Saturday, 26 February 2011

Scoops Reports 2011 - 26 February Lochnaw, Larbrax

Wigtownshire Ramblers 26 February Lochnaw, Larbrax

A bright and sunny morning greeted the 22 ramblers who gathered at Lochnaw Home farm on Saturday, for a walk of castles and coast.

Looking at the surrounding concrete surfaces the walkers, Frances, Cath, Mary Mitchell, Linda, Steve, Leslie, Audrey, Shona, Jack, Mike, Peter (Portpatrick), Mary Sloan, Ken and Catherine, strained to imagine the war time troop hospital which was situated here.

A farm track was followed through woods which were carpeted with drifts of snowdrops, the warmth and sunshine making a welcome change from the weather of recent walks. After crossing the B738 another farm track led straight to the shore at Larbrax Bay, where a beautiful, wide, sandy beach, and shining sea, delighted the eyes.

Here the path swung around to gain the cliff edges where an Iron Age hill fort, rumoured to have Viking connections, was examined. High double ditches surround a large flat centre, which commands great views over the surrounding area.

The coast was now followed northwards, every step enlivened by wonderful views, with Ireland emerging from the distant clouds.
Having kept up higher longer than we should have we spent a long and fun time getting over a barbed wire fence, everyone helping one another.  We then had a downwards walk just as the ferries were crossing on the skyline.
 After passing an old sheep clipping station, and climbing over ramps, designed to enable quad bikes to cross easily between field boundaries, the ramblers scrambled down through boggy undergrowth to reach Salt Pans Bay.
 Another Iron Age fort is hidden here amongst the rocks but the most conspicuous remains are from the 17th century buildings associated with salt works, which used local peat to evaporate salt water, and which were in operation for about 200 years. Lunch was taken at this sheltered and pretty spot.
The walk now led inland past a fascinating round shelter by Loch More, used by game hunters on the recently defunct shooting estate. Now ducks and cormorants were the only hunters around, enjoying an afternoon fishing on the loch.

Galdenoch Castle, an L shaped, 16th century tower house in ruinous condition, was the next point of interest with crow steps and commemoration plaque. Numerous eucalyptus trees grew within its enclosing wall, displaying their beautiful peeling bark to advantage in the sunshine.

After following the farm track to the road, the ramblers eventually entered the grounds of Lochnaw estate once more at Kathleen cottage, and took a snowdrop path to the loch side, where two resident swans were serenely drifting about. The castle looked at its best from here, with reflective water in the foreground, and a backdrop of woods, surmounted by the lookout of Kinsale tower.

Recent work on the walled garden, with fruit bushes and trees planted up, were viewed through gates, before the castle itself, with sunken garden and renovated stonework, rose magnificently before the walkers. Built in the 15thcentury by the Agnews, the most recent owner is doing a splendid job, refurbishing this building and the surrounding estate.

Only a short walk remained, past the old laundry, and a building which used to store the game shot on the estate, before Lochnaw Home farm was reached again. An interesting, varied walk enhanced by the warm sunshine had been enjoyed by the ramblers, who now decamped to Kirkland tearoom for welcome refreshments.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Scoops Reports 2011 - 19 February Wigtown Circular

Wigtownshire Ramblers 19 February Wigtown Circular

The rain and cold had taken their toll on numbers when only thirteen ramblers turned out on Saturday for a walk around Wigtown’s historic town.  Mary Mitchell, Cath, Frances, Elaine, Margaret, Peter, John, Jack, Peter with Labrador, Andrea, Richard, Ken and Sueoff accompanied by drizzling rain. After consideration of the adverse weather conditions it was decided to shorten the planned walk and leave the exploration of Baldoon airfield and the adjoining new bird sanctuary for another day.

From the County buildings a route was taken past the school to gain the muddy track of Lovers’ Lane which led uphill to what should have been a wonderful view over Wigtown Bay to the hills beyond. Unfortunately the company had to take the view on trust, as drizzly low cloud created an atmospheric eeriness to the marshland.

Returning to the town by Church Lane, the old manse, Laigh House, was admired, an enormous stone built edifice looking out over its surroundings, before the church and its famous graveyard were entered to examine the tombs of the Wigtown martyrs. Margaret McLachlan and Margaret Wilson were executed in 1685, a consequence of the religious bigotry and fanaticism of the times. The gravestones, telling the story of the two martyred women, are an interesting example of old lettering on monumental masonry.

