Tuesday, 29 May 2012

No pain, no gain...

Today saw me undertake the biggest walk I can remember doing.  Myself, along with Ian and Lesley-Ann departed from Kirkcaldy, and arrived, some 3+ hours later in not so sunny Leven, having traversed our way through the various Wemyss, Buckhaven, the Vegas of the North that is Methil, before we ended up in Leven, where we added a final dash to allow me to go and pick up my car, which was being MOTd today. It passed, with a minimum of fiscal pain!

I know that you love yourselves some stats to help you mentally plot our course, so the facts and figures for today's jaunt are...

Read it and weep...
I almost did!
Distance: 10.8 miles (yep, you read it right folks, double figures!)
Time: 3h 47m 00s
Average Velocity: 2.8mph
Calories Burned: 1021
Broken Bones: 0. Although it was a close run thing...

So, we started the mini marathon in Kirkcaldy, parking Ian's car at the car park in Ravenscraig park, which, if I remember rightly, got a mention in a Scotsman report some years ago as being a notorious meeting point for people who are of a persuasion for using car parks for clandestine fornication.  There was none of that going on today, as we started on our journey through the park, making our first slightly wrong turning within 10 minutes. It was in many ways, an ideal day for a long walk, the burning sun, which so afflicted me on Sunday's sojourn was obscured by cloud, there was a mild threat of rain in the air, which fortunately, never was manifest into actual precipitation, and the breeze was firm enough to be noticed, weak enough not to be actually cold.

Pan 'Ha, Dysart
Finding ourselves on the road, we carried on regardless and meandered our way down to Dysart. Like many parts of Fife, Dysart has something of a Janus-like quality to it.  Along the sea front, where we were, it's spectacularly pretty, with a row of whitewashed houses, all immaculately maintained. Head even slightly inland, however, and it's a different story, with scatter flats, other forms of social housing (which I'm not trying to disparage, they serve an important function in society), and a generally run-down look and feel. Dysart itself is one of the oldest communities in Fife, with links going back to St Serf in the 6th century, making it even older than my ex wife. One of the theories behind the name itself, is that it is from the root "Deserta", meaning 'fasting place of the  holy man', the holy man of course, being the aforementioned St Serf. There is a later link between Dysart and the St Clair (or Sinclair) family. Some of you may be looking and thinking "why do I know that name?". Well, the St Clairs are more famous for being the familty who commissioned and financed the construction of what is arguably one of the most famous churches in the land - Rosslyn Chapel, which has sizeable links to the Knights Templar.

So, we navigated Dysart with a minimum of fuss, and started the climb which would take us from the old harbour village, to the next piece of civilisation on our map, West Weymss. To get there, we had to climb up, and then back down, some steps, which weren't exactly pristine, but more than easily navigable. Imagine my surprise then, when I became all too aware that my ankle wasn't at the angle I was anticipating, rather, it had decided to rotate through 90 degrees, so the sole of my foot was perpendicular to the step in question. Feel free to continue imagining my consternation as I put my not insignificant weight on said ankle, heard a most ominous cracking noise, and then was the unhappy recipient of what could only be described as a lancing firey pain which had my ankle as it's source. I am sure I will be forgiven for the bull-roar I let out as I crumpled to the ground.  Ian, who was behind me and had an even better view of the unnatural angle my ankle had adopted was sure, as at that point was I, that it was going to be something terminal, that my ankle had been rent asunder, and that the emergency services would be needed.  As I sat there holding my leg in the air, pulses of pain providing a reminder, not that one was needed, that ankles aren't really designed for that kind of manipulation, I shared his fear. For the first few precious seconds I was too sore and, being honest, a little scared to even try and move my foot. 30 seconds later I manned up and made a tentative attempt to manipulate my throbbing extremity. To my immense relief, my foot moved as nature intended., so, fuelled by adrenalin and stupidity I stood up and tried putting some weight on my ankle.  It held up, thankfully, so I made the decision to continue on to West Wemyss and then see how it held up.  Given that I've already mentioned that we finished in Leven, I guess I've spoiled the cliffhanger in regards my ankle!  Needless to say, I managed to continue the walk (despite rolling over my other ankle in Buckhaven - yeah, I know, a guy my age should be able to, you know, walk, by now). I am starting to think it may not have been the best idea, following my now traditional bath and the prior removal of all my socks, my ankle has taken in a decidedly swollen appearance, and, to coin a phrase, hurts like a mofo. Still, I'll live!

