26th December 2022

For years, Christmas brought stress. What to buy, who to buy for, how much to spend, how to afford any of it. What to do on the day. It’s easy to get caught up in the expectations. A few years ago, we decided to step aside from all of those expectations and have the Christmas that we really wanted: quiet, just the four of us, without the pressure of cards or gifts (we donate to animal rescue charities instead), and with a walk as the focus on our day. And for the last few years, that walk has been here, at John Muir Country Park. This has become our tradition.

Last Christmas, December 25 gave us blue skies and beautiful light, and our walk was at low tide, so when we reached Hedderwick Sands (above) we crossed over the narrow bridge and walked along the beach, continuing along the path beyond that skirts the edge of the fields – a route we rarely take as it gets muddy over winter, but it guided us away from the fallen wood as, at that stage, the two main pathways that lead through the woodland hadn’t been opened.

On Christmas Day 2020, we arrived here to cloud cover that eventually cleared to blue skies, and on that day we walked through Hedderwick Plantation, following the winding paths below the pines. I’m so glad that I’ve taken photos of all these days. It would be so easy to forget the details of these moments.

This year, we had a very high tide, so, knowing there was no chance of a beach walk, we looped around and through the woods instead. I was taking videos rather than photos, and by the time we reached Hedderwick Sands and this view above, the light was fading. These photos don’t do this scene justice. It was absolutely calm with not even a hint of a breeze. In the distance, we could hear the sea thundering at Belhaven Bay – if you didn’t know the geography, you’d walk here and wonder, what is that noise? – and looking out towards St Baldred’s Cradle, we could just see the white, frothy crests of the bigger waves. It was a scene to soak in, to breathe in and absorb, and to feel grateful for.

December 25 2022, John Muir Country Park, East Lothian.