Saturday, 30 April 2011

Scoops Reports 2011 - 30 April Girvan - Tormitchell

Wigtownshire Ramblers 30 April Girvan - Tormitchell

On Saturday 30th April a mixed group of 26 Ramblers from Wigtownshire and visitors from Kilmarnock and Cunninghame groups met at the south car park Girvan to walk a 9 mile circular route in brilliant sunshine. Irene, Frances, Duncan, Audrey, Allan, Lily, Margaret, Mary Mitchell, Christine Sloan, Jacqui, Allan Topping, Leslie, Peter, Ken, Carl, Debbie and her friend, Rosie, with dog Roxy and Gordon made up the Wigtownshire contingency.  Gordon, who was leading the walk, introduced us to some members of the other groups and then we set off at a good pace.  Some of the Ayrshire group were fast walkers and soon left us behind, with Gordon’s permission, but many of them walked at our pace, happy not to have to keep up with them. 
On leaving the car park we headed towards the Shallochpark roundabout crossing over onto Coalpots Road where, after about 200 yards, a signpost said ‘Girvan to Barr hill track 7.5 miles’.  This is the start of the southern part of the Carrick Way and also the track that the quarrymen from Girvan walked everyday to and from work at Tormitchell Quarry in the earlier part of this century when it was owned by the Mitchell brothers from Girvan hence the name Tor meaning ‘hill of the Mitchells’.
Great respect for this hardy bunch of men was quietly paid, as the group puffed their way up the hill track through Wood Hill onto the open pastures where a force 40/50mph gale was blowing down from the top of Dowhill.  From this vantage point there is one of the finest views of the Firth of Clyde.  On a clear day you can see the Antrim coast of Northern Ireland, the island of Arran and the Mull of Kintyre to the north and west, and about 9miles out to sea the distinctive cone shaped outline of the Ailsa Craig.     
We started to make our way downwards, soon losing sight of the group ahead of us but got down well, catching up with them as they sat by the side of a gully, taking in more refreshments.  The quicker group had already headed off and we saw no more of them. 
Dropping down onto the hill track again, away from the wind, a short stop was taken before the ‘high levellers’ ascended to Troweir Hill (296m) and the ‘lower levellers’ stayed on the track passing some of the many disused quarries meeting up again at the ruins of Barbae Farm.
 From here we could see into the bowels of Tormitchell Quarry with its many facets and since the early 1980’s now owned by Barr of Barrhill. A short traverse through a wooded area and down onto the road from Pinmore brought us to Tormitchell Farm where we were greeted by two Lamas.   Fortunately the farmer’s wife and young daughter were there who explained that her Dad had wanted the Lamas’ for 21 years but only got them 2 years ago whereupon her Mum’s reply was priceless quote ‘well what do you buy a farmer who has everything?’
This was the turning point of the circular route when the group headed back along the road passing the noisy Hadyard Hill wind farm on the right accessed from the Dailly to Barr road.  After about 1 mile a left turn was taken onto a hill track on the north slope of Troweir Hill where a sheltered spot for lunch was found.  I sat with Jacqui to have my lunch and when I got up I decided that I could not go on without putting a plaster on the blister I had on my big toe!  Jacqui stayed back with me but we soon caught up with the others and we eventually came to the top of the ridge from where we started to get wonderful views of the sea and the surrounding area. The aerial on the way to the summit of Saugh Hill (293m) was our next marker and avoiding some boggy areas we all made it to the trig point where a group photo was taken and a discussion on the recent news that the Ailsa Craig was up for sale.
Evidently, according to the Hamburg based Vladi Private Islands website, 55 year old Charles Kennedy, the 8th Marquis of Ailsa is seeking offers in the region of £2.5 to £2.75 million.  The Ailsa Craig is over 1100ft high and is a volcanic plug from a long extinct volcano believed to be over 500 million years old.  It has a varied history and people lived on it until the early 1950’s when the Girvan family owned a tearoom there.  Nowadays it is more famous as a bird sanctuary and for its curling stones.
As we traversed the ridge from the trig point, the panoramic views again over the Firth of Clyde on our right side were breathtaking and with the sun going down behind the Ailsa Craig we got a unique view of this craggy isle projecting it forward belying its true distance from Girvan.
After the exertion of going down this very steep section it was really good to have another rest and take in more fluid   Our more energetic and fitter companions were long gone!

Descending the steep slope towards Fauldribbon Cottage and down the track into Girvan under the railway bridge on the Old Dailly by-pass, the last weary mile along Coalpots Road took us back to the cars and a welcome ice cream at the busy car park. 

