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April 2014 Archives

April 18, 2014

John Muir Way: building up to the launch

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I spent much of 2013 hiking and cycling the John Muir Way for three reasons: we are publishing the official map for Scottish Natural Heritage, we are publishing the guidebook as a Rucksack Reader and, third, I love long-distance routes. I needed to get away from the domestic pressures of downsizing, domestic tasks linked with selling our house and (finally, in November) the actual move. In short, the John Muir Way kept me sane.

It was a much bigger task than the simplified map above suggests: the route is for cyclists as much as for walkers, and has many alternative options to suit different users. The coast-to-coast distance is generally quoted as 134 miles, but I did at least 200 miles, mainly on foot, in the course of researching and photographing the route, completing every option and returning to some form of transport. For the full detail, zoomable to the utmost, look instead at our route map. My coauthor Sandra Bardwell was a pillar of strength in the tasks of writing and editing, but for logistic reasons researching the route fell to me.

So I'm hugely looking forward to spending Monday in Dunbar where the route is being launched by the First Minister. It's great that Muir and his legacy are finally being recognised. It isn't often that a long-distance route gets on the BBC website and last night there was a full 2.5 minutes of prime time TV on Reporting Scotland (item begins after 14 minutes). I was pleased that Keith Geddes stressed the fact that 3 million Scots live close to the route and can enjoy the wilderness on their doorstep.

I was also delighted that Linlithgow featured so strongly in the BBC's video footage (as it does in the CSGN promotional video). In our guidebook we recommend the original route through royal Linlithgow, past its magnificent palace and lovely loch. Sadly, as a result of a last-minute daft change, the route now officially bypasses the town centre! Most people are hoping this poor decision will soon be reversed. However, it's too late for the waymarkers, which already are on the ground.

This controversy was aired recently in the Linlithgow Gazette. In general, there has been loads of positive coverage, with USA Today picking up on the John Muir Festival (April 17-26), and today's Independent mentioning the launch. There's also been plenty of activity on the John Muir Way Facebook page. Monday should be a memorable day, especially If today's glorious sunshine persists.

April 21, 2014

John Muir Way is launched in Dunbar

Today's launch of the John Muir Way was a happy affair, with large crowds out to celebrate the launch of the route. After a hesitant start, the sun shone on this wonderful launch. It started at 12.30 near the North Sea shore, with lots of flags and mysterious costumes and eventually the First Minister's ceremonial unveiling of signs. Here is the grassy slope above The Bathe:

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There was a motley crew of John Muir lookalikes:

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Together with the dancers, flag-carriers musicians and stilt-walker, they, and the thousands of spectators, made their way to Muir's Birthplace in the High Street.

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Outside the Birthplace (which had been mobbed all day with visitors), the speeches followed.

Speeches on such occasions tend to be dominated by public thankyous: East Lothian's Provost, Ludovic Broun-Lindsay, thanked all the people who had contributed, including Scottish Natural Heritage, then the Chief Executive of SNH thanked East Lothian and all the others who had already been thanked. This gets rather repetitive, but the audience was polite and remained positive.

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Keith Geddes, Chair of Central Scotland Green Network and father of the Way, reflected on his own lack of awareness of the Muir legacy until his visit to Yosemite in 1975. Although Muir has long been famous in North America, he pointed out that it was in and around Dunbar that young John Muir first discovered Nature, not in the US. And his writings are if anything even more relevant today than when he first penned them.

This was all the buildup to the First Minister, who was amiable with small children, comfortable with the John Muir lookalikes and willing to joke with the crowd. He also mentioned the expectation that the route will create 1000 jobs over the next five years. Above all, he was audible, articulate and commendably brief.

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Nobody, not even Alex Salmond, tried to turn the event into a political football. Scottish Television were there, and their report this evening captured part of the atmosphere. But it was better if you could be there. I was delighted to be part of it. Because of researching the guidebook, it has been my main professional obsession of the last nine months, so today gave a sense of closure.

About April 2014

This page contains all entries posted to Jacquetta in April 2014. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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