Saturday, 28 January 2012

Scoops Reports 2012 - 28 January 2012 Portpatrick – Knockinaam

 28 January 2012 Portpatrick – Knockinaam  Report by Cath Birkett

A cold but dry day ensured that 19 members gathered at Portpatrick car park for a leisurely walk along the cliffs to Knockinaam.
  When Cath, Frances, Isobel, Elaine, Allan, Mike (not seen him for ages), Debi, Andrea, Richard, Mary, Audrey, Irene, Heather and her husband, Andy, Linda (walked down from her home at Dunskey Park), Leslie (had caught the bus from Lochans and met up with Linda), Allan Topping, Margaret and Sue – not seen her for ages either - there were lots of hugs and belated ‘Happy New Year’s before we set off.  My ‘pep’ talk was short and my leadership skills were almost non- existent! Those who of us who could, made their way quickly up the very MANY steps away from Portpatrick and then the rest of us caught up when possible!
Steep steps up to Dunskey castle meant that there was plenty of time to enjoy the views - the more southerly coastline stood out starkly against a pale sea, Ireland was a smudge on the horizon, and the sea sparkled, a great expanse of cool blue.
 Jim was not with us today so I used my responsibility of main photographer (I noticed Irene using her camera) to weave back and forth between the group to try to get some suitable photos for the paper - that was my excuse anyway for not always (hardly ever) being at the front of the walkers, most of whom had done the walk at least a couple of times before.  We were so lucky with the weather after a couple of days of sleet, snow and rain as the day was dry if not always bright.    There was some watery sunshine, the sun never quite making a stronger appearance.

A short stop was made at the castle. The original building here dated from the fifteenth century but the remains to be seen today are from the enlargement of the tower house around 1620. Unfortunately now the ruins are considered too dangerous to explore.
The new coast path is a great improvement, with kissing gates and bridges easing the way, but mud was still a constant companion this day.
However, there is a good stretch of track where once there used to be a very slippery section after crossing the bridge over Craigoch Burn.
Soon Morrach Bay, with a small cottage centred on a wide flat stretch of grass, was seen below. In the recent past early potatoes were grown on this small field, but today the cottage is a holiday let, approached by a treacherously steep and winding track from the top of the cliffs. A sweetie stop was called for, as the notice, listing the numerous dangers of the approach to the shore, was read.
As Florence and I had been unable to do the planned recce owing to the inclement weather, it had been decided that we would follow the usual route down to Port of Spittal Bay but, having gone through the last kissing gate, Leslie got over the electric fence on our right, saying that this was the way that HE goes.  The walkers were told that if they wanted adventure they were to follow Leslie, if they wanted to follow the known track they could go straight down (muddy and slippery) and turn right to follow the road down to the bay.  The complete party went for adventure and it was much better going down this way and being rewarded for our effort with an early lunch as we got to the bay about 11.45am.
The walk now took a new route to Knockinaam and Port o’Spittal Bay, but confusingly, an electric fence had to be crossed to link the cliff path and the kissing gate at the top. The way was steep and slippery, but all reached the rocky outcrop in the sandy bay below with little difficulty, and settled down to an early lunch. Diving shags were the only sign of life in this quiet sheltered inlet. 
The return has always been to walk up the road and to follow the road for quite a long way, which is quite good, but I wanted to retrace our steps UP the hill and find out if there was a better way of accessing the track without going over the electric fence (sorry Andrea!).  We did go up a bit further but still had to get over a fence, this one made safer with some rubber tubing.
The path to the top of the cliffs now had to be renegotiated and views to the north were then enjoyed as the outward route was retraced. Soon a grassy track was followed away from the cliffs where a flock of black Zwartble sheep kept well away as the walkers crossed the field.
The ramblers emerged onto a country road by ‘Eagle’s view’ and stopped to hear about the wartime buildings here, now being used for cattle shelter and storage. Locally known as ‘Hush Hush’, they were an early outpost for radar, tracking submarines and shipping in the North Channel.
A herd of Belted Galloways were admired with young calves and their mothers gathered around a feeding station, their feet encased in wet mud, the little ones looking so cute with their extremely thick and curly coats.
Further along the road the group heard about the early hydroelectric scheme which supplied Portpatrick with power. The dam, which can be seen from the road, is now breached and an impressive waterfall, enlarged by recent rain, thundered over the lip.
A path beneath the former railway line led up onto the disused track and through the caravan site, which is in the process of being expanded. Good paths have been laid for sites with wonderful panoramic views across the sea.
The way back to the cars now passed Dunskey castle once again, followed by an easy descent of the steps alongside the disused railway cutting. As one of the bridges was crossed the ramblers stopped to watch fulmars billing and cooing, staking claim to desirable ledges for nesting sites.
The walk finished with refreshments at the Beachcomber where the company enjoyed a calorific reward for their exertions.
Allan Leiper, Debi and Mike opted to return to Stranraer and home, leaving the rest of us to go over to the Beachcomber where Derek was already sitting, enjoying his scone and coffee.  There were so many of us ordering and paying before the owner of the cafe (whom I had phoned yesterday to make sure the place was open AND that there would be enough scones) could start to bring our refreshments to us.  However, we had finished the walk in good time and none of us was in a rush so the delay was only frustrating to the last of the party to arrive – Jacqui and Mary who had joined us after doing the walk in reverse!