The martyrs’ stake was the next objective passing by an earlier religious site on the way. At the entrance to Croft-an-Righ is an incised stone cross which marks the supposed site of Blackfriars Monastery, founded by Devorgilla, the wife of John Baliol, in the thirteenth century. At the rear of the house an impressive show of snowdrops lightened the prospect of the dreary day.

The path along the old railway is soon to be upgraded, marked as one of the core paths of the area. However, mud was the order for this day, and soon the martyrs’ stake was reached along a wooden causeway reaching out into the marshes. The memorial stone was placed here in 1936 to show the whereabouts of the wooden stakes to which the women were tied and drowned by the incoming tide. Although on Saturday the tide was one of the highest of the year, it could be seen that the marshland has risen so much that the women would have been in no danger of drowning here today.

The old railway line continued to be followed, past the Old Station House and platforms, continuing on above some attractive ponds, passing a red metal goose target, and through an avenue of beech trees, now a repository for old farm machinery, until the demolished bridge crossing the Baldnoch was reached. Across the swollen river, Baldoon Castle could be seen, a ruined tower house which is associated with Sir Walter Scott’s Bride of Lammermuir. Here a steep descent to a gate, which was submerged in deep water, necessitating an adventurous climb over barbed wire to reach the field and thereby the road.

Bladnoch distillery was now in view. A path took the walkers through the picturesque stone buildings, erected in 1817.
 Unfortunately the distillery was not open, so it was a dry company that passed along the pretty riverside walk for some distance, drinking in 
only the smell of malting grain, before the way was abruptly terminated by the river once more, swollen by a combination of heavy rain and high tide. A return was made to the distillery where welcome use was made of picnic benches for a dry lunch after discussing the uses of tools and machinery which we could see around the buildings.
This area was much appreciated on a day which did not encourage picnicking!

The return route to Wigtown meant once more negotiating the barbed wire fence to cross the railway embankment and gain the river embankment. The open aspect here meant the wind was biting, but the surrounding reed beds and channels left by the receding tide were a complete contrast to the wooded areas already passed on the walk.
It was quite a relief for the company to eventually reach the tarmac and the deserted, well kept harbour. Now the pace quickened, past the old prison with its many high chimneys, and Dunmore House, a school built by the Free Church in 1844 a nd recognised by the separate sandstone entrances for boys and girls.

After a wet, cold and windy walk, the County Buildings provided a warm spot to change wet gear, before repairing to Reading Glasses for a welcome tea, hardy walkers (joined by Nesta and Isobel) enjoying a social hour before heading home.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Scoops Reports 2011 - 12 February Gatehouse of Fleet

Wigtownshire Ramblers 12 February Gatehouse of Fleet

It was a misty morning as 24 ramblers set out from the Cally Palace woodland car park, in Gatehouse of Fleet, for a 12 mile circular walk to Loch Whinyeon and Irelandton Moor. Duncan, Irene, Frances, Audrey, Mary Mitchell, Christine Sloan, Florence, Jacqui, Leslie, Steve, John, Peter, Mary Sloan, Margaret (new last week), Jim, Ken, Jim and Marilyn Sime, Stewart, Sue, Linda, Ken, Carol and Susan were led by Cath (I make that 25 – have I duplicated?) out of Cally Woods with their carpets of snow drops.
There had been much rain the previous day and the stream in the woods rushed and bounced along beside the path as the walkers made their way to the Robber’s Gate. This was the site of a robbery on the highway in February 1819 for which the perpetrators were duly hanged.

The Cally Park wall was followed along the B727 and crossed just after the plaque which noted that this wall, built at the beginning of the nineteenth century had been refurbished in the last few years by the local community. The mist obscured the mast and trees to which the track now led uphill, but Disdow wood was soon entered and the edge followed round on a good forest road. High Barlay farm sat below a steep bank, its whitewashed walls sitting picturesquely surrounded by tidy fields and a small loch.
Just where the forest thinned to its narrowest width the road was forsaken for rough pasture, down which the Barlay Burn was rushing, swollen so much in the recent rains that the ford was too deep for many to cross, and those who did not wish to get wet feet made spectacular jumps across the burn, being caught by two supportive hands – those of Peter’s and Jim Sime - on the other side.

