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.

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