I grew up near the sea and for me the beach is a place to unwind, recharge and refresh the spirit; a source of inspiration; a place where worries are slipped under withdrawing waves, lost to the waters. What does the beach mean to you? This is what manonabeach wants to find out.
As someone who spends his time journeying around the coast, manonabeach was the ideal person to interview about the lovely coastline that meanders east of Edinburgh.
So who is manonabeach? Remaining invisible behind the camera as he interviews locals and visitors to our beaches, he describes himself as ‘an Everyman, a construct whose job is to bring answers to you from beach goers’. The project was started initially on YouTube in 2011, with a focus on Cornwall, and has now become national. There are over 1,600 films on his website, showcasing 829 interviews and the emotional and sensory impact of the coastline that surrounds us.
Every season when possible, manonabeach returns to each region, building a picture of beach life through the year. We wanted to ask him his impressions of the East Lothian beaches and, of course, find out what the beach means to him.
The first question we have to ask is that which you ask the public: what does the beach mean to you?
I haven’t got a definitive answer and I’ll keep going until I find it. Having said that, I’ve learnt to enjoy a passive relationship with the natural environment. The beach is a place where you can be, rather than feel obliged to act. It’s a wild meeting place between the air, land and sea. The beach is ever changing, through the motion of the tides, hours of the day and through the seasons, so each visit is a new experience. The beach frees people, provokes creativity and can re-balance you.
In your journeys around the coast you have visited many of Scotland’s beautiful beaches – what do you feel is special about those in East Lothian?
Firstly, a sense of visual perspective. The Bass Rock, Fidra and the other islands in the Firth of Forth add an extra dimension to the view from the beaches in East Lothian.
Secondly, several of the beaches are unspoilt and have a timeless sense. I was particularly struck by this in an early morning visit to Yellowcraig beach, when I was able to see the dawn come up before we filmed the TV piece for BBC Scotland. The full 360 degree vista from the dunes was as it had been for a long time.
Thirdly, there are plenty of people on the East Lothian beaches. There is a pride in the beach as a resource for people. Both beaches at North Berwick are good examples, with the lido at Milsey Bay and the Scottish Seabird Centre sitting between them.
If a visitor only has time to visit one of the beaches in East Lothian which one would you recommend?
Yellowcraig so far, but I always travel in hope and the next beach may well be my favourite, you just never know!
Do you have any tips for people visiting any of the beaches in the East Lothian area?
The beach is free, uncontrollable and makes people relaxed, so my tip would be to stop, notice and enjoy the positive effect that the beach has on fellow beach goers. Isn’t it ironic that we’re happiest in a place without the systems that we’ve created?
Do you prefer the beach in summer or winter?
I enjoy the changes in the beach through the seasons and within each season.
Which beaches in Scotland have really made an impression on you?
For a sense of theatre – Camusdarach, Cullykhan in Aberdeenshire, Claigan coral beach above Dunvegan on Skye, the curve of the long Elie and Earlsferry beaches in Fife.
For natural beauty – Sanna Bay at low tide, the Back of the Ocean on Iona, Lunan Bay in Angus, St Andrews West Sands.
For a sense of community – Portobello beach in Edinburgh, the North Berwick beaches and Stonehaven.
To view video clips of the beaches mentioned above, like this of East Bay North Berwick, and hear what the beaches across Scotland mean to locals and visitors, visit www.manonabeach.com.
As manonabeach is seen in 119 countries, the site is being developed into a place where people can share and enjoy answers to the question from all around the world and different cultures. If you want to answer the question yourself, manonabeach is encouraging people to send in their own text, audio and video submissions that answer “What does the beach mean to you?”, which will then be featured on the site.
Images courtesy of manonabeach.