So, assuming anyone is still reading and hasn't been put off my my boring you with ankle related woes, West Wemyss. One of the 3 Wemysses (alongside Coaltown of Wemyss and East Weymss - more about that later), West Weymss (or WW as I will call it from  now) is often overlooked, mostly because it doesn't have the benefit of the main road passing through it.  To get there you have to really have a reason, turn off the road and then meander down the hill. It's a shame, because again, it's a pretty enough little place, well, it is at the waterfront anyway. It is also where we saw one of the most bizarre things I've seen for a while, and one I really wish I'd taken a picture of.  Imagine, if you can, a caravan.  Go that? Cool.  Now, imagine if you can, a garden shed, but one that is bigger than the caravan.  Still with me? Excellent.  Now, build the shed around the caravan, leaving only a couple of windows, and a door, which is placed to match the location of the caravan door. That is what we happened across. It takes all sorts I suppose.

Loch Leven Castle
The 3 Wemyss all take their name from the noble Wemyss family, most notably Sir John Wemyss, who was the patron of Wemyss Castle. The castle itself was destined to have an unexpected, but lasting impact on Scottish history, being the place where Mary, Queen of Scots met her future husband, Lord Darnley. It was destined to be a tumultuous marriage.  Neither party was destined to be entirely faithful, but Darnley had a vicious and jealous streak, and decided to banish one of the queen's most trusted advisers, on the grounds that he believed they were having an affair. Shortly after, he turned up dead. After it was established that is cause of death was strangulation, suspicion fell upon the queen and her close entourage, particularly Earl Bothwell. Suspicions only grew when Bothwell married the Queen shortly thereafter.  Mary's grip on the throne was always fairly tenuous, and there was an uprising which ended with a loss for the queen, who found herself imprisoned in Loch Leven Castle, ultimately of course, she was to end her days upon the executioner's block.

Next up was East Weymss, and it's famous caves.  As with it's western namesake EW has some fascinating history, going back to Pictish times, and beyond.  It's most famous for it's series of natural caves which span the seafront.  Sadly, they are all in a fairly poor state, but if you know where to look, there is plenty of evidence of their ancient use.  The main cave, which is a little bit of a walk in, is known for it's cave art, carved into the walls in ancient times.  It's also know for a more recent occupation (I say recent, it's all relative!).  In the mid 18th century, the main cave was home to a nailmaker called Jonathon (indeed, it's now known as Jonothan's cave) who had been forced into penury following the opening of a metalworks nearby.

A Buckhaven Big Mac
As we continued along the path, our next brush with civilisation was with Buckhaven.  The town owes it's origin to hordes of invading Norsemen (which the locals, it would appear, try to emulate on a Saturday night).  At the start of the 19th century, Buckhaven was home to the second largest fishing fleet in Scotland.  It's been pretty much all downhill since then. At one point, Buckhaven, Methil and Leven were distinct towns, now they are, to all intents and purposes, contiguous.  These days Buckhaven is best known for having an entrant on reality tv 'singing' show, The X Factor, and being the inspiration for the "Buckhaven Big-Mac", which is a scotch pie on a roll.

Whilst Buckhaven might not win any 'Jewel of Scotland' awards, I would hazard a guess that it would beat it's next door neigbour, Methil. I'm trying to think of something positive to say about Methil, I really am.  It has a road which leads you back out, I guess that's a positive.  As we were traversing the mean streets of the town, there was a gaggle of neds coming the other way, armed with babies and tattoos (sometimes the babies had the tattoos), very dubious hairstyles (and that was just the men), showing themselves to be unaquainted with the concept of work, or indeed teeth, they offered a visual representation of the malaise which so afflicts towns like Methil.  Methil used to be a hard working town, shipyards, oil platform construction, there was a lot of heavy industry there, but when it moved out, nothing moved in to take it's place.  Methil is where hope goes to die. It's so bad, it got a line of it's own in The Proclaimers' song 'Letter from America'.

Fortunately, it wasn't long before we trudged our way out of Methil and into Leven.  Following a quick pit-stop for Lesley-Ann, we made it to the car park which was our allotted stopping point, rested our weaky bones for a brief spell, then wandered our way through the town to collect my wheels. By the time we got to the mechanic, I was pretty close to just shutting down.  Fortunately though, I made it, and after a stop for coffee at the Wellsgreen driving range (which was very nice, and the lovely girl who was in charge of the coffees gave us each two of those funky little caramelised biscuit type things, so she's a superhero in my books), and a little detour to Glenrothes, I eventually made it home.

We pick up the trail, and the story, next Wednesday.  Stay tuned as our heroes leave Leven (which I will go into on the next blog - this one is long enough as it is!) and start working our way round deepest, darkest Fife - the East Neuk!

No comments:

Post a Comment