Maisie our grandaughter was excited when she saw our new motorhome. What better way to try it out than go for a picnic to Collieston beach. She loved sitting at the table in the van as we made our way there, delighted that her booster seat let he see quite clearly out of the side window.
Lunch was great, but the sun was out and the sand was calling. I don’t think we have been here at low tide in the sunshine before. We have been more used to stones than sand. Maisie loved it, running on the sand with the dogs, climbing up the rocks with granny, drawing and writing in the sand, and of course climbing up to the look-out point where you could clearly see the multi-storey flats in Aberdeen on the horizon.
A great trip in the van.
There is a wonderful network of paths all over Stirling Hill, thanks to the hard work of the Boddam Community Association. I often stop there with the dogs on the way to and from Peterhead. We weave our way through the remains of the quarry workings where once Peterhead convicts were put to hard labour. But for us it is the glimpses of the sea, the sun on the heather, the gorse, the sparkling pink granite and the views over Peterhead and the Buchan coast that is our focus.
Despite the strong wind we explored a little further than our usual circuit of the hill. Lily and Poppy dutifully posed for me on the granite bench by the viewpoint.
Then it was off down a long straight path towards the site of the RAF Buchan radar station, with its distinctive golf ball “Radome” which can be seen from all around.
The hill has sprouted masts of all sorts, not just the military, Mobile phone providers have found this a useful place for their transmitters.
We explored down a track we had never visited before. Poppy loved it, darting here and there, but always keeping an eye on where I was. The track took us to another quarry working that I had never visited before. It was full of water, and was fenced off, with not the usual warning sign of steep cliffs, but to take care because this pool is very deep and is used by divers. There was a long length of rope there, and the rubber hood of a diving suit mounted on a fence post to confirm the signs.
Once home I read up about this site which is a favourite with divers because of its relative safety for training dives. It goes down to a depth of 24 metres, and proudly boasts a submerged burger van to explore.
It is amazing what is there to discover on Stirling Hill, including highland cattle!
The internet is a wonderful thing: you can find out about almost anything you want. I have passed that gate countless times as I drive to and from Peterhead along the main road, but it was only when I was looking up information about the Scottish Wildlife Trust reserve at Longhaven Cliffs that I discovered there was now a parking place for visitors close to the village. The new parking area has recently been created and the road to the old quarry where visitors used to park has been closed off by a locked gate because of people dumping rubbish up at the quarry.
A great place for a walk with the dogs. So I followed the road up to the quarry and then onto the cliff top path. The dogs loved it, despite the wetness of the ground. Poppy particularly loved exploring. She seems to have no hint of vertigo, There was quite some swell, and waves were crashing on the rocks below. The light was quite good, not the blue sky and sea that I had experienced last week, but still sunny and good enough for some pictures.
My big surprise was when I spied a group of grey seals resting on the rocks in a sea cave. It was really an arch, with both ends open to the sea, forming a curve so that you could not really see through it. There was just the hint of some waves at the sea end, while the seals were resting on the rocks now exposed by the receding tide in the gully below me.
Further on it was some Fulmars which got my attention as they circled over the cliff top. I managed a few pictures, and as I look at them, it always seemed to be the same bird I caught with my camera. A broken wing feather marked him out quite distinctly.
Too early yet for many flowers, but I did see one primrose in bloom, and the promise of some daffodils later. But it was the patch of snowdrops sheltered among the prink granite rocks that took my attention as we returned to the car.
You can see the pictures I took on my Flickr Page.
In a few weeks time the cliff tops at Longhaven will be a blaze of colour as the Thrift and the Red Campion come into bloom. No flowers today, though, just a bright blue sea and sky. Just a hundred yards or so from the busy A90 Peterhead road and you are in a different world.
The dogs loved it, freedom to roam and explore. I took the opportunity to practice the sit, stay manoeuvre with them and they seemed to get the message, though they did misinterpret it when I put my camera up to my face…surely that was the sign to run to me and get a treat?
There may have been no flowers out today, but there is a whole row of fence posts with some spectacular lichen. The sharp eyed among you will perhaps notice traces of lorries and cars passing by, along the horizon. It shows how close this nature reserve is to the the main road.
I have marked down a place to come back for a photograph. I noticed a clump of daffodils appearing on the cliff top just above a spectacular cove below. In a wee while they will be in bloom and all I have to do is wait for the sunshine, and make sure that I visit about the middle of the day when the sun will be in the right place.
The weather forecasters on the television have been telling us that yesterday (1 March) was meteorological spring. This afternoon it certainly felt like it, with a pleasant, light breeze and lovely sunshine. It has been a long time since we walked along the sands at Cruden Bay. We used to be regulars there, but Poppy’s nervous nature and her reaction to other dogs have led us to seek more lonely spots for walks.
I’m glad we took our courage in both hands and paws today, and set off over the Ladies’ Bridge onto the sands. The tide was about at its highest with the waves just a few feet from the dunes, but it was gradually retreating. I remember one day long ago nearly being caught by a high tide there, and having to cling onto the steep sides of the dunes to make our way back to the bridge.
I’m a big dog!
As we made our way along the beach I remembered the other reason that beach walks are not so much in favour now – Lily absolutely adores barking at the waves. But today, she seemed to know that was not required, despite the fact that there were white-crested waves rolling in.
To bark, or not to bark?
After passing just one lady with her two dogs who was heading back to the bridge, we had the beach all to ourselves. Can you imagine it, a whole beach, spring sunshine, and not too much wind. Idyllic!!
I decided to stick with the wide-angle lens which was attached to my Canon. The wind and the sand and the spray could get into the works of the camera if I tried to change the lens on the beach. The set of pictures I have came back with show the broad sweep of the bay; no close ups of dogs today, just carefully placed canine props in the foreground of the photographs.
You can see my set of pictures on my Flickr Page.