Seals at Seafield, Firth of Forth, Kirkcaldy, Fife

One lovely afternoon last week we drove to the beach at Seafield, part of the Fife Coastal Walk. This cormorant was drying its wings in the sun. The concrete blocks are the remains of some of the World War 2 defences which thankfully were never tested, but you can understand that people would be worried about a Nazi invasion back then.

cormorant , Seafield, Kirkcaldy, Firth of Forth, Fife

red rocks, Seafield, Kirkcaldy, Fife, Firth of Forth

red rocks, Seafield, Kirkcaldy, Firth of Forth

If you click on the photo below you should be able to see the seals that were basking on the rocks. They blend in very well and I didn’t even realise they were there until I heard them mooing.

seals, Firth of Forth, Kirkcaldy, Seafield

There are lots of them on the rocks in the photo below. When we walked past them about ten minutes later some of them were still sticking to their little patch of rock, despite it almost being covered by the rising tide.

seals , Firth of Forth, Seafield, Kirkcaldy, Fife

I don’t know how people walking on the coastal path could disturb seals, anyway obviously it isn’t a good thing to do as it uses up a lot of their energy if they are frightened off their rocks before they’re ready to swim again.

Do not disturb seals, Seafield, Kirkcaldy

Seals, Seafield, Firth of Forth, Fife

Seals, Firth of Forth, Seafield, Kirkcaldy, Fife

It seems that you’re never very far from a ruin of some sort in Scotland and the one in the photo below is what is left of Seafield Tower which has been ravaged by the North Sea over the years. It’s in a very poor state now, it was built around 1542.

Seafield Tower, Kirkcaldy, Fife

After our wee walk we were too hot to do anything else, such as go to the shops or around the park, but it was nice to have a change of scenery.

Never Greater Slaughter by Michael Livingston

Never Greater Slaughter by Michael Livingston which has a foreword by Bernard Cornwell is a really good read if you’re interested in the history of Britain. About half of the book is about the run up to the Battle of Brunanburh which according to history was a horrendous 10th century battle which left thousands dead in a battle which lasted a very long time, possibly all day. Most well known battles were over and done with in a very short time. With an alliance of Irish, Scots and Vikings intent on fighting the English, and putting an end to English power, it’s easy to see what the outcome was as the English still hold that power. It was King Athelstan, King Alfred’s grandson who won the battle, but it was a close run thing.

Strangely the actual site of the battle had been lost and apparently there has been lots of speculation over the years, there’s been very little written about the battle, just some poems and accounts by unreliable sources written long after the battle took place. Michael Livingston’s research seems very reasonable to me and the upshot is that the most likely location of Brunanburh is the Wirral. If you drive on the motorway towards Birkenhead then look to your left between Exits Four and Three – that’s the lost battlefield of Brunanburh. However, the author has obviously incensed people who are equally sure that the battle was fought in several other locations.

This was a really good read, not at all dry as some history books can be, it was published by Osprey and I was sent a digital copy of the book via NetGalley. For some reason all of the numbers in the text only appeared as hieroglyphics, which is a bit of a drawback for a history book and I presume that this will eventually be rectified.

About Britain by Tim Cole

About Britain cover

About Britain by Tim Cole is subtitled A Journey of 70 Years and 1,345 miles. This book is based on the About Britain travel guides which were published in 1951 as part of the Festival of Britain Exhibition. There are thirteen books in the travel series and Tim Cole decided to replicate the journeys from each book to see how the modern journeys compared with the original ones.

The Festival of Britain was all about celebrating modern Britain’s initiative, discovery and industry, so the journeys concentrated on roads which passed by factories and workplaces. Almost all of the industries mentioned in the original guides are long gone, so the author was driving through areas which had been dominated by mines, coal-fired power stations, hovercraft factories, a small airport (mentioned in Biggles according to my husband) and such, but had been swept away and often replaced by houses. Really it’s just as well that those heavy industries have disappeared as they were so damaging to the environment, it’s just such a pity that subsequent governments didn’t manage to replace them with anything that was as well paid.

After the end of World War 2 with sugar still being rationed years later, a lot of orchards were abandoned because to make cider you need lots of sugar and it just wasn’t obtainable in the quantites required, that’s not something that I had realised before.

There’s lots of information in this book such as the afforestation of the UK post war with the Forestry Commission and National Parks being set up, these entities were hailed as forces for good, but in my opinion they have both turned out to be too concerned with making profits rather than doing what they were set up to do, the same can be said for the National Trust which also features in this book.

Astonishingly the original Festival of Britain travel guide made little mention of Jane Austen’s home at Chawton, and seemed to think that readers would be more interested to know that Gilbert White lived in Selborne. I suspect many people were perplexed by that, even back in 1951.

