Pilgrmage to COP26

Blog 6: From Aberlady Bay to Portobello via Musselburgh

Listen to The king of the faeries by Matthew Crighton on the tin whistle on #SoundCloud recorded on the beach at Aberlady, round the campfire.

https://soundcloud.app.goo.gl/jHju3

Sunrise as we walk away from our camping spot at Aberlady Bay, 7am
It’s only just over an hour but we have all our camping gear and what’s left of the food and water paraphernalia, and it’s very uneven ground. We walk in silence

At the car park, the electric support vehicle and day walkers are waiting for us. The group had split into two the previous evening with the others sleeping at the village hall in Aberlady. They visited Prestongrange Museum where they received a lovely welcome.

After a standing-up breakfast and use of the public conveniences (thanks to East Lothian Council for keeping them open for us), we set off for the day’s trek. The coast was stunning.

Longniddry Bents, East Lothian, Scotland
Longniddry Bents, East Lothian, Scotland
East Lothian

The weather was changeable – a cool wind with sun, light then heavier spells of rain, never for too long, thank goodness.

Coral skeletons

We passed coral skeletons (tubes) which have been squashed into limestone making ‘spaghetti rock’ which date from the Carboniferous period (350-300 million years back). Craigielaw point fossils gives more information.

Cameron played the violin for us, though it was dark and drizzly then
We were invited to walk amongst the sycamore copse, to listen their the particular song of those trees and admire their personal designs
Some had fallen, revealing their age
Wandering through the sycamore glade
Francesco
Beth
Port Seton

We regained the main road through Port Seton with all the hustle of normal life – quite a contrast to the meditative pacing at the shore. The Harbour Takeaway served a good green tea and peppermint slice and the sun was warm on my back for 5 minutes before we had to walk on.

Towards Prestonpans

At Musselburgh, we had an extended stop where volunteers had been preparing a meal for us at the Brunton Theatre. We were shown a film. ‘Local Food Roots’ (trailer on Pinterest) which featured various UK projects which grow and distributed vegetable boxes (Riverford) and innovative organisations which cooked with produce from their own communities (Nottingham Hospital – yes, it can be done. They argued that buying in food that had travelled many 100s of miles from South America and Africa was not only less nutritious but also added to the already dangerous limits of carbon in the atmosphere). Sheila Dillon from the BBC Radio 4 Food Programme was a contributor. This was another example of our learning about the various ways the climate crisis can be addressed, as we wend our way to Glasgow.

Naomi Barnes, Sustaining Dunbar
We were met by rowers from Musselburgh (you can see the boat in the middle of the picture beyond the flowers) Prestonpans, East Lothian

It was hoped that the Portobello crew would be there too, but at the last minute they were short of a member, so two of them ran to meet us here, and then walked back with us (see below) with their Resilient, Sustainable banner.

The pipe band from Loretto School were also there to welcome us. Marianne was the Keeper of the Soils for the day

People seem to really understand what we are doing: they thank us and wave as we go by, and messages are coming in all the time to encourage us.

As the sun was lowering, we walked along the prom into Portobello

Keeper of the Soils cape: Natalie Taylor, artist, North Light Arts

The Pilgrimage for COP26 programme is here https://artandecologyearth.files.wordpress.com/2021/10/pilgrimage-for-cop26-programme-04.10.21-edit.pdf

@pilgrimageforcop26 #pcop26

Pilgrimage for COP26

19 October 2021 – Blog 5: North Berwick to Aberlady Bay

Ready to start out on the second day’s walk from North Berwick
Pilgrims at the ready – some who are walking all the way and others who have joined us for today
Olga is the Keeper of the Soils for this stage

Eva (in pink) was one of the day walkers and it was good to catch up after so many years. We talked of Reworlding, gratitude and reciprocity.

Cath explaining about Stitches for Survival – it was her day to carry the panels towards Glasgow
Ali Newell and Glen Cousquer were leading the walk

A field of brightness that travels ahead, providing, in time, ground to hold our footsteps and the light of thought to show the way. … to create a space for all our words, drawing us to listen inwards and outwards.

Read by Glen



Ali lead us in a Salute to the Sun from her Capacitar (Healing Ourselves, Healing Our World) exercises.


Then we began to walk and it rained

Petrichor: the smell of rain

In this photo the waves have left vertical horizons on the near part of the beach: a dividing line of wet-sand mountain peaks and their mocha-coloured reverse shapes

We took time for quiet walking and reflection, appreciating the luminosity of the scene. I listened to the sound of the waves and the pit pat of rain on my jacket. I wasn’t aware of my own smell – it seemed to have merged with the air around me, and my wet fringe tickled my forehead.

