Saturday, 16 November 2013

`Becky`s Strip` Byway; Proposed Resurfacing... Pt2

You may have read and been interested in the post i wrote about the proposed resurfacing of a local Byway - an unmaintained green road with local historical interest called Becky`s Strip. After a meeting was called by members of the public with council and other related parties the resurfacing has been withdrawn to be reviewed. It does not mean the Resurfacing has been cancelled, No public notice has been published yet on a decision.
You can read the post i wrote about the byway Here

I read the views in the letters section of our local Newspaper for this old Byway to be resurfaced with concrete for cyclists-the East Lothian Courier,  and i have to say i did not like at first the comments about the protesters being small minded and not looking at the bigger picture, and there also seemed to be a total disregard by those people all for protecting and preserving this only remaining section of a once busy thoroughfare which was part of a Pilgrims route, for an all weather cycling route.

As a cyclist who has worked beside this ancient route for over 15 years, and cycled it in all seasons i have learned quite a bit about the route , and also the now long gone postman's routes which linked the surrounding farms in the area of Whitekirk,  via a soon to retire local man who grew up in the village, and since this came to light, a few other local people i have spoke to have told me more about this ancient byway and other local history of Whitekirk.
I need to do a Whitekirk blog post soon!, i have a lot of old pictures to share.
Anyways, time i thought for a letter by a local cyclist outside of a closed cycling group-more of that in a bit which supposedly was involved in talks on the future of the byway, yeah! like they are to decide on the future of a PUBLIC byway!.

I have never written to a newspaper before and unlike a blog which is really only read by a hand full of people compared to a local newspaper you are really putting yourself on the front line doing so.
My letter was quite long and i did not expect it to be printed in full, but it was!
If your a regular on here then you will read my words easily enough. If you came here via a web search then please understand my grammar is not the best and i often use local lingo it may be a bit hard to follow!...
The letter is not on the East Lothian Courier website to view, some of the other letters on the subject are.
So here is what i wrote,

It was quite correctly titled by The Courier;  "Majority of cyclists are against strip resurfacing"     -)

"Dear Sir,

I have been reading with interest about the proposed plan to resurface the historic Becky`s Strip byway at Whitekirk.
I have read the letters over the last few weeks in our newspaper and have not been aware of any letters written by cyclists.
I am a cyclist with an interest in this byway and the future for cycling in East Lothian.
I cycle almost daily here in East Lothian, I commute to work on our country roads. I ride mountain bikes on our brilliant network of tracks, trails, and railway line walks. I also ride special wide-tyre bikes on our coastline.
We are indeed lucky to live in such a spectacular part of Scotland, and for the visitor cycling on the soon-to-open North Sea cycle route there is much history and scenery to be seen from the saddle as you ride around our coastline.

There have been comments made of protesters to the resurfacing having not looked at the bigger picture.
If touring on a bicycle, you are wanting to visit and see scenery you won`t find anywhere else in the world. East Lothian has a lot of this which would be missed if approaching Whitekirk from East Linton or Tyninghame and your route was to take you from Whitekirk village over Becky`s Strip on a straight course to North Berwick.
You have just cycled past one of the best parts of our county`s coastline!
You will also pass a soon-to-be-built hotel at Whitekirk golf course, which East Lothian Council has been saying is much-needed for visitors to our county.
You will also miss the opportunity to visit the amazing Seacliff Harbour and it`s outstanding views across to the Bass Rock and Tantallon Castle perched on the cliffs - Tantallon needs no description as one of the major landmarks on our coastline!
Then there are the buildings at Gin Head, that really should have an information board as it was here during the Second World War that top secret radar jamming devices were first developed which were vital for the success of the June 1944 Allied invasion of France.
Thousands of Allied troops` lives were saved because of this equipment, developed right here in East Lothian.
The view over Canty Bay to the Bass Rock as you cycle to North Berwick and its landmark the Law is one of the finest in East Lothian.
All this will be missed by the visitor going a direct route north from Whitekirk across Becky`s Strip.

