. It may sound like a rather monotonous day but the heavy seas just to my right and ships offshore meant that the scene was constantly changing. I met very few people; just one or two groups and a few individuals, mainly dog walkers, at the start and around Balmedie. In fact I saw more helicopters than people as I headed north. My researcher informs me that there are 37 000 helicopter movements to and from Aberdeen in a year and I could certainly believe that. The ships and helicopters were a constant reminder of the importance of the oil and gas industry and the many people working out in those heavy seas just beyond the horizon.
The highlight of the day was the estuary of the river Ythan at Newburgh. What I'd read beforehand suggested that I should expect to see many seals and that the estuary was the most important breeding site in Great Britain for eider ducks. I was not disappointed. There were several hundred seals on the beach on the opposite side of the river as I turned up the river while lots of eiders glided swiftly downstream on and outgoing tide or dabbled in large groups at the water's edge. As I stopped to take some photographs the seals began to move, whether uneasy at my presence or for some unassociated reason I'm unsure, but suddenly the was a stampede of seals down the beach with some plunging into the river. I've managed to capture this on a short piece of video which is included with the photos. A short while later as I moved around the edge of the golf course towards the village a large owl circled ahead of me in the sunshine seemingly undeterred by my intrusion
. Unfortunately I didn't manage to take a picture but I think it was a short-eared owl.
Beyond the village I walked over the bridge across the Ythan as far as the entrance to the Forvie Nature Reserve. This was the best part of the day with the sun out and the wind diminished but it made little sense to go further as I would just have had to double back so I made my way back to Newburgh and a bus to Aberdeen having completed 15.7 miles.
I was not the only guest for the night at Mary and Neil's as my sister-in-law Susan was also there and my nephew Ross also dropped into say hello.
Unfortunately I was unable to take advantage of the unseasonably warm weather in Aberdeenshire in the last week of March. In stark contrast as the bus drove north to Aberdeen much of the countryside around Dundee was still covered in snow from the previous day's fall. Aberdeen itself was free of snow but I faced a chilly north-east headwind as I headed down past the harbour towards the beach. After a few miles walk up the esplanade I was able to stop at Mary and Neil's in Bridge of Don to have an early lunch indoors and deposit some of my bits and pieces to lighten my load a little. Then it was back to the walk. Most of the remainder of the day took me north along the beach from Aberdeen to Newburgh. It is the longest stretch of beach I have ever walked; just under 10 miles. Despite the wind it was fairly easy going once I got into a rhythm - no uncertainties about the path; no undulations; no hard tarmac - just straight flat walking. The only obstacles were occasional streams crossing the beach but these were negotiated with dry feet and little in the way of detours