This was the conclusion I came to today. I am in Scotland for a few days walking more of the coast. I’ve not finished England yet mind you, but I’ve done many of my coastal walks out of order, so this is nothing new for me! Having walked the Fife coastal path earlier this year I decided to head back to Scotland to walk further north, from Dundee.
Things did not go well. I found a path running close to the Firth of Tay signed as a shared use path (with a round blue sign with a pedestrian and cyclist on it) and walked along it. Gradually it went from a little out of town shopping park to a run down area where the building were either derlict or nearly derelict. The road was dirty, and with rubbish on either side, but the signs continued, showing this was indeed part of National Cycle Network 1. Then I came to a fence, with a gate in it, which was locked and with a security camera around it. There was a sign saying you needed to show photographic ID in order to continue, as this was part of the Port of Dundee. So I stopped to get my wallet out with my driving license in pressed the button but was met with a very smug sounding security guard who informed me I couldn’t come through as it was a cycle path only, and you had to be cycling in order to be let through. I replied it was part of the National Cycle network, which allows people to walk as well as cycle. He responded sarcastically, that I was wrong, you have to be cycling “why do you think it’s called a cycle network”?
I must admit that since it was only manned remotely, I though would wait for a cyclist to come and follow through although after waiting for a few minutes and with no sign of any cyclists, I had to re-trace my steps up to a road which led me onto a dual carriageway. I tried to follow the pavement beside that, only to come across a barrier across the road. I could see there was a sign the other side, so I went around it, only to see the sign said “Footway closed”. After passing another such barrier and sign I had no further problems and made it to Arbroath, a distance of 19 miles, which I was quite pleased with.
Looking into it now, it turns out it was as well I didn’t try to tail gate a cyclist. It seems doing that gets you arrested under the anti terrorism laws that the port is using as an excuse for all this. There are a few news reports of this happening to someone.
You can read some of it here : http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/uk/article1939535.ece but you have to register to read the whole article. Thankfully, I found a copy here : http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2005/10/scotlandas_answ/
The irony here is just before the barrier there is a sign requesting cyclists dismount for the security gate. So a cyclist is only allowed to walk through too, meaning they will be a pedestrian at that point anyway. So the assumption here is clearly a cyclist is not a terrorist, but someone without a bike is. It is clearly ridiculous, but politicians seem to lose all rational though (if they had any), when it comes to terrorism. Unfortunately whilst this law was introduced by the last (Labour) government, the madness continues under the current coalition. Only a few weeks ago it was announced that you must be able to demonstrate all electronic devices with you are working before being allowed to take them on a flight. I’ve taken my expensive (or at least it was, when it was new) camera on flights several times in the past when the batteies have run out. Once because I took so many photos (and since I was camping, had no way to recharge it once both batteries went flat). The second time was when one of the batteries I’d charged turn out to be faulty, as it had leaked and didn’t work. In the past this was nothing more than an annoyance. Now in this situation it seem you have to leave your camera behind after your holiday and fly home without it. Going back later to collect it might well cost you more than the camera is worth.
This is now the second time I have fallen foul of this ludicrous law on my coastal walk. The first time, a few years ago, I was actually stopped by a policeman in an unmarked car and asked to explain what I was doing. Apparently, walking on a public road through a dock area, with an ordnance survey map and camera in hand meant I was a suspected terrorist. Frankly I am far more concerned about the Government and authorities reaction to terrorism than I am about terrorism itself. This risk of being caught up is tiny. When walking on the coast, you are in far more danger from cliff falls, land slips, rock falls etc than from any terrorist.
The other thing of note is that depending on the result of the vote on Thursday it could be that I am wasting my time being here, as Scotland, and it’s coast, may cease to be part of the UK. I hope that doesn’t happen (although it would make this project a whole lot easier…).
Update: It seems I’m not the only coastal walker to have had problems with the guard at the Port of Dundee. A few days later poor Pete got abuse for being English (See section 180 at http://gbcoastwalk.com/2014/09/20/the-esk-the-tay-yae-or-nae/). Makes me wonder if the reaction I got had been different if I had a Scottish accent?