Becky`s Strip byway is the only remaining unmaintained part left of the original Pilgrims Way, which was a main thoroughfare from Dunbar to North Berwick. The route connected the churches of Whitekirk and North Berwick.
John Ainslie`s Map of the South of Scotland , printed in 1821, which can be viewed on line at the National Library of Scotland, shows an inn near the bridge over the burn, called Whitehall from when this was a couch road. The Inn has long vanished, along with it`s stables, but points at the route`s historic importance.
The route has been unmaintained and unchanged since the 1950`s, when many old routes like this were downgraded from highways and had `No Through Road` signs for motorists erected.
Only the twin hedgerows were removed in the 1960`s as the byway passes through East Barns farm land, then one side of hedgerow at the Whitekirk end in the 1990s.
People have walked, cycled and ridden horses (with buggies too!) for all these years since and the grass surface has survived fine for all these years.

We already have an all-weather surfaced track available, the John Muir Way, for all users from East Linton to North Berwick, which runs parallel to Becky`s Strip, which just makes this whole idea of re-surfacing such a waste of money, along with destroying an important part of history - once it is concreted it is gone forever.

I was told last year when enquiring that East Lothian Council had no spare money to maintain the present John Muir way, which in places gets overgrown in summer. I enquired about the path west of Abbotsford Road in North Berwick onto the field to Yellowcraig. Overhanging brambles, nettles and rose hip bushes make the route unsuitable for children in buggies and for cycling, yet it is a perfect route from North Berwick to the beach at Yellowcraig.
Yet East Lothian Council is going to pay half the £76,000 costs minus an amount paid by Scottish Natural Heritage for resurfacing Becky`s Strip!
Would it not be a better solution and a lot cheaper to introduce cycle lanes on the present A198 road north of Tyninghame to Whitekirk and around into North Berwick?
The new cycle lanes from Aberlady to Gullane are great and cyclists i know are really pleased with this. They are a far safer solution for shared roads for both users.
The amount of cyclists that have signed the on-line petition against the resurfacing of Becky`s Strip far outnumber a small cycling forum which has been quoted as representing the cycling community.

I look across over Becky`s Strip every day at work. I see people regularly using the Byway on foot, two wheels and horses all-year round.
I would like to invite anyone interested to walk up to the cairn on Whitekirk Hill (you have open access here, just be aware of golf in progress!) and take in the great 360-degree view from the cairn. You will see a great vista of East Lothian`s rich agricultural landscape, along with great views further afield across the Lammermuirs and across to Fife.
Note below the hill you see no roads, hidden by hedgerows. Now look north-west across to North Berwick Law and the unspoiled view of farmland and woodland.
Now imagine a three-meter-wide light grey concrete path across what is now a natural green byway, and tell me that is an improvement for our beautiful county.

Yours etc..."

That was my 2p worth...

And i have to say i have had a lot of positive comments from local people, loads of emails via the blog, and msgs sent via facebook to say thanks for writing in and there seems to be a lot of people who want this old Byway to remain untouched and left in natural condition.

Letters since my letter was published need in places some correction;
To say "protesters are not thinking of the bigger picture" is  a contradiction as the public who are protesting will agree that the plans to resurface the byway were not publicly advertised!. Er is that not the bigger picture? all those with an interest?.
Consultation with some local cyclists on an enclosed forum (you have to apply and then be accepted) is not public consultation, and should not be considered the view of all cyclists by council officials!.

I recently joined The East Lothian Cycle Forum  and looking around found no posts on Becky`s Strip, and the plans. Just road bike ride outs as i knew were already on the forum as my friend is on it and he only rides on the road group rides organised. So.. no public consultation with cyclists as mentioned..

A recent letter stated; "The route is only ride able in frost and drought conditions"
This is hilarious!,  A 67 year old local resident was out pushing his grandchild in a 3 wheel pram/buggy last week twice a day. Did you see the rain we got last week?

"The road is not shown on the William Roy Military Survey of Scotland 1747-55"
Maybe i am looking on the wrong part of the site but only north of Edinburgh  is shown f Scotland, Yet i have been told the road is on the map. here is the link to Roys Map;

The oldest map i have found with the road shown is on the 1736 John Adair survey, not enough detail to show the exact route, but it was there before the Roy survey 10 years earlier...

The line of the Byway has been questioned in a letter if it does lie on the line of the original route and has been moved with field enclosures in the past, hence the right angle corners near the burn when it enters East Craig Farm land if going north to south,
here looking north...

and looking south...

This does not draw away from the fact of this historic route. Maybe it does, but why does it matter?. Something i have noticed is that on the rise through the open section between fields the road is on top of a rock head that shows through in places, the camera is sitting on it...