A stop to hold, admire and taste the Sea Buckthorn – salty and sour at the same time. As we walked on, we became attuned to the fermenting scent of the fruit on the bushes

… gifts from our plant relatives, manifestations of their generosity…When we speak of these, not as things, or products or commodities, but as gifts, the whole relationship changes. I can’t help but gaze at them, cupped like jewels in my hand … In the presence of such gifts, gratitude is the intuitive first response…

Robin Wall Kimmerer
I was glad that I popped a rain poncho in my rucksack at the last minute – it was useful to protect the cape
“The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it”

As we sat and ate our lunch, cormorants stretched out their wings on the rocks. The sea left a white line of bubbles behind. We couldn’t help ourselves stooping to pick up tiny triangles of blanched shells. The bloated body of a dead whale was a discomfiting pale apricot, and the decomposing stench was terrible as we walked past. I whispered my sorrow for its truncated life.

Cameron and the sea playing a lament

Someone said they had an image of Ghandi walking in solidarity with us.

We were regaled with songs including one from four members of Protest in Harmony.

Some of us stopped and swam

Miles of beachy colours – caramel, beige and cinnamon – and the occasional low-lying green plants with lilac flowers. Further on there were fingers of cerise and buttercup seaweed shining in contrast.

A steep climb that turned out to be the wrong route
Aberlady Bay, where we camped for the night
Delicious food around the campfire for all the walkers
Apricity: means ‘the warmth of winter sun’
We watched skeins and skeins of geese honking homeward as the sky darkened. They were particularly spectacular when silhouetted first in front of the setting sun and then the rising moon
Landscapes in the sunset sky looking towards Longniddry
After supper, the group split in two and the majority walked to a hall in Aberlady village to sleep – a night walk along this path against the wind

Eight of us camped in the high winds of the Aberlady Nature Reserve. It was the most beautiful spot for contemplating and talking about how important such places are and how vital it is that our government and businesses curtail sewage output, address coastal erosion, and put money behind the preservation of our wilder environments.

A blurry pic of the Harvest Moon – full around 5am
Campfire and a dram

Thanks to

Ali and Glen for leading the walk, and Cameron for playing his fiddle. Vicky for driving the electric van which carried our rucksacks.

Pilgrimage for COP26

Blog #1 for the Pilgrimage for COP26

On Sunday 17th October I will embark on the Pilgrimage for COP26 with a group of like-minded others. We will assemble in Dunbar for a celebration of Natalie Taylor’s the Keeper of the Soils, a speech from Alastair McIntosh (author of Poacher’s Pilgrimage), and other activities organised by North Lights Arts.

On 29th October, all being well, we will walk into Glasgow after travelling parts of the John Muir Way and St Ninian’s Way, on foot, in a collective effort. We will make “A walk and a learning journey … to reflect on the climate and ecological crisis in anticipation of the COP26.”

Our route visits

  • Dunbar
  • North Berwick
  • Aberlady
  • Portobello
  • Edinburgh (where we will stay on Saturday and Sunday)
  • South Queensferry
  • Bo’ness
  • Falkirk
  • Kirkintilloch
  • Glasgow

taking in coastal, cycle, urban, industrial, canal and river paths.

Many of you will know that I enjoy walking secular pilgrimage, that the act of stepping out each day with a simple pack on my back satisfies something vital in me. Walking sequential trails which connect town to country to village to city, whether the Camino de Santiago in Spain, the Via Sacra in Austria or the St Magnus Way in Orkney, is a way to reflect on, process and enliven my regular life.

This pilgrimage differs specifically from any of the others I have done before because it will be done in community. I am a solitary walker and I value my privacy highly, even though I do meet people along the path and enjoy their company at times. This COP26 pilgrimage, however, is a group activity. It invites people to walk together for a few hours, several days or the whole, and to be a part of a growing conversation about the many facets of the climate emergency in the light of the international meeting of world leaders at the beginning of November in Glasgow. We will discuss, think about, and inevitably come up with questions, maybe even solutions (practical or ideal) in the face of the situation we find ourselves in. Whatever happens we will be able to support each other in our feelings – grief, frustration, anger, hopelessness – in the face of what is happening to our beautiful world right now.

My focus for the pilgrimage is on the link between grief and walking, something that arises over and over, not just for me but for others as well (see the book Marram by Leonie Charlton for example). My enquiry will build on my previous writing (Working with Death and Loss in Shiatsu Practice’ (Singing Dragon 2020) and articles/blogs) and the Shiatsu client work I have been engaged in over the past 30 years, as well as my own personal rambles.

I will continue to collect a feather a day, usually the first I come across, as these long-time symbols of freedom and transcendence and their common use in ritual are often connected with the feelings we have when we are grieving or bereaved. It remains to be seen what the feathers will be used for or come to represent in the context of this pilgrimage.

If you would like to join us for some or all of this walk. Please read about it here and sign up here. You will be most welcome.