Saturday, 4 June 2011

Scoops Reports 2011 - 4 June 2011 Grobdale of Girthon

Wigtownshire Ramblers 4 June 2011 Grobdale of Girthon

The day was overcast but not cold on Saturday, when eighteen members of the local ramblers’ association (Cath, Frances, Richard, Andrea, Jim, Mary, Paul, Ken, Debbie, Douglas, Christine, Susan, Irene, Duncan, Carl, Peter Reid, Lily and one other?) met at the entrance to the forest road near Grobdale, Gatehouse of Fleet. 

This week’s walk took the wide and well made road uphill through mature trees until the view to t he west opened out to show the Big Water of Fleet valley with Rusko castle standing proud in the centre. It was interesting to see the hills of recent walks – Ben John, Kenlum, Cairnharrow – from this vantage point.

As the high point of the road was passed, the quarry that is providing rock to resurface forest roads around the Big Water of Fleet viaduct, showed the ingenious technology of modern machinery with crushed rocks piled separately in their different grades.

As the Rig of Burnfoot was rounded, views to the north came in sight, showing all three of the Cairnsmores – Fleet, Dee and Carsphairn – as well as a myriad of other hills. The walk at last came to the end of its hard surface by the demolished Little Water of Fleet viaduct. The embankment which led to the nine arched rail viaduct is still in place and was explored by some members, whilst others took a welcome rest.

Now an overgrown path along the abandoned railway was taken. The skilfully built bridges and blasted cuttings showed the enormous undertaking of the railway navvies. The railway was opened in 1861 and eventually closed in 1965 with the Beeching cuts.
Before long Loch Skerrow was reached, a lonely spot which had been a railway halt with a passing loop, which enabled trains on the line between Big Water of Fleet viaduct and Castle Douglas to pass each other.
Lunch was enjoyed at the side of the loch and the remaining ruins of the halt were explored. As with the Little Water of Fleet viaduct, army vandals blew up the buildings as an exercise. Platforms remain, as does a pile of bricks where the water tower had been positioned, as well as some walls of the railway houses. The water intake from the river, for replenishing the steam trains before their uphill journey to Creetown, had been found by a member to be almost intact, with sieves in place to remove debris, but no lid. It was examined before moving on.

The halt was used by fishermen and railway workers and could only be reached from the Gatehouse road by a track, which has now all but disappeared, alongside Grobdale Lane, skirting Laughengie Hill. This faint track was now followed back to the cars.
The mossy land is an SSSI with an abundance of ancient remains scattered over the long and boggy route. There are hut circles, burnt mounds and an old farmstead with field systems, sheiling huts and a corn kiln on the hill.

The winding burn of Grobdale Lane separates the two parishes of Girthon and Balmaghie. It narrows as the farm of Grobdale of Girthon nears and the ground is difficult to cross away from the track - tussocks, dead grass, deep peat hags, and drainage ditches create an obstacle course.

There was very little wild life to be seen although a deer ran across the hill and lizards quickly disappeared beneath tussocks by the path. The flowers were generally tiny tormentils, speedwells and lousewort, with areas of late bluebells marking drier patches on the hillside and ladies smock and bog cotton  in the wetter parts. 
At last the bye fields of the farm were reached with well tended dry fields a welcome change from soft squelchy surfaces. The farm itself has been recently beautifully renovated and has a colourful well stocked garden and tidy outbuildings, quite a contrast to its desolate position.

The lady of the house (Gwen) said she had wanted to join a walking group for ages and we advised her to look at our website and told her she was very welcome join us.

Lovely red Luing cattle and Blackface sheep and lambs accompanied the walkers back to the road and the waiting cars. It had been a long but quite easy and most interesting ramble.

Cath, Frances, Richard, Andrea, Jim, Mary, Ken, Debbie, Susan, Irene, Duncan, Carl, and Lily drove into Gatehouse and went for drinks and cakes at Gatehouse Mill tea room – the scone was lovely despite obviously having been taken out of the freezer and heated – in the oven so that was OK.  We all crowded around a wooden circular table meant for 7/8 with the help of 3 chairs and we had a wonderful time eating, drinking, chatting and laughing. 

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