Turf Blog 23-08-21

I’d waiting a long time for this turfing session and tonight all the different elements came together perfectly. It took a lot of planning but tonight was the night. Yes, I could have visited this area on numerous occasions during the day but where’s the fun in that? No, I had in my mind’s eye the perfect moment for my visit to take the four zones out in Aberlady Bay Nature Reserve, and also turf the zones on Kilspindie golf course without having to bother about being used for target practice by irate golfers. First thing I wanted was it to be night-time, easy enough you might think, but I also wanted other factors to come into play as well, all at exactly the right time.

Next element I needed was a low or falling tide at just the right time. No point swimming or paddling when you can walk or fat-cycle. Tonight the low tide was 10.17 pm, giving me plenty of time to get there and return, even walking. The tides here are relatively slow, slower than walking pace, and there’s no need to worry about getting cut off as long as you are sensible. I’ve been here many, many times on the Surly Pugsley fat bike, so know the area well, how the tides run and also how to read the sand.

The next element I wanted was a full moon, or at least within a few days of a full moon, and I also wanted it to rise around the time I was out turfing. Full moon was yesterday, Sunday 22nd, but close enough. Moonrise was 9:23 pm and meant it would already have risen but again, near enough, and still low on the horizon. It wouldn’t set until 1:48 pm so should provide additional moonlight for the duration, depending on cloud cover. For interest, this full moon is called, among other names, a sturgeon moon, apparently named after North America’s largest fish, the lake sturgeon. Personally, I think it’s named after the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, and marks the time when she reveals her true self, and turns into a were-hamster!

The final element I wanted was good weather and clear skies. The forecast was for around 14 Degrees, so ideal for energetic kick scooting and walking, and with no wind to speak off, just about perfect. Cloud cover was forecast as partially cloudy and also for mist. The mist wasn’t an element originally on my list but would add some atmosphere to the adventure. A few downsides to the mist though, poor visibility and cooler and damp in the hollows. Tends to make by spectacles mist over.

Starting point was Aberlady, around 10.00 pm, where I parked the car on Gullane Road, opposite the grassy area towards the shore and readied for the trip. I decided to use the Swifty Air kick scooter this evening, rather than the fat bike which was dismantled awaiting repair. It should be ready in a few a days. The Swifty was ideal for getting me out to the dunes, where I planned to hide it and walk out to the subs. I would be pointless pushing the Swifty across wet sand. It was also ideal for taking the zones on Kilspindie golf course. I stashed a small bumbug into the scooter to carry my bits and bobs while walking to the subs.

A few empty cars in the parking area at the reserve indicated there might be people still out on the reserve. This is always useful to know when scooting at night as not everybody carries lights and you can come upon them suddenly while scooting, or cycling for that matter. First zone was AberladyBay, on the timber footbridge giving access to the reserve. I met a couple walking back to the car while scooting out and we exchanged greetings but I didn’t feel like stopping, so scooted onwards. Now I feel I should have stopped. Might have gained a turfer or two and could have handed out a Planet Gary card!

The path was scoot-able most of the way to the main dunes but soft sand and kick scooters do not go together very well and I resorted to walking and pushing the Swifty the last 100 meters or so. At this point, I was thinking perhaps bringing the fat bike would have been a better idea. No pushing on soft sand with Pugsley! But I can always do another trip, another day. Finding a place to hide the scooter was easy enough, the important thing was to be able to find it again on my return, in the dark, yet not have someone else find it first. The latter not something very likely at this time of night.

The walk out to the wrecks of the two XT-class midget submarines, used for target practice during WWII, was always going to mean wet feet. So, rather than wearing big heavy clumpy walking boots, I went the other way and wore my Karrimor Ithaca walking sandals, a cross between trainers and sandals, perfect when you don’t mind getting wet feet. Actually, I tend to wear them all summer long for both kick scooting and cycling. The airflow makes them much more comfortable than close-fitting cycling shoes or trainers. However, there is one downside to sandals is that they soon fill up with sand, particularly when crossing the soft wind-blown sand on the dunes faces. Perhaps that’s how the name originated? Anyway, it was easier to carry the sandals and walk barefoot, which is not an unpleasant activity in its own right.

Rather than head directly towards the wrecks, I walked out towards the shoreline, aiming for some sand banks that are smoother and easier to walk on barefoot than the sand ripples encountered on most of the beach. The turf app was very useful for finding the wrecks, though the first thing I came across was the huge concrete mooring block. It seemed to suddenly appear out of the darkness, almost like an ancient standing stone, highlighted by the bright moon behind it. I knew the two subs were close by and walked across to SubWreckTwo first, followed by SubWreckOne. No issues with GPS or mobile signals out here!

