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THE ASH LAGOONS

15th May 2020

I’m sure most of us feel this way, but this lockdown period has really highlighted the things that are most important in my life. I realise this will mean different things for different people, particularly those who are missing their family and friends, but for me this means: my little family, both canine and human; taking photos (always, as I mentioned in my previous post); being out in nature (taking photos); getting on my yoga mat regardless of how I’m feeling, because ten minutes into practice, you remember why it is that you practice; and tech, because six weeks of sharing a MacBook with my other half in our new shared WFH life pretty much clarified how important tech is every day.

If you’d asked me before lockdown, that list would have been the same, but I guess these recent weeks has brought things into sharper focus. For me, holding onto balance in these strange weeks has been about getting outside with Richard and the lads and taking photos.

Which brings me to this walk, and this place. Unusually, this was a solo walk last week. I swithered between heading along the sea front to enjoy the fading evening light, or having an even quieter walk at the lagoons, and I’m glad I chose the latter.

I remember this lagoons walk from my childhood, but back then this area looked very different. I remember concrete, ash, and ponds. The site was still industrial at that stage. The lagoons were created as a repository for the coal-ash from Cockenzie Power Station, which stood about 3 miles east along the coast, and which was closed in 2013 before being demolished two years later. When we first moved to this area, we decided to have a walk at the lagoons one evening and started from the mouth of the River Esk, following the sea wall and taking in these views over the Firth of Forth – the path I remembered from walking here as a kid. It still felt pretty industrial and, to be honest, we didn’t walk far.

So it was a bit of a revelation when, in the first week of lockdown, we decided to explore the lagoons properly and took a different route, walking behind Musselburgh Racecourse and following a path through a stretch of woodland to arrive… here. At this pond, which certainly wasn’t part of my childhood walks. Most of this 120-hectare site has been reclaimed, grassed and planted in recent years, and is now a rich habitat for wildlife, and particularly birdlife, and the remaining two lagoons are set to follow as there are plans laid out for their development. 

And on last Friday’s solo walk here, I arrived at the pond to find this amazing light, the water calm and still, reflecting the glowing sky above. I shared a few photos and videos on this Steller story, and couldn’t resist sharing here too. Even though, now eight weeks in, this pond and this area has become very familiar, every walk here feels slightly different depending on the weather and the light and the sky.

And there are swans – a pair of swans, who have this whole place to themselves. There’s an entire community of swans on the River Esk, and we’ll see them on our evening walks along the sea front, gathered to feed at the mouth of the river. But this pair really have the best spot, away from the high tides and the constant flux of the river. These lagoons have become our favourite lockdown walk; a place to escape and a space to exhale.

Friday 8 May 2020, the ash lagoons, Musselburgh.

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