1. Coastline – perhaps the number one reason people move here. Seriously, is there a more wonderful stretch of coastal walking to be found anywhere? It calms my soul even to spend 5 minutes on the sand, watching dogs frolic and families chasing the waves.

2. Commuting – for 17 years after moving here, I would hurtle at top speed from east North Berwick to west, catching the train to Edinburgh by the skin of my teeth, and collapsing in a heap among a wee crowd of us – I am still on the WhatsApp group for some reason. We’d coorie in together and crack jokes, always enlivening the journey and making it pass in a trice. After a hectic working day (occasionally prolonged by a social event after work), I would head back down Station Hill, sometimes chatting with a fellow commuter, sometimes tempted to divert via the beach on my way home – that first view of the sea made the stress start to roll off my shoulders. When the trains are running, it’s a very fine scenic commute. But since 2019, my commute has been no more than five or 10 minutes’ walk across the park, maybe up East Road or along North Berwick High Street, pausing to chat with locals I have got to know since I started this job. This commute wins hands down.

3. Coffee – I wonder if any other town can beat North Berwick’s number of cafes per head of population? Not that I am complaining, since I’m always amenable to a coffee date. There’s one to suit practically every taste, and we Connectors like to check them all out – maybe we can tempt you out to try one with us soon?

4. Kindness – the North Berwick Coastal ward is brimming with kindness, as evidenced by the number of volunteers (around 50) we have recruited over our first four years. Look at the well-organised local response during the ‘Beast from the East’ snowy times, or during Covid Lockdown, with the incredible Street Teams of the Resilience effort. The dedication, conscientiousness and generosity of our local community volunteers is second to none.

5. Quality of life – I believe this area comes out very well on surveys of quality of life. Services are generally good, even if perhaps put under strain by recent population expansion – who can blame folk for wanting to move here? We were lucky to be able to get a flat 20 years ago – it would be much harder now! We feel extremely lucky to be here, for so many reasons.

6. Kids – many folk move here, as we did, with hopes of raising a family. As I am fond of telling anyone who will listen, we didn’t initially feel we “qualified” to live in North Berwick, as we don’t sail, play golf or have a big dog to walk on the beach. So the only solution was to have a baby. That proved to be our passport into local life. We were fortunate to meet other couples through the Ante-Natal group, the parent-toddler massage class, the music-making activities, and even the Buggy Walks I got myself trained to lead through Paths for All (now our source of expertise and training of Walk Leaders, all those years later). These were all an enormous help when I suffered from some months of postnatal depression and feeling isolated after having a child at the age of 43, with no grandparents around and zero experience of child rearing! Having our son, and meeting all these new people as a direct result of that earth-shattering experience, has enriched my life so much that I can now look round at new generations of children growing up here, reliving memories of our own adventures – 16 incredible years so far.

7. Connections – it seems my life story has all been about connections, creating them both for myself and others. I think it might be the point of me, if there is one. We work closely with so many others in local networks. The privilege of being given this work to do, leading this unique and wonderful charity, is impossible for me to describe – but the reason it all works as it does is that you all take part in that beautiful process of connection, and help us to uncover the confidence, compassion and community we all need to experience in our lives. That kind of loving community is really something to celebrate this Valentine’s Day, so please join us and feel part of it all. Because you are.

Carol Stobie, Project Manager