We walked uphill, through the first gateway and found a hillock on which to sit for our first stop of 10 minutes for those of us who could not last out until lunch time to top up our blood sugar levels!
As this was a long walk and lunch would be late, there was a short coffee stop at this point, after which a series of tracks made by tractor, bike and sheep were followed across the sometimes boggy fields.
We climbed over the two rusting gates, made short work of crossing a burn and moved on up towards the boggy area – very short lived as we reached the flat green areas quickly. 
The views of the near hills by this time were visible showing just a little of the spectacular surroundings that should have been seen on this walk. A burnt mound mentioned on the map was sought but not found. Soon lonely Loch Whinyeon came into view and at last lunch was taken by the dam of the loch. (After using the stile on reaching the edge of the loch the recent rain made our progress less easy and a few people struggled with the boggy, wet terrain but we eventually reached the burn where we had our lunch.  A few people took advantage of the hut still being unlocked and had their lunch there while the rest of us found other spots to lay down our mats.  The sun was out for a while here but the wind was cold and when the sun disappeared we were happy to get going again.)
Loch Whinyeon once fed the mills of Gatehouse, the water being directed west, through a tunnel and then along an aqueduct to two mill ponds at either side of the ‘cut’ by the old Toll house in the village. The rains had increased the amount of water in the loch and the overflow to the east was now in full spate, in the rightful direction of the outflow of the loch.

The forest road by this outflow was next followed, passing the water authority buildings surrounded by trees, and beautifully kept sheep rees, square collecting pens of dry stone dykes, standing forlornly in the middle of the Glengap forest. Not far from here were a few willow trees which carried tiny sacks of jellylike material, provoking much speculation about which insect had deposited them there.

The Twynholm road was reached at the Filter station of Glengap which had been built in 1959, refurbished in 1986 and looked in much need of refurbishment again. The road now made easy walking for a while, passing below Meikle Culcaigrie Hill which was still only partially in view as the mist had once more screened the higher ground.  Trostrie motte, rising forty feet above its surrounding ditch, behind the farm of the same name, was admired, before the ramblers turned off, taking an old road right through the front garden of Carse of Trostrie and entering a sunken grassy road which would now take a straight line back to Gatehouse. We met its owners and their excited dog and apologized for going   through their garden although it was a right of way.  They apologized for the state of the stile over which we would next climb.  We asked if their house had once been a school as the extension seemed to house a huge room but they said that this had once been a barn and they had added another section also.
In the fields another short break was taken, and as the mist had lifted a little, the views could now be examined, with the hills to the east and over to Dalbeattie appearing from obscurity.  These views were doubly appreciated when the walk recommenced and at the top of the hill the sun appeared and the estuary of the Dee at Gatehouse shone weakly in the lowering sunshine.
Soon afterwards Cath gave the walkers the choice of continuing through yet more boggy areas, which were wetter than before, or taking the slightly longer route on the farm road/track and meeting us further along – we were always in sight of one another.  The split was pretty even but the former group arrived first!  Together again we continued upwards and were all relieved when the farm track started going down at last and we had stupendous views over the Fleet Estuary as the sun was lowering.  The sun was too strong to allow good photos and the mist was lowering too. 
The moors at Irelandton were crossed on a shell road, with fords and gates dividing the fields. It had been a pleasure to meet members of the Stewartry Ramblers here, a few weeks previously, whilst the route had been reconnoitred.  The last leg of the walk led downhill, to the pleasure of all, with another tumbling burn accompanying the road until the Old Manse was passed and the grounds of Cally Palace once more entered. The snowdrops were out in splendour, and again water was falling steeply, to pass under a bridge, created a last satisfying scene for the now tired walkers.
The Murray Arms beckoned, where many finished a most agreeable day with a reviving dinner.  Some of the walkers headed home but Stewart and Sue followed us to the Murray Arms where they got tea while the females in our party who were there for a meal went to freshen up and have a change of clothing before joining the others.  We had a large room to ourselves and an oval table large enough for a dozen people. Christine, Cath, Duncan, Irene, Audrey, Jim, Ken, Mary and Frances enjoyed a really good meal and great company.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Scoops Reports 2011 - 5 February – Derry