As with many things the pandemic scuppered Tim Cole’s plans for this book as he obviously wasn’t able to travel during lockdown. This was particularly annoying for me as the one book that he wasn’t able to revisit happens to feature the area that I live in – Fife. He ended up doing it on his computer via Google Earth/Street. Travelling across the new Queensferry Crossing high above the River Forth that way was just not ever going to come anywhere close to the real thing.

Festival of Britain Books

I only have four of the original travel books that the author was following (see above) but at some point in the future I’d like to visit some of the places mentioned in the books. In recent years we’ve gone on quite a few UK roadtrips, but usually we don’t plan them out too much, it might be interesting to follow some of the routes in the books although the idea behind the Festival of Britain was to show how forward looking the country was after the war, so the focus was on industrial areas, rather than the scenic places that we usually frequent.

This was a really interesting read, with some humour. I was lucky to be sent a digital copy of the book by Bloomsbury Publishing via NetGalley for review. About Britain is scheduled to be published on the 10th of June 2021.

Fife Folk Museum – Ceres

Last summer we visited the Fife Folk Museum in Ceres for the first time, it’s a hop and a skip from where we live and it seems that we all tend to overlook those nearby places. I had been under the impression that I had already blogged about it, but it seems that blogpost didn’t get further than inside my head! It’s just a wee museum but is still worth a visit. I presume that most of the exhibits have been donated by locals.

Interior

Interior, Fife Folk Museum, Ceres

Cottage Room

Cottage Room, (Kitchen off,) Fife Folk Museum

Cottage Kitchen. I really like those lipped boards that women used for rolling out their pastry, it would have kept all the flour and mess to a small area instead of it flying all over my worktops.

Cottage Kitchen, Fife Folk Museum

Horse Tack

Horse Tack, Fife Folk Museum

Toys
Toys, Fife Folk Museum, Ceres

Doll’s House, Pram and Dolls. I must admit I fancied that doll’s house, not for playing with, just to admire it.

Dol's House, Pram and Dolls, Fife Folk Museum

Baby Carriages

Baby Carriages, Fife Folk Museum, Ceres

The Corn Dolly Coronation Coach and horses was made by a local, it has survived really well. Obviously when we were there in the summer the popular cafe wasn’t open, due to Covid restrictions but I have seen it packed with people in the past when we visited the village so maybe we’ll go there sometime when/if everything is back to normal.

Corn Dolly Coronation Coach Fife Folk Museum

Balbirnie Woodland, Fife, Scotland

No matter how lovely a place is, if you walk in it every day it tends to get a wee bit boring, so yesterday we decided to walk through the Balbirnie Woodland for The Guardian, rather than skirting it as we usually do. I decided to take some photos. There’s a burn/stream in the photo below but it has been so dry recently and it’s so low, it’s difficult to spot.

Back Burn, Balbirnie, Fife

Back Burn , Balbirnie, Fife, Scotland

Back Burn, Balbirnie, Fife, Scotland

If you look between the rhododendrons below you should be able to see a cute wee bridge.

Back burn + bridge, Balbirnie, Fife

It was a lovely and unusually calm day, I’m not so keen to walk through so many trees when it’s windy as there are always branches being blown down, or even whole trees!

Back burn, Balbirnie, Fife

Back burn, Balbirnie, Fife

I spotted some people riding horses in the distance and managed to snap them, they were comfortably far away. I’m not so happy when they are just right on your toes and you have to turn aside to let them past. They can be very nervous.

horses, Balbirnie woodland, Fife

Back burn, Balbirnie, Fife

It’s all quite a contrast to the shaved turf of the golf course which we passed on the way into town. It’s a pity that these places are so artificial and steeped in chemicals to ‘improve’ the grass, but there are some great trees on the course, so it’s not all bad.

Balbirnie fairway, Fife, golf course

Balbirnie fairway, Fife, golf course

I hope you enjoyed our walk on the wilder side of Balbirnie estate. It was a bit longer than usual, but a nice change.

Springtime walk – daffodils

Daffodils , Balbirnie

Over the past week my morning walk for the newspaper has been brighter and sunnier than usual. It’s the daffodils that are doing it. The poor things have been taking a wee bit of a battering from the wind, but they’re tougher than they look.

Daffodils, Balbirnie

These ones are at Balbirnie, a place that has become a lot busier since lockdown!

Daffodils , Balbirnie

The Gates of Eden by Annie S. Swan

The Gates of Eden by Annie S. Swan was first published in 1893. This book is seen as her most successful one I believe and it was an interesting read for me as almost all of the action takes place within a couple of miles of my home. Unusually the author didn’t change the names of any of the villages involved in the tale. The main setting is a hamlet called Star which Annie S. Swan had moved to when her husband got employment there as a teacher in the wee school. They only lived there for two years, it must have been a bit of a culture shock for them as they would have been used to Edinburgh and Star was really at the back of beyond comparatively.

