights and Clauchlands, each is a place with its own history and character, within the parish of Lamlash.
Cuddy Dook is the shore lane to Cordon along the coast where the Cuddy Ducks, or eiders, gather to dive for mussels at low tide.
Sure enough, this morning as I pass, I can hear the male ducks calling to the females, with comical “oooOOOooh” cries, and the splash of flapping wings as they display to each other.
I drop down to beach level at Cordon and make my way along the strandline towards the first boardwalk section. The foreshore here is of slippery pebbles and littered with the remains of boats and marine detritus.
The tides bring successive rows of seaweed, tangled with old rope and plastic fragments. Some call these gifts from the sea “Fisherman’s Kisses, but these are kisses in the same sense of a “Glasgow Kiss,” unwelcome and unpleasant.
Disintegrating creel pots, invasive Japanese knotweed, and silage wrap tangled amongst tree roots are reminders of human presence and neglect. And yet amongst all this debris, there are gulls and a curlew stalking the shore, and a long-legged heron takes off with an angry honk.
I’m so distracted by all this that as always, I miss the start of the woodland boardwalk and have to backtrack across marsh grass cut by rivulets, to locate the beginning of the trail.
As soon as I’m on the walkway through the woods, everything changes. I’m lost to a jumbled land of trailing honeysuckle and ivy-strewn moss.
On the left, the sea, and views out to Lamlash Bay and Holy Isle, on the right, shady banks of sycamore, beech and hazel, with outcrops of russet sandstone.
The damp floor is a pungent carpet of ramsons and marsh marigolds. Prehistoric ferns unfurl their perfect croziers from the shadows. Mounds of bluebells glimmer through the trees.
At the start of lockdown, the first flowers blooming here were wood anemones. These are nearly over now, and blades of yellow flag iris are already pushing up through the mud.
The irises will flower in June, and then after these will come fluffs of creamy meadowsweet, whose stems are starting to sprout between the slats of the boardwalk.
Bees drone, wrens trill, and the tseep tseep tseep of tiny blue tits fills the air. Everything is alive; curling, creeping, humming, almost too much; like some modern day Tír na nÓg, it is captivating, overwhelming, mythical.
I always intend to walk the full length of the boardwalk and on to the headland at Kings Cross, where sunny meadows and a Viking longship burial overlook the narrow entrance to Lamlash Bay.
Here there will be sandpipers, and wagtails, and scallops at low tide. I say intend, because so far this lockdown, I’ve never made it.
I dawdle along the boardwalk, soak up the birdsong, lie on my belly to photograph the flowers, and sneak around in the hope of spotting a red squirrel.
Time flows while I dream away here, and inevitably it is time to go back to real life long before I am ready to face it.
Turning to retrace my steps, Lamlash looks small, scattered, glinting across the bay.
Today, a trick of the light gives the impression that Arran’s highest peak – Goatfell - is looming over us, with the village resting at its feet, rather than being seven miles away.
In truth, even here in Lamlash the mountains are miles away, and definitely out of reach for now, but it’s reassuring to know that they are still there, watching over us from afar.
All photos by Lucy Wallace.
The Ramblers’ #RoamSweetHome campaign aims to inspire everyone to keep active safely during the coronavirus pandemic. We’re also urging walkers to keep connected – both with landscapes and each other - during the coronavirus pandemic for everyone’s physical and mental wellbeing. Get involved at ramblers.org.uk/roamsweethome