FROZEN conditions in winter can make for a brilliant experience, and an enchanting atmosphere to enjoy the outdoors.
One of the more unusual aspects of the season is icy beaches. Where you hope to picnic in summer can take on an almost unreal, lunar feel in the cold months.
Leaving the car park for the excellent John Muir Country Park, the sun was shining, the waves crashing into shore had taken on a deep blue colour and everything looked just like a beach should. Except for the ice-coated sand untouched by the on-rushing tide.
Crunching along, the true value of the natural world could be appreciated, something John Muir realised in the same area more than 150 years ago.
The environmentalist was born in Dunbar and went on to found national parks in North America, becoming a pioneer in the drive to protect wild spaces. His memory lives on in East Lothian with the country park and a long-distance footpath named after him, which this walk follows for part of the way. In the United States his honours include being featured on a 25 cent coin.
If you want to contemplate all this, the wide open spaces of Belhaven Bay and the country park allow the mind to roam freely. If you just want a simple walk to enjoy nature without cluttering the mind, that is possible too. One current highlight is a relatively rare little egret living in the area.
DISTANCE 4 miles.
HEIGHT CLIMBED Negligible.
TIME 2 to 2½ hours.
MAP OS Landranger.
PARK Turn off the A1 at the Thistly Cross roundabout and follow signs for Dunbar. About a mile from the roundabout turn off the A1087 just before the 30mph sign for West Barns, following a brown sign for John Muir Country Park. At a junction in front of East Links Family Park go right to reach a car park for the country park.
IN SUMMARY In the corner of the car park, next to the exit, go through a gap in a fence to reach a track. On the other side of the track follow a sign ‘to the beach’ down a grassy path. After about 30 yards go straight ahead, on to a sandy path. This crosses a salt marsh via a series of low wooden bridges to reach a beach, where you go left.
Follow the beach all the way along a series of dunes to the left and at the end follow the dunes round to the left to reach the estuary of the River Tyne. Continue by the estuary shore until you reach the far end of the salt marsh crossed earlier. Cross over again, taking care if the tide is high (you may need to keep left to find dry ground to cross on).
On the other side continue along the estuary shore, with low dunes to your left, until you reach pine trees. Cut inland here to find a path just inside the trees (you may need to cut across the dunes earlier if the tide is high). Go right, along the path, and follow it as it runs parallel to the water’s edge. Don’t go left down a long, straight clearing but do bear left a little further on. Continue close to the estuary shore, ignoring turnings to the left, all the way to a wooden bridge and a signpost for the John Muir Way. Don’t cross the bridge, instead go left at the signpost to follow a path which leads behind East Links Family Park. At the end of the path are the dunes in front of the salt marsh. Go right to follow a track back to the car park.
REFRESHMENTS There is a café at East Links Family Park. Or try Dunbar where there is a good choice of places to eat.
WHILE IN THE AREA East Links Family Park is the obvious place if you have children (www.eastlinks.co.uk). To learn more about John Muir you can visit his birthplace in Dunbar (www.jmbt.org.uk).