Friday, 24 December 2010

Scoops Reports 2010 - 24th December 2010 - Stroan Bridge Circular

Wigtownshire  Ramblers 24th December 2010  - Stroan Bridge Circular

Seventeen walkers (Cath, Thomas, Frances, Rachel, Jim, Marilyn, Jim, Douglas, Christine, new walkers Julie and Stuart, Duncan, Irene, Hilary with Curly, Margaret, Josie and Ray) met at Stroan Bridge on Boxing Day to walk off the excesses of Christmas. New walkers were given a warm welcome.  I asked Jim if he would lead the walk as he had done the recce and taken loads of fabulous photos then and I wanted to do the same!  I took quite a few from the bridge etc. before we set off and continued snapping away as we walked to Loch Trool.  I walked and talked a lot to Julie who moved to the area with her husband very recently – mostly because of the clear skies as they are both keen on astronomy. 
Due to road and weather conditions the original planned walk from Bruce's Stone had been rerouted.  They began by following the path south alongside the Water of Minnoch.

Prolonged below zero temperatures and very little rain have caused much of the river to freeze. Frozen waterfalls and odd shaped ice accumulations have made the river resemble an arctic backwater.  Icicles hang like organ pipes, and what water is flowing create shadowy movements below the ice before emerging in a bubbling frenzy to continue in zigzag channels on its way south. That’s really poetic, Jim!
They continued south till reaching the Water of Trool where the path turned east. After crossing the new footbridge at the Black Loup they now followed the route of the Southern Upland Way. Snow and ice underfoot is slowly thawing.
 Along here a couple of roe deer were spotted taking cover in the woods.  On the river the frozen theme continued.  Different hues and shades on the ice created colourful pictures. 
Reaching the woods at Caldons, a slight detour was taken to look at the Martyrs Tomb. History tells that this was a particularly savage killing with six covenanters being disturbed at prayer, and shot and buried where they were slain.  After crossing over Caldons Bridge they now made their way to the lochside where lunch was taken. A festive bottle of homemade wine was shared out.  Close to shore the thickness of the ice was tested. 
Before we got to Loch Trool my stomach had started to hurt and I was unable to eat any lunch or even to share the wine that Douglas had brought!  However, I did manage to walk on the frozen loch quite a bit, following in Jim’s footsteps!
 After lunch they continued along Kenmure Moss to the woods from where they made their way to the tarmac road.  From here they turned back west, carefully crossing a very icy stretch of road before reaching the yellow trail way markers opposite the Caldons road.
 A steady climb brought them up through the woods to the Torr Lane burn and the Spout Head waterfall. As the water flowed underneath, vertical sheets of ice reached up to the top of the falls.
 Continuing on they passed by the old sheep pens above Stroan House before reaching an area where trees had recently been felled.  Large stacks of Sitka and Norway Spruce lined the roadside.  The last stretch brought them back to Stroan Bridge and the end of the walk.
 The meeting wasn't quite over yet though. The group now made their way back to the group secretary’s house in Newton Stewart where she and her husband had laid on a festive treat with Mulled Wine, Mince Pies, Christmas Cake, Tea, Coffee and other delicacies. It was a fitting end to a lovely walk. 

I was SO looking forward to enjoying the festive fayre and company at Andrea and Richard’s home but was unable to eat anything!  Maybe next year?!

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Scoops Reports 2010 - 11 December Shenanton

Wigtownshire Ramblers 11 December Shenanton

 Jim, demonstrating how he can walk on water!

Eighteen ramblers - Cath, Frances, Isobel, Jim, Duncan, Irene, Ken, Richard, Andrea, Peter Reid, John Smith, Mary Mitchell, Mary Sloan, Jack, Elaine, Marilyn, ‘arry and Catherine -     took advantage of the mild weather and enjoyed a leisurely walk from Shennanton to Penninghame this Saturday.

After leaving the cars at the lay by on the A75 there were two bridges to view. The old bridge is now a romantic ruin but when built in the early eighteenth century it used cutting technology to carry the Old Military Road across the Bladnoch, providing an eight foot wide carriageway, granite cutwater angles and segmented spans. In the mid nineteenth century this was superseded by Shennanton New Bridge which in turn has been replaced by one across the modern A75.

A quiet country road was followed to the entrance to Shennanton House where the entrance railings with grouped arrowheads and cyclopean support walls are listed buildings designed along with the house by Henry Clifford in 1908. A walk along the driveway and then by an enclosed track bordered by a beautiful beech hedge gave good viewing of the arts and crafts style house, where the cyclopean walls of the gateway were echoed on the house front.

Soon the tarmac road was replaced by a very straight track which led over the Bladnoch once again by a bailey bridge. The river was still frozen along the edges giving a cold paddle for the heron whose contemplation of the waters was interrupted by the walkers. A flock of goldfinches swirled above whilst the waters washed over a set of stepping stones which no one braved in this cold weather.

The track led over the moorland to lonely Loch Eldrig, a fishing loch, where the forest was entered, the ground hard with frost and the sun appearing to give good views of the near hills as Glengrazie was approached.