While the soil to the west side of the road is ploughed deep...

The two easterly fields are split by a rock head that runs all the way to the golf course...

Maybe then after the Hawthorn hedgerows had been pulled out in the 1960`s the farmer intentionally or unintentionally moved the byway onto the rock head to improve field soil depth?, end of the day it is still a Byway. It is Agricultural land so the farmer has a right to plough, and then reinstate the right of way.
This happens on the John Muir Way SE of Yellowcraig as the way crosses a field.

Back to the right angles near the site of Whitehall - this too was questioned if there really was a coach inn with stables here. I only have local knowledge of this from a man near retirement who has lived all his life at Whitekirk, and was told of this by his father, local knowledge passed down. He also says there was a water hole at the roadside west of the village for horses. right where the field is wet today, just past the 30 mph and village sign.

Local word of mouth is an important part of local history. More is also coming to light about the routes name.
Becky was supposedly a witch from here, tried and burned at North Berwick. Again just what the local man remembers being told, so don`t quote me on this!, i am no historian and don`t pretend to be!.
It would be great if someone could research the parish records for information on the road.

Sustran has no doubt done some great work for cyclists with routes across Edinburgh and down in Northumberland. This has been welcomed by cyclists who want well signed and maintained routes to cycle.
Their plan for Becky`s strip is to cover this green road with a concrete material that is dry poured then left to set after soil and material is scraped away down to rock or a suitable hard surface.

I would like to see the old Byway left as a green road. There seems to be a lot of people who via facebook who are against the resurfacing jumping on an anti cyclist theme-moaning about militant large groups of cyclists on our East Lothian roads often right across the road etc..

But what the hell has road cyclists got to do with cycling on offroad routes?!

Being militant gets you know where in life. be it non cyclist or cyclist!
I have seen this in Greenkeeping with people in charge shouting and swearing at young greenkeepers. again, idiots.
If you were to walk into a pub and was militant, looking for a fight, you will probably get into one.
If you have your back up about other users then you will likely get the same treatment.

My own view of these reoccurring issues with abuse from large cycling groups holding up cars unnecessarily is the cyclists seem to be of an attitude of Cyclists first and only, no regard to the other users.

Many cyclists like myself have nothing to do or in common with these types of people.

My comments of missing one of the most scenic parts of Scotland SE coastline seem to have fallen on deaf ears.
Be a shame if any visitors to East Lothian does not know what awaits them by cycling east from Whitekirk church, stunning coastal scenery...


  1. Bruce, you have provided a fair and enveloping argument to preserve an ancient right of way. "Dinnae fash yerself." If the planning folk get enough "money". Sorry, that's a mistake, I meant to type "advice" from the Teure.. sorry another mistake, I meant the people who are interested in promoting cycling and not a housing development that needs an access road. Then we will know that we have an honest council who look after the people who elect them.'s about the money.

  2. Gremlins in the system I think , I posted a comment but It appears to have disappeared. Anyway being a local coast lover and keen cyclist I thought I'd stop lurking and get posting. Im sorry to say I disagree with you on this occasion Bruce as I think a good layer of type 1 hardcore would do wonders for this stretch of land. Just think of the all weather surface for taking the kids cycling like the one on the Longniddry to Haddington cycle route. At the end of the day it's just some Mud and grass really Isn't It.
    Anyway keep blogging and fighting the good fight for us velo lovers. If I can offer some constructive criticism maybe blog on other parts of your cycling like your fixie or old road bike as , as much as I like the fat bikes the posts and routes are fairly repetitive. Anyway Ride on Bruce.

  3. Hi Peter, thanks for looking in again, catch up soon for a cycle,
    Victor, thanks for looking in and leaving your comment- comments are published once i approve them to stop spam, thanks for leaving your views on the byway, everyone is free to have an opinion, esp if constructive as you are!,
    The fixie needs new rear bearings but will be rolling again soon!, Plan a bit more roughstuff exploring soon too with the old road bikenow vegitation has died back,
    Oh maybe putting semi drop CX bars on the singlespeed 29er so be plenty of variety to post up soon!

  4. Hope the byway can be preserved for ALL users. And as it is still here nowadays thanks to the efforts
    of the local users in the '70's, I hope that this time round the locals will be listened to again!!

    1. To add up, the actual Concreting cracks themselves give an easy access for water to seep through the crack and it will cause further expansion and more damage.