Field Trip Observation Psychogeography

Three steps …

Three steps  may be all it takes to alter our perception of place

Dalgety Bay Looking out to Inchcolm & over to Arthur's Seat

A fairly idyllic view taken last weekend from the Fife Coastal Path at Dalgety Bay. An expansive sky animated by great dollops of scudding cloud, mirrored in the calm, glassy sea. Inchcolm Island lies straight ahead and over to the right, the contours of Edinburgh and Arthur’s Seat ink the horizon.

Waders and gulls amble and preen on the bay foreshore with divers, ducks and the occasional seal bobbing in the deeper water.

take three steps back













You find out that you are actually standing on radioactive contaminated land.

The contamination is believed to originate from the residue of radium coated instrument panels that were used in military aircraft.  Between 1946 and 1959, over 800 planes were incinerated and the ash was land-filled in the area.

Radioactive material was first detected on a part of the foreshore in 1990 and, since then, more than 1000 radioactive items have been removed.

It has taken twenty-three years for the MoD to be ‘officially’ named as polluter of the site by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA). However, the MoD continue to prevaricate in actually admitting responsibility and most importantly undertaking remediation options.  This week, the can has been kicked forward, once again, until September when another ‘discussion’ between SEPA and the MoD will take place.

There is a possibility that SEPA will be required to formally designate the beach at Dalgety Bay as a radiation-contaminated area.  If this happens, it will be the first such designated site in the UK.

“It would be extraordinary that in a Britain that has nuclear storage sites, nuclear processing sites, nuclear weapons and nuclear waste, the beautiful beach at Dalgety Bay would stand out as the first and only radiation-contaminated site in the country.”

(Gordon Brown, MP, Hansard, 9th July 2013)

The layered traces of human activity embedded in the land takes on another dimension when the presence of absence can be measured in half-lives.

Now playing: Sun Ra – Nuclear War.


Encounters Happenstance

An Almost Supernatural Manifestation…

I must have taken this journey hundreds of times. The railway crossing over the Firth of Forth, rumbling through the three red diamonds of the Rail Bridge.

The train window frames a changing canvas of sea and sky as weather formations dance in constant flux. Bright, clear days offer sunlight stained, glassy blues which stretch to the horizon, punctuated by the islands of Inchcolm, Inchmickery and Inchkeith. The abandoned World War II fortifications of Inchgarvie, lie directly underneath the bridge. Hollowed out shells, windows like mouths of gaping teeth, now colonised by seabirds. The gulls ascend to hover on the updraughts, peering into the train window, before coasting off and plummeting seaward – racing gravity.  On certain days, a tang of salt air permeates the hermetically sealed train carriage.

There is an excitement in looking out and observing the great diagonal smears of rain advancing up the estuary. Slabs of smudged grey – coming this way. Tumultuous skies billowing with angry clouds blown in by sea winds. The theatre of watching the weather arrive.

However, I have never experienced conditions such as observed this week. (Thursday 26th July c. 2.30 pm). A spectacular form of haar (coastal sea fog) appeared to manifest from nowhere on an otherwise relatively ‘sunny day’. Not so much the haar rolling in but an almost supernatural manifestation.

Thursday 25th August 2013

From the railway bridge over the Forth

a blue-tinged wash of elemental greys.

Sea and sky bleed

into a Rothko memory



Taken just a few moments later, you can see some of the river tugs off to the right. The oil terminal at Hound Point is just emerging from the glaur, as the blue starts to break through again.

I posted the above photographs on twitter and a couple of days later Bob Reid sent me this one. Same place, different time.

The Forth: always different, always the same.

opr1-Bob Reid
(c) Bob Reid with thanks

Now playing: James Yorkston – When the Haar Rolls In.