The story begins with the death of a young woman who has just given birth to twins, both boys. Before she died she asked her husband to make the eldest boy – Alexander (Sandy) a minister when he grew up and he was determined to keep his promise. The result was that Sandy was put above his younger brother James who was destined to help his father on the farm and was very much overlooked by everyone. Nobody seemed to realise or care that James was also talented and had dreams of his own, farming was drudgery to him, he wanted to be a writer. When Sandy left to go to St Andrews University James was deeply unhappy, especially as Sandy had always just taken for granted that he deserved the best things in life.

As you would expect Sandy had grown into a really self-centred snob with money and status being his god, which isn’t great for someone who is going to become a church minister, but James who has spent his time reading widely such people as John Stuart Mill, has turned into a really thoughtful, decent and compassionate human being. Still his father doesn’t appreciate James and it’s their Aunt Susan who has cared for the twins since their birth who eventually sees James’s worth.

This is a book very much of its time with a Christian slant but not overly preachy. The lessons are many – stick in and hard work will pay off, everyone deserves a second chance, don’t be a miser or proud and materialistic – forgive.

Locally Annie S. Swan is a bit of a heroine here for putting such small places in Fife on the map back then, but in truth, if you read her memoir as I have she was quite disdainful about the two years she and her husband lived in the area, but as she said – at least she got two books out of it.

There is a lot of Scots dialogue in this book, I can only surmise that back then readers were less easily put off by that, now many readers would find it too difficult or annoying to read. Interestingly despite the fact that there’s much mention in the book of the broad Fife speech it actually isn’t a Fife dialect, so perhaps the author couldn’t cope with that herself.

Inverkeithing, Fife

Way back in February 2020 when there was talk on the news of an imminent lockdown we drove to Inverkeithing for a bit of a rake around at an antiques/secondhand shop which is housed in an old cinema.

After that we decided to have a bit of a walk around the historic parts of the town, knowing that it would be quite some time before we were able to stray from home again, mind you I never thought it would be more than a year! You can read about the history of the town here.

The two photos below are of Fordell’s Lodging.

Old Building Inverkeithing

Old Building, Inverkeithing

It’s thought that the town dates from as far back as Roman times in AD 83, but the first church was built around AD 400. There was a Franciscan friary which would have been used as an overnight stopping off place for pilgrims on their way to St Andrews. There are quite a lot of ancient buildings still standing in the town. Sadly one very interesting looking building is standing empty and unused, but another one has been converted into flats which should stop it from deteriorating.

The photo below is of St Peter’s Kirk.

Inverkeithing Church

Marriage lintels are a tradition in Scotland, especially in the east, with the initials of the bride and groom being carved into the lintel with the date of the wedding in the middle. This one is on Thomsoun’s House, 1617, it’s a bit fancier than most of them.

A Marriage Lintel, Inverkeithing

St Peter’s Church, Monkwearmouth, Tyne and Wear, England

In January 2020 we had our last UK road trip, just before Covid arrived, the weather was mild so we went to the north of England to visit friends there. Maureen took us to St Peter’s Church in Monkwearmouth which we would never have found on our own. I do love old churches, despite not being at all religious. It’s the links to the past that I love. This area was home to the Venerable Bede and Saint Benedict, there was a large monastery on the site in the 7th century.

Monkwearmouth St Peter's Church

While we were there we met a very old lady who had been married in the church over 70 years previously, she was very pleased to see that it didn’t seem to have changed at all. As it happens our friend Maureen had had her husband’s funeral in the church 50 years previously, he died very young, but we didn’t mention that to the old ‘bride’ in case it spoiled her day.

We got a tour of the place with a knowledgable guide who mentioned that the Scots had set fire to the church. I don’t think he held it against us! It was King Malcolm Canmore who did that. He was born in 1031. The original church was built around 674, parts of it date from the 13th century but as usually happend with these old churches the Victorians extended it. If you want to see more photos hop over to Jack’s blogpost.

Golf Course Walk

In normal times when we go for a walk locally on Sunday we rarely saw anyone else, but last Sunday we had to veer off the woodland paths as there were so many people on them!

a frozen golf course

We decided the golf course would be a safer option, there were some kids sliding in the bunkers as they are full of ice at the moment, but they were off in the distance, it was good to see them having some fun. The patches of ice in the photos are where the ground was flooded with all the rain we’ve had. The golf course is closed at the moment which seems a bit strange to me as I’m sure it’s very easy for them to play and stay socially distanced.

frozen golf course

The photo below is of a frozen water hazard which claims to be five feet deep and has a life belt by it, just out of shot. That’s some hazard.

frozen golf course

The grass itself was very icy but we managed to stay upright, as usual we weren’t all that keen to go out walking in the cold but felt we needed the exercise, we did feel virtuous when we got home though!