Saturday, 29 January 2011

Scoops Reports 2011 - 29 January Portpatrick - Stranraer

Wigtownshire Ramblers 29 January   Portpatrick - Stranraer

On a sunny but cold day twenty one ramblers assembled at the Breastworks in Stranraer before boarding the Portpatrick bus for a leisurely start to what proved to be a most exhilarating day.  Jack, Cath, Frances, Audrey, Jim, John McGoogan and his neighbour, Yvonne (nurse, can only walk alternate Saturdays), Jacqui, Sue, Duncan, Irene, Debbie, ‘arry, Mary Sloan, Jane (new, Munro walker) and a man from Portpatrick who is also a Munro walker!  We caught the bus at Port Rodie and Leslie got on at Lochans to many cheers!  The bus turned off to drive down Heugh Road, turning round on the edge of the golf course – he picked up no-one and no-one got on!  He returned to the main road and drove down into the village where we all got off and met Linda and Allan.
The harbour bore its picture postcard outfit in the brilliant and clear light of the morning and as the bus took the company along the Portpatrick road the sight of lambs gambolling in the fields really gave a foretaste of a spring soon to be with us.

Walking started in earnest with the steps up to the Portpatrick Hotel, along the Southern Upland Way. This hotel looks over the north end of the village, built to a design by J.K. Hunter for Charles Orr Ewing, laird of Dunskey estate, in 1901.

An early rest was taken after this exertion to watch the coastguard training on the cliffs just past the old Post Office radio station. Suspended half way down the cliffs a trainee was watched by an even more precarious and brave soul who leant out from the top of the cliff secured only by a rope.

The path was still icy in places but the views were glorious as the ramblers passed by Sandeel Bay and the Dupping Cave where the waterfall splashed over the rocks before the water made its way quietly to the sea. The day had brought many walkers out and it was heartening to see the path so well used.

The next bay, Laird’s Bay, holds the terminus for a submarine telephone cable which was first laid in the 1850s. The white painted Victorian hut which marks the spot is at the end of a track leading up Dunskey glen but the Southern Upland way continued along the beach and up a steep chained path once more to the cliffs.

It was a pleasant walk from here to the lighthouse at Killantringan, along grassy slopes and in and out of gullies to the last rise overlooking Black Head and the little remaining of the wreckage of Craigantlet, a Cypriot coaster which sank here in 1982.

Along past the lighthouse, lunch was taken in a sheltered gully with views of Killantringan sands and Knock house on the bluff above.  Taking the walkers away from this welcome rest the road now led upwards and inland to gradually gain a view of the windmills on the moors. The path skirts around the windfarm, ever upwards, passing a large standing stone on the corner where a minor road departs from the A764, and eventually the tarmac is left for a softer way underfoot.

Along this moorland path a pause was taken to inspect a kist, containing tokens of the ‘New Hoard’. These tokens are to be collected all along the Southern Upland Way, each kist containing coins designed by young artists – in this case the waymerk sculptor was Alice Mitchell, poet.

The high point of the moors is the viewpoint on Mulloch Hill where a splendid panorama in all directions gives views of Ireland, Kintyre, Ailsa Craig and Arran , Cairnryan and the Merrick , with nearer views of Knockquasson Reservoir, the next objective.

From here the walkers were told it was all downhill to Stranraer – but it seemed to some that the way to Greenfield and the old piggeries at Hillside contained quite a few uphill sections. However, Glebe cemetery was soon in view and Stranraer, still looking like a picture postcard in the bright afternoon sunshine, welcomed the company back – for some the added incentive of scones at Stir It tea room helped to quicken the pace.   Eight of us went in for drinks and cakes (there were scones left even though it was about 4pm!).  We moved tables together and Mary, Cath, Marilyn, Duncan, Irene, Ken, Audrey and I had a jolly time together.  We moved all the tables back afterwards despite Beth saying we did not need to do so.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Scoops Reports 2011 - 22 January 2011 Bargrennan Circular

