Sun, Sand and Soldiers

Today was a beautiful hot sunny day and I wanted to be by the sea. I decided to explore somewhere I’d never been. I headed towards the Tay Bridge, crossed to Dundee and up the east coast through Broughty Ferry to Monifieth, close to Carnoustie and its champion golf course.  The beach here stretches forever; looking south across the Tay is Tentsmuir Forest.

It’s such a huge beach that even on a day like today when a lot of people are out and about, it seemed empty. The tide was out so I headed towards the sea to refresh my smelly feet. Far in the distance I could see a lighthouse and I decided to head towards it. I can’t help it but I have to walk ‘just’ up to the corner to see what’s round it or ‘just’ to the top of the hill … but then there’s always another corner … As I paddled my way along I passed two women but that was it. It was beautiful.

I kept walking and over on the land I could see what looked like a concrete block. The Tay was heavily bombed during WWII so it would make sense to find remnants of old sea defences along here as there are at Tentsmuir. I veered towards land to check it out.

In the slight breeze I thought I heard a voice. I ignored it. Again the sound of a voice. Definitely someone was shouting out “Halt” “Halt” and then I saw a figure in the distance gesticulating. I looked behind me – as if I would see anyone there – and then back towards this person who was now running towards me.

I hesitated before walking towards him. I heard other voices and realised he was speaking on a radio. When he caught up with me, he said in an urgent voice, “You’ve got to get out of here.” It turns out that the lighthouse I was heading towards is no longer a lighthouse but houses a high definition camera which had been watching me for some time. I had in fact strolled into a vast army training area – Barry Buddon Camp – and was holding up their training exercises!

The warden, an ex-para, had been sent to get me out of the area as quickly as possible. He was very nice and asked if I’d not seen the red flags flying. The tide was so far out I’d been miles from any flags or signs and quite oblivious to any danger. The red flags fly when firing is in progress. I had to get into his van and be driven off site and back to safety. After a rather long detour around the area, he took me all the way back to my car in Monifieth. What a nice man. But as he drove off, I had an overwhelming desire to walk back along the beach … I’d never reached the lighthouse. But I thought I’d better leave that till another day when the flags weren’t flying.

Barry Buddon has been a military training area since the late nineteenth century and covers something like 2000 acres. It’s mainly used for infantry training with several firing ranges for small arms, mortar and anti-tank weapon training. The camp has accommodation for up to 500 and caters for the three services and army cadets. He said all sorts turn up on the beach, including the odd cannon ball from the days when they used to practice firing into the Tay.

As we drove I expected to see a lot of fed up soldiers hanging around waiting to get on with their training. But I saw no one, only this van with a few cadets. The warden showed me the range I’d been walking by. He drove me down to the beach end to where there is a built up bank to catch any stray bullets that miss the target. “BUT” he said “quite a few still go over the top and onto the beach where you were walking. And it’s live ammunition they use.” Yikes.

Red flag at the back of the firing range

Built up mound to catch stray bullets – beach the other side

If this wasn’t a military site, no doubt it would have been developed or at very least turned into a golf course. As it is, the wildlife co-habitate happily with the army to such an extent that the area is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

So, all in all, a very eventful and interesting day. It reminded me of the day I was happily working at home when the UK Border Agency came thumping at the front door looking for who knows who or what … but pretty scary opening the door to 10 armed agents in flak jackets! Whatever next?


~ by marysia on 23 May 2010.

6 Responses to “Sun, Sand and Soldiers”

  1. A similar event happened to me in Tenby, South Wales. I wasn’t alone though. Nicola was with me and I took the opportunity to propose to her on the firing range!

  2. What an old romantic! Did you think your end was nigh and it was now or never?!

  3. Imagine the pressure on me – did he have the firing quad there in case I said no, what choice did i have!
    Its always lovely and beautiful and peaceful near a firing range, i guess cause no one goes there! Glad you had fun. Fab photos

  4. […] you may remember some time ago I went to Monifieth and got escorted off the beach by the military […]

  5. i managed to get along monifieth to barry today what a long walk the first time i tried to do it i was also escorted off the beach to safety along with another man who was walking in the area but this time no red flag so off i went

  6. Glad you managed to do it. I’ve still got to go back and get right along. Every time I go the flags are out or the weather is not so good.

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