I’ve remarked in this before but you are never alone when turfing, even if you are physically alone. My 10:23 pm I’d been spotted and messages were popping up on the turf app. DoodleDad and Tandem had noticed my whereabouts. It might just be me, but I’ve never considered this type of night adventure anything other than normal. Mind you, I guess my definition of normal might not be quite the same as other peoples normal. One thought that did occur to me was to organize and lead a full-moon night turf session out to the subs. Wonder if anyone would turn up? I know one fair maiden in Edinburgh who just might be up for an adventure.

There is one thing that I regret about night turfing and that is the lack of light for photography. The scenery here at this time was simply amazing. You’ve got the moon reflecting off the pools of water on the beach, the twinkling town lights across in Fife and the bright floodlights on the oil rig out on the Firth of Forth. I would love to have photographed all this but lugging a tripod and heavy camera just wasn’t appealing. No doubt I’ll return during the day and take some shots some other time. That will be a trip for Pugsley, the fat bike.

With zones SubWreckOne and SubWreckTwo in the bag, my next zone was PillBoxWW2, well hidden away in the main dunes. At this point I should probably admit I’m the daft idiot responsible for these three zones. I just think at least some zones should be different, offer a degree of challenge and interest, and give you the opportunity for mini adventures like this one. I suspect most turfers will take a lot of convincing to try this type of turf session!

Zone PillBoxWW2 can take a bit of spotting if you don’t know where it is. Even while in the zone you might not see the pill box as it’s mostly buried in sand and covered with vegetation, but worth spending some effort to locate the two entrances. It’s a bit of a scramble getting in but can be done. Just watch out for the resident goblins. As I returned to the scooter I could see the mist had closed in, filling the saltmarsh between the high dunes and the land with thick mist. Aberlady was barely visible but the moonlight shining on the mist was quiet something. It was like a scene from Game of Thrones, and I would not have been surprised to see the White King and the Army of the Dead slowly and exorable rising from the mist. Just as long as there were heading in the opposite direction.

Now, zone SandySocks. And I’m ashamed to say I forgot this one and had to backtrack. It’s an odd zone, not one of mine I might add, located out in the bay with no apparent feature of interest. I suspect it may have been intended for the sandy spit but isn’t quite there. After taking the zone it was back to Aberlady. With the grass now soaking wet from the mist, I was wary of picking up ticks on my bare legs but checking later showed I was clear. It’s always worth checking thoroughly if you’ve been here during tick season.

Back at the car, I changed into a pair of dry sandals and after taking zone AberladyGreen, kick scooted along the access road to Kilspindie golf course. There are five zones located around the course perimeter, Kilspindie, AberladyPoint, MacaroniRocks, CraigielawPt, and GreenCraig. I must admit to feeling a little bit naughty kick scooting around golf courses, particularly those that have flood lights that suddenly burst into life when you pass the buildings. I love kick scooting barefoot and golf courses are ideal. No nettles or thistle to worry about. I did say my normal, well, probably isn’t. Out of interest, if memory recalls correctly, at zone MacaroniRocks, the rocks are fossilized corals dating back some 320 million years ago in the Carboniferous geological period. Also at this zone, there’s a huge glacial erratic boulder on the shore called Garlick Rock. Said to look like a clove of garlic. There’s another rock called King’s Kist as well.

I wasn’t sure if there was an exit from the course at zone GreenCraig but there was and it was straight onto the access road that serves the two houses. The access road then brought me onto the footpath beside the main road, also the route of the John Muir Way. SpotNakedBird was taken outside the Scottish Ornithological Club building. Not sure about this zone name. Not having seen a naked bird before, at least not the ornithological feathered variety. I am also reminded that Aberlady Bay is a well-known, all be it unofficial, naturist area, so perhaps spotting a non-feather variety of naked bird is a possibility, especially through one of the birding telescopes in the SOC.

Zone Aberlady was nabbed outside the parish church of the same name and a final zone, LuffRigZone, taken in the village around 1.00 am. It had taken two hours to take the zones in Aberlady Bay and another hour to kick scoot the loop around Kilspindie, so three hours turfing overall. The drive home was slow, thick mist blanketing most of the way but clearing around Bonnyrigg. Then it was time for a cuppa, then bed. First task tomorrow, get the hose out and clean the Swifty, and my soggy sandy walking sandals.

To finish off some blogs I usually comment on the number of zones taken, points accrued and so on but this time round that really isn’t what this evening/night has been about, it’s more about the mini-adventure itself, having some fun and giving me something interesting and thought provoking to blog about on the Planet Gary. Perhaps, even encourage other turfers to try something similar, though you don’t have to go barefoot or ride a kick scooter, that’s entirely up to you. Until next time.

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