Jacqui, Allan, Leslie, Mary Sloan, Irene, Duncan, Audrey, Debbie, Rosie (and Roxy) and Frances shared a couple of tables close by and enjoyed tea, cakes, ice creams etc. and one another’s company for half an hour or more before heading back home. 

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Scoops Reports 2011 - 23 April 2011 Monreith – St. Ninians

Wigtownshire Ramblers 23 April 2011 Monreith – St. Ninians

 Pushing or pulling?

A wet drizzly morning saw 22 walkers assemble at St Medan's beach car park for the walk. Cath, Frances, Jack, Mike, Audrey, Margaret, Irene, Duncan, Susan, Mary Mitchell, Jacqui, Allan Topping, Lily, Leslie, Jim, Peter, Ken, Mary Sloan, Julie and Peter – 3rd (new, from Newton Stewart), Jane (cousin of aforesaid husband visiting area) and Carl set off to walk along the beach.
After walking along the beach they arrived at the cliff edges adjacent to the 4th green and 5th tee.  Here they looked at the Boden Walls Well of which little is known. Perhaps a reader can shed some light.
Now they made the steep climb to the cliff-tops from where they proceeded southwards. Looking down on Callie's Port and the Red Gate caves, the varied and irregular rock formations were noted.

They continued following the coastline, rounding the bay where the Grey Mare's Tail waterfall tumbles over. Nesting Fulmars were spotted on the cliff shelves. Shags and other species of seabirds were also seen.
Wild spring flowers were in abundance. Those knowledgeable in the group were able to identify spring squill, mossy saxifrage, celandine, red campion, kidney vetch and lousewart as well as the more common wild flowers. Brightly blooming gorse was widespread.

Generally following a drystane dyke along the cliff tops they now reached Cairndoon. Occasional barbed wire fences and gates were carefully surmounted. Several new born lambs were seen in the fields. 
Not yet flowering Water Parsnips and Marsh Marigolds were seen when crossing the small and boggy burns making their way to the sea.

After passing a derelict building at Knockgulsha the group were now able to look down on the Carleton Port shoreline of a previous walk.  This rarely visited stretch of coast has more than its share of washed ashore flotsam and jetsam, and includes a great variety of coloured fish boxes.   

Now the big bulk of the Fell of Carleton loomed above as they crossed over a stile on the drystone wall next to Laggan Pond. The top of the large promontory fort of Laggan Camp was now reached. After a look around, the group now dropped down to a sheltered spot for a lunch break. Detailed information about the fort was passed around.  The rain continued. It started raining immediately and continued to do so on and off most of the day while we were walking.  It was particularly miserable while we were having lunch but at least that meant we did not spend too much time sitting! 

After lunch they returned to the cliff tops and continued southwards. As well as seabirds, swallows, wheatears and skylarks had also been spotted. Talk of the possible sighting of a larger bird of prey were receding when quite suddenly the majestic sight of a young Golden Eagle rising and flying across towards the east and north made everyone forget about the rain.  Tagged by the Highland Foundation for Wildlife this young chick who's been christened Roxy flew close enough to the group for them to see the distinctive white patches under her wings and on her tail.
With brighter weather following behind they were now passing the Hill of Glasserton. Along the edge of the field grew mare's tail, or horse tail, (equisetum arvense), a plant whose family dominated the land about 360 million years ago, in the carboniferous era when coal was being laid down. There are fossilised specimens of some that grew about 40metres tall in Glasgow's Fossil Grove. Because these plants are made up of simple parts they are supposed to be primitive, but they are survivors. After crossing the field above St Ninians Cave they negotiated another dyke and fence to emerge into the woods of Physgill Glen. Early blooming bluebells carpeted the ground here. Once on the track to the shore they now made their way to St Ninians Cave. Now the sunshine had arrived.
Old and newer wall carvings were looked at,but headstones and crosses from the 10th and 11th century are now displayed in the Priory Museum at Whithorn.

A gentle walk up Physgill Glen where yellow rattle, skunk cabbage and wild garlic flourished brought a wet but very satisfying walk to a conclusion.
After the walk a number of ramblers enjoyed tea,cakes and biscuits next to the eagle owl in the grounds of Monreith Animal World.
 Jacqui, Leslie, Lily, Cath and Frances had lifts back to St.Medan’s where Frances collected her car – Jacqui had to go back for Allan and then followed on to Glenluce Golf Club after us.  We sat outside in the sunshine and Frances had her specially baked almond slice! 

