Today’s little leg stretch kicked off from where Quintus Lollius Urbicus, on behalf of his emperor Titus Aelius Hadrianus Antoninus Augustus Pius, began his futile attempts to keep the Scots out of Europe. Little did he know that they were quite capable of doing that on their own without the help of the Romans, UEFA, or any other of sport’s governing bodies. But let’s not dwell on the current state of Scottish football but rather let us wonder at the state of the closest car parking facility to the eastern terminus of that man-made wonder of the 2nd Century A.D – the Antonine Wall. It’s a muck hole!
In fairness there is nothing to be seen of the ancient earthworks at this its most easterly end. Roads and houses swarm over the site…and the “car park”, I assume, is actually part of the land belonging to the adjacent works. It’s not a pretty start to a walk but within a minute the path led from this industrial cesspit into the old Carriden Woods and along the south shore of the River Forth.
There are times when you just wanna spit! And this was one of them.
By spit I mean spit of land, in this case a narrow sliver of sand, gravel and oyster shells creating a 100m causeway leading from the shore into the river. You just have to…don’t you? The tide was on the ebb allowing us a stroll in the sunshine towards an improved “offshore” viewpoint.
Off to the north-east the Munros of Stuc a Chroin and Ben Vorlich were dragged closer towards the foreground as the wee Fuji, on maximum zoom, did what it does best. Downstream the famous Forth bridges suffered a similar fate, magically hauled upstream by the irrepressible Fuji. Incredibly the 1964 road bridge is almost invisible against the gargantuan bulk of dull red girders that make up the iconic squashed diamond structure of the 19C rail bridge. I’ve stood at track level on the rail bridge…and it is MASSIVE!
The Fatdog was impressed…
….but decided that this much water needed careful watching – preferably from the safety of the shore. I was reluctant to leave our sunny little spit.
The late autumn sun was too low to reach the path that edged along the shore boundary of Carriden Woods, sheltered as it was by a 30m high raised beach off to our right. On top of this natural barrier the outline of Carriden House, the site of the most easterly Roman fort, could just be made out through the near leafless trees. While small parts of the wood had an open airy feel, most were a tangle of fallen trees, bramble and all enveloping ivy.
Beside the path at the wood’s edge the tumbled down remains of 19C estate buildings, walls and flood defenses spoke of long years of neglect as nature reclaimed its territory. It was a wood where imaginations could run riot…as could a veritable plethora of unimaginable horrors. Back before dark then!
At the end of the wood the wide hardcore path came to an abrupt end and we were ushered onto a rough narrow trail that picked its way across a low crumbling sea wall. I seem to recall there was difficulty with a landowner along this stretch when the local authority put forward a scheme to improve the path some years ago.
As we neared the village of Blackness and the castle beyond, the receding tide had exposed an expanse of new shore where gulls, waders, oystercatchers and a lone shell duck grubbed around for the odd tasty morsel.
Dating from the mid-1400’s Blackness Castle is a solid looking building. Strengthening works were carried out by James V in the mid 16C turning it into an artillery fortification, making good use of its strategic position overlooking the River Forth. It withstood a number of sieges in the next 100 years before Oliver Cromwell’s heavy artillery blasted it into surrender in 1650.
We wandered up a shallow rise just to the south of the castle. Here at the site of the chapel Cromwell placed his artillery. Bloody close…it could only have been 100m! I wouldn’t fancy being on the receiving end (of anything) at such short range.
The sun was beginning to drop below the nearby fields so it was time to make our way back through Carriden Woods before dark set in.
The light was beginning to fade…oh no!