Saturday, 27 August 2011

Scoops Reports 2011 - 27 August 2011 Cairnsmore of Casphairn

Wigtownshire Ramblers 27 August 2011 Cairnsmore of Casphairn

Cath, Frances, Thomas, Isobel, Rachel, Florence, Jacqui, Linda, Leslie, Jack, Shona, Elizabeth (Derek’s ‘The Alps’ wife), Paul, Sue, Colette (not seen her for ages!) and Brian, who was leading, met in NS.  We drove in convoy through New Galloway and St. John’s Town of Dalry and Carsphairn, turning off onto the B729 soon afterwards and being joined by Gordon who had come from a different direction.  We came onto a minor road and parked close to Craigengillan where the farmer came out to talk to us.  We thought he was going to move us on but he said that the logging had finished in the area and we were OK to park there.  He advised us to take the track up through the forest but Brian had other ideas! 
Meeting up at Craigengillan on Saturday morning, seventeen ramblers prepared for a long day in the hills, climbing Benniner and Cairnsmore of Carsphairn. The weather looked fair but storm clouds were never far away and the temperature was alternately warm and cold as the sun went in and out of the clouds.

The walk began at the shepherds cottage, across the road from which are the ruins of a mediaeval village, showing how this lonely place was once a thriving and populated area. The forestry has recently finished clearing sections of land here, and the roads were clear of logging traffic, allowing the walkers to keep up a good pace until reaching a ruined bridge where the track to Moorbrock became obscured. A boggy crossing of tussocks and sphagnum moss led to the old home of Tammas Murray, the shepherd poet, who occupied Moorbrock some time ago. The story of another shepherd who became ill was related; he was operated on in the house, and then needed fourteen men to relay him, on an improvised stretcher, to the road end at Craigengillan to meet the ambulance. The house and steading are now neatly kept holiday homes.

A new forest road continued through a water splash and wound round below Green Hill, passing by high deer stalking platforms. The route then took to the rough ground between trees and across the Poldores burn. Faint motor bike tracks were followed through the grassy and not too boggy skirts of the first objective, Beninner (710m). The easy part of the day was now replaced with a near vertical ascent of the hill, between screes, hanging on to grassy tufts and bare rock with hand and foot, whilst contending with the only shower of the day. The view below as the climb proceeded was dizzying; the ground fell away revealing the great expanse of desolate pastures contained beneath these hills.

Once on the rock strewn high plateau the going was easy and a short walk to the summit cairn was achieved with great relief. (However, for those of us who were trailing the relief was short lived as we only had a short stop before trying, in vain, to catch up with the others!) Two of the Striding Arches of Andy Goldsworthy were visible in the distance. These are a challenging subject for a future walk – erected in 2005, they form a series of red sandstone arches each with a span of about seven metres, built on the hilltops around Cairnhead.

A fresh breez e meant that the summit of Beninner was forsaken and a late lunch was eaten in the lee of the hill above the Nick of the Lochans. From here it was a stroll down to a boundary fence and up onto the top of Cairnsmore of Carsphairn (797m). A big cairn, separated by a few yards from a shelter, with the Ordinance Survey pillar, complete with its flush bracket, was the high point of the day. The views were phenomenal. From the Rhins of the Kells, the Awful Hand of the Merrick, Ailsa Craig and the sea, the lochs of Macaterick, Riecawr, Bradan and Doon, Ayr town, then the windmills around the well named Windy Standard, to the Moniaive hills and even across the Solway to Skiddaw; it was a 360 degree panorama.
Gordon took over from here for a while, taking us away from the summit, down a lovely slope for a while and then the going got really dreadful!  We slithered down over long grass and heather, had to watch out for holes beside large rocks and took ages getting down to another awful section.  This was over boggy, tussocky grass, for a long time, until we reached the Polifferie Burn and waited for others to catch up.  We followed the burn for a while, crossed it and then made our way to have a look at Clennoch Bothy for which we had made a huge detour.*

A ridge walk, followed by a very steep descent, then again through bogs, tussocks and deep, black peat, booby traps, to the Bow burn, led to the tidy bothy of Clennoch and a well earned rest whilst the building was explored.

Near this spot is the crash site of a local man, David Hunter Blair, who flew a spitfire into this remote hillside in May 1942. His plane was named ‘Blue Peter’ after a Derby winner. The children’s programme of the same name sent their presenter, John Lesley, here to record the event in 1997, and the Dumfries and Galloway Aviation group conducted a search of the area to find the crash remains. There is now a memorial plaque affixed to a boulder marking the site.

It was now a short walk to a new forest road, not yet on the maps, which was followed, up and down hill, until once more the cars were reached by the weary group.  The challenge of the long walk had been appreciated by all.

This meant we had a four mile trudge along the forest road back to the cars – going eventually passed Moorcroft holiday cottages where we stopped for a short break to drink some water – many of the walkers had gone on ahead.  We managed to avoid the worst of the boggy area through which we had gone towards the start of the walk and then I had to stop to put a blister plaster on my big toe before I could face the rest of the hard surfaced track to the end of the walk.  We arrived at 6pm, almost half an hour after most of the other walkers!

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