2nd August 2022

Sometimes I’ll be chatting to someone and they’ll say exactly what I’ve been thinking but haven’t really put into words. And this was the case when I posted the above photo on Instagram last week and my friend Mattijs commented with: “It’s still a bit post-apocalyptic there, isn’t it?”

The simplicity of that observation struck me. I’d been writing this post last week – a different version of this post – but was going round in circles trying to find the words for this. We usually take a different route when walking at John Muir Country Park, heading around the woodland in an anti-clockwise direction, and always missing out the section that stretches alongside the salt marshes. The destroyed side. It’s heavy.

But then on this walk, arriving at John Muir below sullen skies, we decided to walk in the other direction, clockwise. We wanted to see how this side of the wood had changed with the lush grasses and greenery of summer – something I wrote about in this recent post. It’s a route that takes us past two of my favourite trees from the ‘before time’: one, gulped from the ground by its roots; the second, where the top section of the tree has been ripped off.

How to describe this…? Yes, Mattijs said it best: it is still a bit post-apocalyptic here. For all that this woodland has become a giant rewilding site, and for all that the vegetation has grown, softening this landscape, there’s no denying what’s been lost, or the fact that it will take decades for this woodland to recover.

This is what extreme weather looks like. Our news cycles have been filled with these discussions recently with regard to the heat, particularly in the south of England. People pay attention to heat, but this is the other side – and it won’t pass in a few weeks or a few months or even a few years. These scenes in one small corner of East Lothian might go unnoticed  – although, clearly, the damage was widespread across Scotland, in the east in particular, and south into Northumberland and beyond – but they shouldn’t be dismissed. This is what extreme weather looks like.

And from here to the familiar scenes that regular readers will know well, with views over Hedderwick Sands as we walked along the edge of the woods – our usual loop where you can almost forget the damage elsewhere. (You can’t really, but almost.) We paused on a log to simply take in the views as the clouds broke and the light shifted. I always feel so grateful for these moments and this place, even in its (largely) broken state.

John Muir Country Park, July 2022.