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Scoops Reports 2011 - 9 April Rig of Jarkness

Wigtownshire Ramblers 9 April Rig of Jarkness

The great spell of weather continued on Saturday allowing the ramblers’ walk to Craiglee and the Rig of Jarkness to take place in brilliant sunshine. (Cath, Frances, Richard, Peter, Mary, Debbie with dog Roxy, Jack, Peter, John Smith, Irene, Duncan, Florence, Leslie, Margaret, Jacqui, Steve, Ken, Forbes, Carl and Linda – 20 walkers, more than usual for a strenuous walk, turned out on this lovely day to walk in the Galloway Hills.) Leaving the cars at Bruce’s Stone the track to Glenhead was followed to join the Southern Upland Way, on route for the watershed between the Glenhead Burn and Dargall Lane, where the waters flow in opposite directions, one half west to Loch Trool and the other east to Loch Dee. The forest road was easy walking for twenty Ramblers, with forest to the north regenerating, and a rare sight of flowers along the way – coltsfoot and cotton grass seen occasionally on the verges.

At the watershed gate the track was forsaken and the going got harder with boggy ground leading up the hillside, passing along the Trostan Burn and climbing to the OS trig point on Craiglee. As the hill was climbed the views opened out with Loch Dee in the east first appearing, followed by Loch Trool to the west. Cotton grass was in flower, its golden, pollen laden heads slightly relieving the surrounding expanses of dry corn coloured grass. The flat area of the Glenhead lochs appeared as a wide expanse of tundra as the climb began to encounter granite outcrops and boulders.

At the summit lunch was taken in the sunshine with very little wind and the walkers relaxed here a little longer than usual. An orthodox cross adorned the top; ideas for whom it was erected abounded. The views were shortened by a haze in the distance but Benyellary and the Merrick were in plain view, and the hills to the south were recounted by the walk leader, White Hill, Curleywee, Bennanbrack and Lamachan with Mulldonach above Loch Trool. The view to the east covered the range leading to Corserine and Carlin’s Cairn with Back Hill of Bush bothy just in sight amongst the trees. The great floating bog of the Silver Flow with the Cooran Lane cutting through it made a great foreground to this range, a dangerous expanse of mire in a lonely glen leading north to Loch Doon.

The ridge was eventually followed through a muted landscape, the washed out beiges of the tussocky grass, heather not yet into re-growth and the blue grey granite of the rocks blending nicely together in the hazy sunshine and contrasting with the very dark peaty lochans which were scattered amongst the boulders over the tops.

The rocks here are scored deeply by the ice age, criss-crossed with striations and fissures which are widened each winter by expanding ice. Loose boulders sit precariously and small stones lie on great flat expanses of  rocks as though thrown down at the end of a game. 

Dow Loch was passed and Loch Valley , Narrach and Neldrikan came into view before the Rig of Jarkness took the walkers along to a descent leading steeply down, through rough tussocks, with hidden peaty holes, to the Gairland Burn.

(When we reached the burn it was to find that Leslie had already crossed it and was well up the other side, heading towards Loch Trool on the Loch Valley pathway.  He was called back and the rest of us moved on down along the wet, poor but manageable ‘track’.  It was realized later that Leslie was not behind us, neither was Steve who had stayed back to help him back over the burn – he had great difficulty in doing this.  We stopped and waited for them once Forbes had climbed upwards to get sight of them.  When they caught up it was not long before Leslie decided to cross the burn again, which he did, but not without some difficulty and he put one leg right down in the water.)  
The left side of the burn was taken, down to the bridge on the Glenhead road which had been passed on the outward journey. The indistinct path closely followed the lively cascades and water-falls, rumbling and rushing downwards to eventually meet Loch Trool. The ground was spongy with spaghnum moss, interspaced with the still tussocky dead grass, but soon low scrub appeared – flowering Sweet Gale or Bog Myrtle, followed by young woodland with beech, rowan and hazel coming into leaf, bright green contrasting with the dark holly leaves which were thinly spread amongst the young trees. (Leslie continued on down the other side of Gairland Burn and we made our way down to and through the trees, trying to avoid the fallen and broken branches overlaid with grass and moss, and marvelling at the waterfalls.) 
Through the edge of the old oak woods the bridge was at last reached and the road followed past Buchan farm to the cars. What a glorious day the ramblers had spent in the hills. 

Only four of us opted to go for a drink in the House o’ Hill pub – Mary, Carl, Cath and Frances, sitting outside still enjoying the sunshine. 

