Wanderlust at Home
“Grey sky, grey buildings. Even the people are grey. My mum’s friend collected us from the airport,- and even her hair had turrned grey”. That’s how I once described coming home to Aberdeen when I was about 14 years old and writing something for English class in Tenerife. I’ve never really been excited to be in my hometown. Honestly, I just saw it as bleak, cold and miserable and would much rather be anywhere else on the planet than there. Even London.
Here I am, twenty years later seeing it anew. Of course, it is 2020 and we’re in lockdown so it wasn’t exactly a choice. Reading that last sentence again, sounds like something straight out of a Dystopian novel. And coincidentally, I’m halfway though reading 1984, better late than never, ey! Anyway, I’m not planning to write about how great Ricky Gervais’ After Life is, or how beautiful Normal People is. I’ll even spare you the details of my almost daily ritual of watering my veggie babies, and the daily escapism adventure to Spain via A Place in The Sun which by now has gone a bit far: I even used Google Maps to take myself on a vitual tour of the beautiful town of Frigiliana.
Like everyone, I know we’re in the middle of a pandemic, and I’m not attempting to downplay it at all. What I’ve found is that daily walks are my antidote, when I wake up and think “Oh shit, this is never going to end,” The walks, and bits of writing pause the world and the worries a little, I haven’t posted any travel updates in nearly a year- but here is a lockdown travel post never the less.
Welcome to Bridge of Don.
Also known as “The Largest Suburb in Europe”, and it’s badge of honour is proudly graffitied on a power box outside a local community centre. Classy. I’m not even sure what makes it officially the largest, but my guess is the ridiculous amount of houses. Which keep on growing- maybe the council are scared we’ll lose our coveted title. Wondering through the streets of bungalows built in the 70s, post-war granite homes, and stark white new builds which have taken over what was farmland (sad face); I feel like I’m transported to the 90s and it’s an incredibly long, and never ending school summer holiday. But without all my friends. Between houses, down lanes and into fields, my daily walks and runs have become a welcome adventure into the beautiful nature spots, right on my doostep, that I’d completely taken for granted.
I’d actually always wanted to live by a river. And the sea. And they’re both luckily within walking distance from home. The river Don runs through the local park and under the Brig O Balgownie, which is probably one of my favouite walks. The cobbled, Medieval bridge was built in the 14th century (mind blown!) and has beautifully quaint stone cottages at both sides. One of the large houses called Rocky Bank was where my Granda was born, and directly in front is a big patch of empty grass and a bit of ruin, where there once was Rose Cottage, where my Great-Grandma lived. Brig O Balgownie and Cottown are part of Old Aberdeen, where there is an incredible amount of history, and I’m slowly learning new stories around all the old architecture. The Black Neuk is a fairly dark-looking pool under the bridge, and for some reason, my inner monologue says “Creature from the Black Lagoon probs lives down there” everytime I go by. What an idiotic imagination.
Up one side of the river there is wild garlic growing- loads of it, and all sorts of greenery, I followed a rabbit down that side and then met an Anthropologist in a big hat, one of those Adventure hats that people who wonder around the Australian outback might wear, who was collecting plants in little jars, so I ended up chatting away to him about plants, fish and Guatemala! Sounds like something from Alice in Wonderland, I’m aware. But everyone seems a lot more chatty up here compared to London. Much slower, and I quite like it.
Another magical part of Bridge of Don is Scotstown Moor, it’s beautiful. Bright yellow gorse plants across the vast space. I could wonder around there for hours. Gorse is escpasim in a scent; with shut eyes, the coconut fragrance is reminiscent of tropical climates. That sun lotion smell, could pass as Costa del Scotstown on a bright day. And, except for the odd car passing in the distance, there's almost no noise except the teeny birds tweeting away. It's possibly the first time I've ever noticed the repetition in their song, it's kinda hypnotic. The mix of tall, dried grass throughout the yellow, looks almost like puffs of smoke or mist.
Even the walk to the moor is super chill, there is a housing estate called Lochside which has a duck pond and woods with tightly packed, tall trees, that you can snake through and see pretty much no-one else.
Of course, I couldn't possibly miss out the beach. One side, the main stretch isn't technically in Bridge of Don and on sunny days its bloody glorious! I wouldn't bother when it's windy though as your ears will fall off. I went for an wander down the Bridge of Don side of the beach and there it was, all the gorse. If it hadn't have been quite so grey and drizzly, would've been lush to give the toes a dip, in the sand that is, the sea might take a bit of bravery. It's so pretty down there, where the river meets the sea, the lust to wander is real- even if its just five minutes from the door. Seeing the horizon everyday is supposed to be good for you, and it seems to be working.
The world may not be the happiest space right now, but there are still bright sides if you’re lucky enough. So, maybe I won’t Escape to A Place in The Sun quite yet. Even if I had the choice, maybe I’d still stay a while to explore my roots.