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!


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