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. 

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