Wigtownshire Ramblers 5 February – Derry

On Saturday 5thFebruary 19 Ramblers, Cath, Frances, Jim, Mary Sloan, Jim and Marylin, Julie, Stewart, Allan, Jack, Audrey, Irene, John, Peter Mary Mitchell, Jane and a new lady, Margaret met to walk an 8 mile stretch of the Southern Upland Way in search of the past.  After parking the cars beyond the cattle grid at Derry Farm the group followed a well surfaced forest road overlooking Loch Derry on the right.  Heading in a westerly direction a signpost to Linn’s  Tomb was observed on the left which lies on the slopes of Craigmoddie Fell and contains the remains of Alexander Linn who was a Covenanter during the dark years of the ‘Killing Times’.  He was discovered near the summit of the fell in 1685 by a party of soldiers led by Lieutenant General Drummond and was executed without trial.
Continuing on the forest road for about thirty minutes a SUW marker indicated a left turn heading up a fairly steep but short incline to the cairn at the top of Craig Airie Fell which was the highest point of the day.  Here the group stopped to admire the panoramic views of the surrounding landmarks including the Artfell wind farm which was surprisingly still due to the calm and mild morning it turned out to be.
Following an undulating ridge the group then veered left downhill onto a footpath that twists and turns to the right to reach the edge of a forest.  The route continued along a forest ride with varying shades of green and fallen trees displaying massive root systems until reaching a clearing with a cairn on the left.  A straight path to the next clearing where a sign points left to the Wells of the Rees led us into another historical debate.
The rees in question being sheep pens surrounding the wells and Davie Bell popularly known as The Highwayman describes them as ‘three piles of stones….skilfully constructed, with each well having a canopy and the shape of the whole like that of a beehive.’  Made of flat stones and oval in shape they were ‘streamlined into the hillside, with a recess over the well for a utensil.’  Although locals told Davie Bell that the wells were made by the Romans it is more likely that they were made for the Pilgrims.  According to the Reverend C.H. Dick in his Highways and Byways of Galloway and Carrick, the wells may have been part of the ancient church and graveyard of Kilgallioch, which was nearby but can no longer be seen today.  It has been suggested that stones from the old church were used to build the rees and also the farmsteading not far away.
The pilgrims route from Glenluce Abbey to Whithorn was also the path followed by lepers on their way to the leper colony about 1.5 miles north of Loch Derry at Libberland.  They washed in Purgatory Burn near Laggangairn and no doubt stopped for refreshment at The Wells of the Rees.
On returning to the SUW the group headed towards Laggangairn crossing a fairly new wooden bridge across the Tarff Water and crisscrossing a series of forest roads that were new to some members from previous rambles. The Laggangairn Stones stand like sentinels on the SUW and are thought to have some religious significance due to the number and variations of crosses on their circumferences.  A short distance from them stands the well maintained Beehive Bothy where lunch was taken and speculation made about the shape and name of the bothy in relation to Bell’s description of the Wells.
Some interesting comments in the Bothy Diary were read out especially the one from the SUW Ranger who was wondering where his ‘plastic’ brush had gone which had been a replacement for the ‘wooden’ one which he suspected had been used to light the fire!! Many of the walkers sat inside it where they had their lunch while some preferred to sit outside. Afterwards Peter wandered off and was gone ages.  We called to him and he eventually came out of the trees and waved to us before going back into the trees.  We had continued on without him for a short while but when he caught up with us he said he had lost his glasses and had been searching for them.  If he had told us we would all have gone searching for them – he intends going back tomorrow to look for them!
On the return journey a diversion was taken to inspect the ruins of Kilgallioch Farm as a member of the group (Allan, when he was about 10)recalled a friend of his delivered mail there in the 1950’s on foot from Derry Farm. There was some suggestion of there being a site of a church close by but we really could not find enough evidence of this although Jim thought a lintel he found could have been above a tall window.  It was hard work getting back on to the track, easier for a short while until we got over a tumble down dyke and then even harder the other side, through fallen pieces of timber, covered with moss, amongst large stones, until we picked up a good track again.  This eventually brought us to a forest road.  Peter offered to climb the bank beside it to see if the other walkers were waiting for us up there but we found a note written by Mary telling us that they were returning to the cars so we moved on.  We quickly gained ground, turning off once again to take the early track, down to another forest road and met the other group where the sign pointed towards Lynne’s Tomb.  It was decided that it was too wet by then (it had been drizzling since we had left the Beehive Bothy, but not too much) and we all wanted to get back to the cars and move on.  It was probably the thought of the refreshments waiting for some of us in Newton Stewart in Cinnamon where the staff made us welcome by pulling tables together and giving us excellent service along with drinks and cakes!