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Scoops Reports 2011 - 2 April Glenwhan

Wigtownshire Ramblers 2 April Glenwhan

The weather forecast was not promising but 18 Ramblers assembled at the forest gate at Glenwhan Forest for a new walk over the woods and fields to the south. Cath, Frances, Allan (who was leading the walk), Jack, Carl (NOT Carol!), Susan, Audrey, Duncan, Irene, Richard, Jim, Ken, Mary, Peter, John, Sue, Margaret and Mike set off in sunshine along a forest road.  The sun broke through the clouds as they set out along the forest road.  After passing 2 locked gates they ignored the Southern Upland Way path along the forest boundary and carried on along the forest road.  On their way they passed one of the deer controllers carrying his equipment back to his car.  Apparently he had had no success that day.
The group followed the road to the North side of Craig Fell where they paused to admire the views up the Luce valley towards the moors at the head of the valley.  The walk leader commented that, apart from a few small woods in the lower valley, there had been no trees visible around the valley when he was young.
From the end of the road the group went into the trees and climbed round the western side of the hill.  The ground was very slippery in places and one unfortunate member slipped on the moss covered stones as she crossed an old dyke, breaking her glasses and sustaining a couple of small cuts.  After first aid, administered by another member, she was able to carry on.  The group continued through the trees until they reached the next forest road.
When we were going along a track and crossing over an area of fallen down stones from a dyke, Susan went headlong, crashing on to her face, her glasses saving her eyes but the left side pressed hard into her eyelid and below it, cutting her badly and breaking the glass. She looked pretty awful, especially as the lid started swelling and closing over her eye, giving sight in only one of the them but she insisted that she was OK to carry on and there was not one whimper of complaint from her the whole of the day.
The sun had now cleared most of the clouds and as they followed the road eastwards there were lovely views southwards over the young woods and fields towards Luce Bay with the Isle of Man silhouetted on the horizon.  They followed the road for about a mile then turned southwards through the younger trees along a rough path.  The path had been well used by the local roe & red deer but none of these animals were seen.  Small amounts of bark stripping of the young trees by the deer were observed all along the path.  The path emerged near the end of another spur road.  The ramblers followed it to its terminus and continued through the recently planted and well nibbled broadleaved trees to the boundary of the forest. The group then zig zagged up and down the fields using the various field gates and finally climbed up to the small copse on the summit of Challoch Hill.  From here the views were spectacular in all directions.  There was a wide panorama over Luce Bay with the sun sparkling off the water between the Mull of Galloway and the Machars peninsula.  Further round Stranraer was visible at the end of Loch Ryan and Kirkcolm nestling in its small valley further along the loch as it sheltered from the westerly winds.   This was probably why both Orange and Vodafone had chosen to place their telephone mast there.  In the middle of the wood there was a derelict wooden lookout tower which at one time was manned each spring to spot forest fires in the many forests to the north and east.  The walkers went round to the north side of the wood to get shelter from the keen breeze while they ate their lunches. The views in this direction were also magnificent with the moors of Wigtownshire and the Galloway Hills all bathed in sunshine.
When Cath, Jim and Frances tried to get over the dyke to join the other walkers who had taken another route around the dyke enclosing a wooded area with a wooden watch tower in its middle, John was helping Frances over the wire fencing when she got an  electric shock!  He had put his foot on the top of the wire so did not get a shock so I did this too and jumped down the other side, after some trepidation, landing OK.  Cath got over without the same hesitation and then Jim took the fence from a different direction and jumped backwards!  He then fell heavily, almost bringing Frances down with him and lay there for enough time for us to start worrying.  However, he was OK, thank goodness!
After lunch they set off down the hill towards Dunragit Estate, once the seat of the Dalrymple Hay family.  They joined the end of a new stone track and descended into the policy woods.  When they reached the main drive they turned up the hill and passed the entrance into the Glenwhan Gardens.
The route followed the old track which led from the home farm to the moors.  The track led around the western edge of the Glenwhan Gardens, across a couple of fields and back through the forest to the forest road.  The group then followed the forest road back under darkening skies to the cars.
Allan was pleased that we were only 10 minutes past his estimated time of arrival and reminded us that he had forewarned the people running the tea room at the Glenwhan Garden that a party of Ramblers would be making the most of their refreshments.  However, he didn’t join us when we went in convoy to the tea room, ten of us arriving to spend a lovely hour + and Cath and Frances both had huge pieces of carrot cake which was brilliant!  Richard, Jim, Mary, Ken, Duncan, Irene, Sue and Susan seemed pretty happy with their choices too!