Sandy’s Garden ... The John Muir Express and the Big Beard Event

Sandy Simpson
Sandy Simpson

This is quotation from the minutes of the meeting of The Friends of Kinneil Foreshore Group held on January 15:

“John Muir Express – Coaches available on 2 trains on Saturday May 17 for JMW event. Tickets free and include trip from Bo’ness to Manuel Junction, back to Kinneil for nature exploration event on the foreshore, then back to Bo’ness. Will include Big Beard Event where found objects stuck to a fake beard.” (JMW is the John Muir Way.)

If the name ‘John Muir’ rings some kind of a bell without immediately bringing his identity to mind, here is Alex Salmond speaking of the self-same John Muir on the occasion of the official opening of the John Muir Way on April 26: “John Muir was a remarkable Scot - a man whose passion for nature and the outdoors left an incredible environmental legacy that resonates to this day. From humble beginnings in Dunbar, his influence spread across the world and his name now adorns parks, glaciers and mountains. His legacy is celebrated in an annual commemorative day in California and his image has featured on two US postage stamps. There is no more fitting tribute, in 2014 the 100th anniversary of his death and in our Year of Homecoming, than to officially open the John Muir Way from Helensburgh to Dunbar and take walkers and cyclists through 134 miles of splendid scenery in Scotland’s heartland.”

With singular appropriateness, the wonderful Helix Park … a public park of which our public-park-orientated Victorian ancestors would have been justifiably proud … is on the John Muir Way and can take its rightful place among the splendid scenery of Scotland’s heartland. And a mere fifteen minutes’ drive from the Helix Park … rather longer by bike and quite a bit longer on foot, admittedly … takes the traveller to Bo’ness, passing Kinneil Foreshore Local Nature Reserve en route. And here is a statement from the Scottish Railway Preservation Society, operators of the Bo’ness & Kinneil Railway: “We are pleased that we will be part of the celebration of the opening of the John Muir Way with a community event at the Bo’ness & Kinneil Railway on Saturday 17 May. Visitors are invited to join the John Muir Express train at Bo’ness! Join Falkirk Council Ranger Service at Kinneil Halt for the Big Beard project – family-friendly fun exploring Kinneil Foreshore Local Nature Reserve. Please contact to book your place. More information on all the community events that have been organised to celebrate John Muir and his work in our local area can be found here.” I should add that photographs of John Muir depict him with a luxuriant beard.

Conservation and heritage are concepts dear to John Muir and to today’s determined environmentalists with whose cause I empathise although I admit that I lack the dedication to commit myself to their long-term, time-consuming projects. But, happy though I would be to join the John Muir Express and take part in the Big Beard Event, I find I have reached an impasse. The Bo’ness & Kinneil Railway gives these details: “Saturday 17 May: Time: 10.45am – 1.30pm and 2pm – 4.45pm.” The List … an organisation which compiles and publicises events … gives only the afternoon time, as does VisitScotland. A leaflet entitled The John Muir Way Events Programme, produced by Falkirk Council Development Services and Falkirk Community Trust, gives both times and also instructs me to go to ‘’ for further information, advising me that BOOKING IS ESSENTIAL (their capitals). Alas, my browser cannot find that website. I think that I must have recourse to a minimal amount of John Muir’s initiative and patience to discover if a call to 01324 504950 resolves this matter for me.