Wigtownshire Ramblers 22 January 2011 Bargrennan Circular

Twenty eight ramblers, Cath, Frances, Elaine, Jim and Marilyn, Richard, Andrea, Jim, Ken, both Marys, Audrey, Florence, Linda, Jacqui, Susan, Christine Sloan, Steve, Irene, Jack, Peter, Julie and Steve, Sue, Leslie, Allan, Douglas and Christine, assembled in the lay bye at the old Bargrennan Hall.
 The weather had been cold and misty further south and west but they were greeted by clear skies and brilliant sunshine.  After crossing the main road they followed the Southern Upland Way southwards along the east bank of the River Cree.  The water was running quickly with small ice flows eddying their way along.  The route soon climbed up into the trees and they were afforded views westwards through the pines to the river and low hills.  The mist hung on the tops of the hills but seemed to be making no progress.  The track descended slowly and they were soon back at river level at the Clachaneasy Bridge.
The group followed the river bank south to the edge of the Brigton Woods where the track turned east and climbed sharply up a small hill through the forest.  They soon reached a forest road which led down to the Wood of Cree Road.  This area proved very slippery as the trees had shaded the sunlight and wide patches of ice remained. 
After crossing the road they took another forest road heading north.  This had recently been repaired and the rough stone surface made uncomfortable walking.  Fortunately, this did not go too far and they were soon on a well bedded in surface.  The route then turned off the road and a good path led to the banks of the Water of Minnoch which tumbled down through ice encrusted rocks.  The Minnigaff Hills reared above the forest beyond the river with the rocks and ridges standing out sharply against the clear blue sky.
After a short pause for jelly babies they carried on northwards following the west bank of the river.  After a while the path turned away from the river to avoid boggy ground and climbed around a small oak wood before returning to the river bank.  They reached the river at a point shortly above the old pack horse bridge.  The group speculated about the reason for siting the bridge there.  There is no obvious track leading to either side of the bridge and no centres of population to justify such a substantial structure.  Travelling northwards the group climbed a stone stile over a substantial dyke and followed the path through the woods, again turning away from the river.  The conifers gave way to old oak woods where there was a dense undergrowth of holly under some trees, presumably the result of mass roosting by birds after they had feasted on the berries.
The track wound its way through the wood, rising and falling over a series of low hillocks.  The ramblers passed the ruins of Low Minniwick, little more than a rickle o’ stanes but occupied as recently as the early 1900s.  They soon reached the Holm Bridge where they crossed the river and continued up the east bank of the river.  The group followed the Southern Upland Way until they reached the new bridge over the Water of Trool which they crossed and followed the path along the riverbanks to the Forestry Commission visitor centre at Stroan Bridge.  Here they took advantage of the picnic tables to have lunch in the sunshine by the rushing river. 
After lunch the group re-crossed the Water of Minnoch by the Stroan Bridge and followed the path through the woods parallel to the county road towards Glentrool Village.  They were pleased to see that work was being carried out to fell dead trees along the path and to kill off the resurgent rhododendron growth.  This had been very effective and was allowing the native blaeberries to recover under the pines.
At the end of the path they followed the forest road to the left which led in a steady climb to the hill above the House o Hill and the old route of the Southern Upland Way.  The old route is now completely overgrown so the group continued on the forest road to a T junction where they once again had wide views over the Minnigaff Hills.  As the sun lowered in the sky it lit tendrils of mist among the trees.  The banks of mist on the hills to the west had built up obscuring the summits but had got no nearer.  Turning right and then right again they descended towards the river along the forest roads and soon reached the main road and the cars.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Scoops Reports 2011 - 15 January 2011 Chapel Finian

Wigtownshire Ramblers 15 January 2011 Chapel Finian

Saturday morning dawned overcast with a brisk south westerly wind threatening more rain.  Nevertheless, twenty eight ramblers (Cath, Frances, Isobel, Elaine, Jim Sime, Allan, Jack, John, Peter, Leslie, Jaqui, Steve, Audrey, Susan, Duncan, Irene, Mary Mitchell, Mary Sloan, Sue, Stewart and Julie, John McGoogan (and his dog) and his friend, Yvonne, Ken, Jim, Richard and ‘arry – one name missing!) assembled at the shore car park near Chapel Finian.  Huge waves were crashing onto the stony shore sending puffs of foam scudding across the road.  There was some debate as to whether it was wise to leave the cars so near the sea but, as the tide was falling, it was felt to be safe enough. The group crossed the main road and took the old farm track which climbed the cliff behind the ruins of Chapel Finian.  As the walkers set off up the track a large bull joined the group and plodded along behind them, keeping the back markers up to speed.  Initially the bull gradually gained on them, to the amusement of those at the front, but it soon lost interest and fell behind to the relief of all.
At the top of the hill they followed the track to Corwall Farm where they were met by four bullocks who set up a picket line across the track.  Having satisfied their curiosity they stepped aside and watched the group pass from a safe distance. The group then passed the farm and set off along the concrete road towards Culshabbin.  The distant hills were largely hidden by low cloud but the surrounding moorland provided plenty of variety.  The rain came on in short showers blown along by the wind and most members donned a variety of additional waterproofs.
On reaching the county road the group turned east and soon reached the old schoolhouse at Culshabbin.  This building had previously been smart with a well maintained garden around the teacher’s house but is now sadly neglected with paint flaking off the window frames and slates sliding from the roof.  The group then took the grass track over the shoulder of Gallows Hill, reputedly the site of a gibbet where criminals found guilty at the Court Cairn at the nearby May Farm were executed.  The track then led downhill around the back of the House of Elrig, onetime home of the author and conservationist Gavin Maxwell, and on to Airylick Farm.  After passing through the farm yard they turned right and followed the road below the House of Elrig, crossed a rough field and soon reached the old chapel of Barhobble where they paused for lunch.
After lunch the group set off round Changue Fell.  The route climbed through a young spruce wood.  When they emerged into the open fields they felt the full force of the wind.  The line of surf along the shore looked even more impressive as the steely grey waves crashed onto the beach far below.  The old trackway was followed down to Changue Wood where the ramblers took a short diversion to examine the remains of an old watermill.  Little remained of the mechanical parts of the mill or the water control system but it must have been a substantial operation in its day.
On leaving the mill the group climbed around Bennan Hill along what was once clearly an old track leading to the mill though not marked on the maps.  The weather was doing its best to cheer up with a watery sun trying to pierce the clouds.  It was not very successful.  The route led to the road below Chippermore Farm which was followed down to the main road along the shore.  A short walk along the unusually quiet main road led them back to the cars.  The timing was perfect as the rain started in earnest again as they made their departure.          
Many of us went on to Glenluce Golf Club for tea and cakes etc: Cath, Frances, Isobel, Irene, Elaine, Jim Sime, Duncan, Irene, Susan, Audrey, Leslie, Jacqui and Steve.  We were a jolly crowd and this finished our afternoon off well.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Scoops Reports 2011 - 8 January 2011 Cairnsmore

