This is a story of gales and sea, of shipwrecks and mountains of sand: a true Wild Soul Walk. It began with a flash of wild water from the window of a bus.
In Gullane, a village in East Lothian, on a sunny, blustery March afternoon, we were in search of another beach. Our maps led us seaward, leaving the gastro-pub and vintage tea shop behind, to meander through lanes lined with early blossom and birdsong.
The wind gathered strength as we reached a stretch of scrub just beyond which would be the beach. What way do you want, the short way or the long way? a passerby shouted. Eager to reach the shore, we chose the former, and wound through a wood along a track of gorse and bracken, until, suddenly, there was a clearing and a sky-high wall of sand.
We clambered up the dunes, and then we sank, running, tumbling, gasping to the shore. The gale battered us upright, forcing us backwards onto our feet. We reeled at the crash and roar of the sea, at how close it was, how wild. We yelled above it all, breathless, battling to tug our hoods around our ears for protection, and to clasp each other’s hands.
In the glare of the sun, unable to find shelter, we picnicked on strange flotsam – a bleached, weathered railway sleeper – and wondered if ships were still wrecked here. We gazed over the snarl of rocks, wiping the sting of sea-spray from our eyes, and found a carpet of jewels around our feet. Here, again, the beach is different, the underworld treasure of the sea smashed to land – the shells of thousands upon thousands of pastel sea snails and large, sherbet limpets were stranded in the sea-grass.
Lunch over, we beach-combed amongst the shells, staggering apart but calling out and lifting up our finds. Unable to endure any more wind, hoarse, and with faces that ached from smiling, we filled our palms then our pockets, and tinkled as we began to leave the shore.
At the dunes, we climbed again, our knees digging for balance in the sand and dirt, clinging to the long sea-grass as we hoisted ourselves over the ridge. We tiptoed along, wary of steep drops on either side. Studying our maps, we were lured towards the forest and to the crow’s flight route, but as the waves crashed behind us and the sky darkened, we made our slow way home.