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.

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