The high point of the walk was reached, a hill of just 116metres where the OS trig point was hidden in the woods and covered with moss but the ramblers sought out the flush bracket here for their records. 
Lunch was next on the agenda, taken by Penninghame ponds. These ponds have been made accessible for wheelchairs with car park and picnic table. The water was only half frozen and so there were wonderful reflections from the trees to enjoy whilst lunching.

When we got to Penninghame Ponds the reflections in the water were good despite the still frozen sections of it.  Cath had given me my birthday card in the car on the way there and I showed it to everyone, much to their delight AND horror!  I had brought along a box of chocolates and shared them out amongst everyone.   

Sulwath Connections and the Fisheries trust have worked on the Castle Burn, which flows from the ponds, creating a fish ladder for the ascending salmon to spawn and planting trees alongside to protect the banks.

The walk continued along the river to Castle Stewart the home of Dr Kenneth Delbray of the Hope and Kindness Trust, a charity involved in education projects for Tibetans. The castle was built in the sixteenth century by Sir William Stewart but is now only a shell surrounded by some extraordinary buildings which caused much interest amongst the walkers.

The last leg of the walk led across the fields and through a ford to where cars were waiting to enable the group to return to the start after an easy but interesting walk on a pleasantly mild and sunny day.

The walkers went off in different directions but some of us headed for Newton Stewart and the Riverbank Cafe.  Ken was pleased to have his latte with cream while Isobel, Cath, Frances, Mary, Andrea and Richard enjoyed toasted teacakes and other drinks.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Scoops Reports 2010 - 4 December Newton Stewart Circular

Wigtownshire Ramblers 4 December Newton Stewart Circular

The Ramblers excelled themselves this week by managing to lose two walkers even before they started. The group had decided to abandon plans to walk on the Southern Upland way near Derry and instead, in view of the weather conditions, to do the safer walk around Newton Stewart. Unfortunately, two walkers missed the message and disappeared for the rest of the day. Florence, Frances, Isobel, Audrey, Jack, Forbes, Graeme from N. Yorks who is visiting family in Stranraer and Mary Mitchell discussed the condition of the roads.  A decision was made, on the advice of a roving mountain rescue volunteer in his Sainsbury sponsored vehicle, not to do the planned walk which would have entailed a really difficult journey along minor, icy roads.  We tried to phone Jim who had been expected to be there and who, we were sure, had taken Ken whose car was in the car park, but his phone was switched off – we were pretty upset about their not being there but just had to set off without them.
The walk around Newton Stewart has been done three times before but the addition of snow made it look very different.  The mist was hanging low over the landscape and at times it meant our views were obscured but it was SO atmospheric and, with the sun shimmering   through the trees the landscape was beautiful.
The start was quite treacherous as they negotiated icy conditions over the Sparlin Bridge and along the riverbank. One walker was wearing overshoe grips and was obviously more at ease on the black ice. The steady climb past Kirroughtree Hotel and on over the Golf course up to the top of Clarks Wood soon warmed everyone up. A buzzard and a heron soared upward as they passed by, and there were many tracks in the snow, causing much debate over which animals had made them. At one point it looked as if there had been a rally of rabbits having a party.
They acquired the company of a chocolate coloured labrador at Kirroughtree who couldn’t be persuaded to return home until the group emerged from the Bower Wood, whereupon he took off without a farewell bark.
On reaching the Old Edinburgh Road they made their way to the Queen Mary Bridge where attempts were made to drop pebbles into the wishing pot. 
Another doggy encounter was made after crossing Queen Mary’s Bridge when a sixteen week old collie puppy out for a walk with his owner greeted the group enthusiastically.

We took our time wandering around Monnigaff Parish Churchyard before heading for the King George V Suspension Bridge and made use of the picnic tables beside it to have our lunch. We crossed the bridge then headed up the Girvan road turning left up the hill at Duncree.. 
Lunch was taken on the river bank below the Bridge. After clearing the picnic tables of snow the walkers had a lovely view over the frozen Cree. It was too cold to sit for long and the Ramblers were soon off again up the track towards Old Hall Farm where cross-ing the dykes was a treacherous affair owing to the ice. Unfortunately, there were no views from the hill because the town and the hills beyond were covered by a thick haze.
The walk went on skirting the frozen pond in Doonhill Wood, crossing the quiet A75 and onwards and upwards to the mast on top of Barrhill.
Here there was a spectacular view as the mist had cleared and the range of hills beyond the town were clearly visible, sparkling with snow under a blue, blue sky. Comparisons were made between this walk and the one undertaken in May during the walking festival when the temperatures were somewhat higher.
The walk continued down to the cycle track and back into the town where hot drinks and teacakes were enjoyed. Some members went off to visit Cunninghame’s outdoor shop, where the launch of the Walking Festival was taking place, with the intent of buying overshoe grips.
 It was a wonderful walk, with great company and gorgeous views and I was purring constantly!  We got back to the cars about 3.30pm and Florence, Isobel, Forbes, Richard, Andrea and I went to

Riverbank cafe for drinks and cakes and then, without Richard and Andrea went across to Cunningham’s where the new NS walking festival programme was there for viewing.