Wigtownshire Ramblers 8 January 2011 Cairnsmore

Fourteen Ramblers (Cath, Frances, Isobel, Marilyn, Florence, Leslie, Kate (Cath’s granddaughter), Jim, Richard, Allan, Jack, Peter, John and Richard Knott with his two dogs) assembled in the Riverside Car Park in Newton Stewart on a bright and frosty morning. In view of the icy conditions it was decided to abandon the intended route through the hills above Loch Trool. Instead they decided to climb the Cairnsmore of Fleet along the traditional path. They soon set off up the road through Cairnsmore Estate and across the fields to the woods. By this time a light cap of cloud had formed around the summit which loomed above them. The going was firm with a shallow layer of powdery snow which in places hid sheets of slippery ice. They continued upwards through the forest and paused to admire the view. This included a snow shower sweeping in from the north-west over the moors of Wigtownshire. The shower arrived as they continued up the path so they tightened their waterproof clothing and continued upwards. The shower proved short-lived and cleared as they climbed the steeper slopes of Crammery Hill. Unfortunately, the cloud on the summit was creeping lower down the slopes and as they emerged above the forest visibility up the hill was restricted to a hundred metres or so. However, the view over the Cree Estuary was fine and it was interesting to see that there was no snow on the low land around the river. The concealed ice below the snow on the path was becoming more of a problem and after three walkers had slipped over simultaneously it was decided to go no further up the hill. They returned down the path to the forest road where they enjoyed lunch in glorious sunshine around the Lady Pilkington memorial bench. Here they met four younger and more intrepid walkers who continued upwards intent on reaching the summit. After lunch the group decided to extend the walk by using the lower level routes through the forest. So they set off northwards down the forest road. They reached the “T” junction which afforded good views over the lower Cree and Wigtownshire and continued northwards along the forest road as far as the Mill Burn. After crossing the burn and admiring the natural ice sculptures along the watersides they took the sign posted path downhill parallel to the burn. At the lower end of the forest they took a short diversion up a rough track to examine the old water intake from the Mill Burn which at one time supplied water to the houses and farms around Palnure and the lower lying land across the Cree towards Wigtown. There were some more modern fittings which may still supply local houses but it is thought that most now receive water from Penwhirn. There was considerable discussion about the name of the burn as there is no obvious evidence of a mill building anywhere along its course. They proceeded out of the forest and across the farmland following the rough track. They forded the Mill Burn, which fortunately was not running high, and continued to the road which led down to Bardrochwood. Here they turned back up the hill and crossed Machars Hill towards the Motte which still stands proudly above a tiny burn. The group turned away from the road and crossed a couple of fields and woods, following a rough track, before descending to Strathmaddie Farm. They passed a small, largely silted up mill pond above the farm and viewed a substantial mill building which, though roofless, seemed to be undergoing some restoration. The group descended to the valley road and soon reached the cars. The timing was impeccable as the sky had now clouded over and further snow or rain was promised. Finding the Old Stables Tea Room closed Jim, Richard, Florence, Leslie, Katie, Cath, Isobel, Marilyn, Frances and Richard Knott went into Newton Stewart where they enjoyed drinks and cakes in Cinnamon – the scones were good!