Paul W Furmański
A journey from island to border town...
Updated: Mar 3
From the 'are we there yet' pleadings of a child to the present day collective obsessions about attainable targets, our lives seem ever more focussed on end results but, for those of us who remain conscious of these mere ephemera, we never take the journey of life for granted.
Life with a big L is, in fact, all about the journey. When we place our focus on the essence of our lived experiences in the moment rather than on fleeting achievement we tend to not only achieve as much as we are able at any particular moment in time, but we also become more aware of the myriad opportunities and gifts that are bestowed upon us. Awareness often seems to be such an undervalued feature of our inner lives.
This one day journey, from a Scottish isle in the northwest to an English isle in the northeast, was to take me from bus to plane, to tram, to train and finally from foot to car as my journey cut a diagonal across Scotland and over the border into England.
I woke early, ate breakfast and caught the bus from the terminus in Stornoway, arriving at the airport in good time to watch 'Romeo-Charlie' arrive and taxi on stand. Fifty five minutes later Loganair 344 had crossed the North Atlantic as we tracked south-south-east over the Scottish highlands.
The hum of the twin turboprops faded into the background as the peaceful topographic contours of hills, lochs and dams circumscribed a verdant landscape. Snaking roads made patterns through trees and around occasional wind farms, the landscape becoming ever less rugged as we made our way down to the River Forth. Descending further onto our base leg for Edinburgh Turnhouse, ubiquitous farmland was interrupted by neatly laid out developments of red and grey roofs which became ever more frequent and sizeable the further south we flew.
We turned onto final approach for Runway 06 at EDI and, after a while, I felt the familiar thud of the undercarriage dropping below my seat. The event was met by a characteristic drop in speed and increased cabin noise as air particles caused friction against the steel and rubber appendages. Closer still the the aerial perspective became adorned with unadulterated farmland where harvested fields and purposefully situated straw bails painted modernist canvasses within irregular geometric boundaries.
It was a gloriously sunny day and I took the tram into Edinburgh. Within a short walk I had reached Waverly Train Terminus and perused the offerings of a whiskey shop before boarding the train to Berwick-Upon-Tweed. Later that evening I'd be on my way to another island I'd long wanted to visit but, for now, I stashed the bottle of Laphroaig in my case, ready to be gifted to my host who would collect me once the tides allowed him to drive across the causeway to the mainland.
With a lot more than a few hours to enjoy I popped into The Castle Hotel and asked if I might leave my case there for a while, so as I could properly explore this town of dualistic identity. The border town of Berwick is the northernmost town in England and is situated just 4km from Scotland. It retains many links with the neighbouring country, so much so that both its football club and rugby club play in the Scottish leagues. Is it English or Scottish?...both, it would seem, in some senses at least.
A traditional market town, the main street descended from the station past a multitude of small shops and businesses and down to the medieval walls and impressive grass laden Elizabethan ramparts. Standing high above the town, the rampart gave me a sense of what it was like to be one of the gulls milling about as I looked down on the townsfolk going about their business.
The route I chose was firstly to the east, for views over the North Sea, Berwick Pier and its lighthouse. From there the rampart turned southwards and noticeably downhill as I approached the mouth of the River Tweed. I headed down to the town walls which, by this time, were basking in the golden light of an icreasingly low laying sun which glistened like a mirror ball off the water. A handful of anglers fished for their supper as I headed north to the three bridges lying further up the river and I finished up at the impressive Royal Border Bridge. I stopped for some time to capture its striking backlit arches which looked like a stencil against the sky before making tracks again, climbing the 30 metres or so up steps and paths back to the top of the town.
I reclaimed my luggage at The Castle and took a well earned pint of local ale in the bar as I catalogued and thinned out my image haul for the day on my laptop. I waited until the dark hours before walking down to the station again where my pick up would finally meet me and take us back to his home on the alluring isle of Lindisfarne.
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