Braving ‘The Storm That Battered Scotland’

The moment of calm after crossing the Lammermuir

The weather forecast predicted high winds for the day; but then they’d been predicting windy weather most days over the Christmas period, so we thought it would be like all the others, blowy and wet, and set off for the drive south with sandwiches and waterproofs in easy reach.

Perhaps I should have thought more about it when we saw rubbish skips in the middle of the road at the first set of traffic lights, or when we passed a tree fallen across the road bringing park railings with it, or when I felt the car pull away from my control, but the sky was blue, the sun so bright I needed my sunglasses, and the road ahead was free from traffic.

We were about 30 miles south of Edinburgh on the A1 when we were passed by a fire engine with its lights on, and I made the stupid remark ‘I hope that’s not heading for a road blocking incident’.

We came upon the police car parked diagonally across the carriageway a couple of miles further on.  A lorry had been blown over.  E, my passenger, got out of the car to ask the policeman if there was a diversionary route we could take.  I watched as she was buffeted across the road, unable to stand still while talking to the cop as they wobbled backwards and forwards in an awkward dance against the wind.

‘Go back, or go across to the other road south’ was the basic instruction, and what should have been a journey along the length of the A1 straight to London turned into a cross country adventure.

Maybe we should have turned back, but I suppose sometimes we overlook the power of nature, after all we live in a temperate climate…..don’t we?

On the smaller roads the power of the wind became immediately more evident.  Branches and debris littered the tarmac and in some places trees had been partially cleared to allow passage of one car at a time.  One way we were turned back by the team attempting to clear a large fall on the road, and then along another road we waited while a tractor opened a path for us.  I became uncomfortably aware of the trees bending and swaying on the wooded sections of the roads.

‘We will see it coming, if one’s going to fall on us, won’t we?’ E asked as I accelerated through a wood lined area.

By then it had become clear that our options were limited, and now probably excluded going back, so we carried on, finding an alternate route when another one was blocked.

This led us to the road across the Lammermuir Hills; a winding single track road across the top of the landscape used by Walter Scott as a backdrop for ‘The Bride of Lammermuir’.  The winter sun was so bright and so low in the sky that it was often hard to see where we were going, but at least the denuded hillsides were free from trees, and we had no company apart from the sheep.  As the area grew wilder and more remote, I had moments of worry that we were lost, but when the sun wasn’t directly in my eyes it was to my right, reassuring me that wherever we were going it was south.

I wish now I’d stopped to take photos it was so beautiful, but my focus was so much on the journey I didn’t.

Back on our intended route after our 90 minute diversion, we listened on the radio to the litany of road and rail closure due to the storm; our A1 blockage falling disappointingly low down on the list of those causing maximum disruption, realising we may have been a bit cavalier to ignore the risks presented by gusts of 100 miles per hour, from the ‘worst storm to hit Scotland for 13 years’, and by then, carefully evaluating the wobbling and straining of any lorry we saw, to assess the level of risk before passing it.

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