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Scoops Reports 2012 - 21 January 2012 – Garlies Castle from Knockman Wood

   21 January 2012 – Garlies Castle from Knockman Wood - Report by Richard Kay

After passing through the intimidating gates at Boreland Lodge twenty one ramblers (Frances, Isobel, Rachel, Marilyn, Andrea, Richard, Mary, Jim, Peter Bedford, Ken, Margaret, Audrey, Duncan, Irene, Florence, Peter Reid, John, Peter and Marie, Christine Sloan and a potential new member, Heather, who is a friend of Andrea’s) assembled in the Forestry Commission car park at Knockman Wood.  The weather was mixed with fierce showers scudding through on the brisk north-westerly breeze.
They set off up the new forest road which is now settling into the landscape, partly due to the work of the Cree Valley Community Woodlands Trust volunteers who have spread wild flower seeds along the banks.  The group soon reached the deer dyke around Knockman Wood and took the stoned path heading up the hill.  After a short climb the group paused to examine the ancient burial cairn beside the path.  This is recorded as a cairn of the Clyde series and probably about 3,000 years old.  There was little structure visible in the large pile of stones apart from two portal stones and a possible indication of the location of two stone horns adjacent to the portal.
From there the group climbed the rough path to the summit of Knockman Hill adjacent to the lonesome pine which has provided a waymarker for several walks.  Several information boards describing the wood pasture habitats provided an  interesting excuse to pause for breath. The wind was fierce on the exposed summit and after a brief pause for jelly babies they set off, through the blueberry, heather and bracken, down to the Knockman Wood circular path.
 We were back into the woods again but with trees there had wonderful shapes and colours and the cameras were out in full force.  The background sky was leaden with rain while the sun shone on the outlines of the trees and we were spoilt for choice in our subject matter!  Branches reaching up into the sky, covered in moss, curling all ways, tiny burns to be crossed, muddy sections to negotiate, and then we came out into more open ground and ready hands were available to help those who needed help in crossing a small burn and subsequent tiny ones.
On gaining the path they continued eastwards towards the fenced deer enclosure.  On reaching the lower end of the enclosure they turned off the path and followed a deer track which meandered eastwards until they reached the deer dyke again.  They negotiated a rough gateway and traversed the first significant burn.  With a little assistance the group all crossed dry shod and made their way across the moorland to the old farm toun above Garlies wood. This was recorded as a ruin on the1841 maps but the outline of the walls of several buildings could be made out on each side of the track.  As they progressed towards the wood the track marked on the map  disappeared and they made their way  across the soggy ground to the wood dyke which they followed to the gate.
Within wood the track was again visible and they followed it down to Garlies Castle where they paused for lunch.  The ruins stood tall among the trees though ivy and sycamores growing out of the walls pose a long term problem.  However, fallen stones provided excellent seats.

After lunch the ramblers set off down the hill towards the Peat Rig Strand.  They first crossed an old paddock with a fine view of a waterfall on the Castle Burn and passed beneath two evergreen oaks on their way down to the burn.  Recent rains had raised the level of the water and the Peat Rig Strand was crossed with some difficulty.  Fortunately, nobody fell in.
This was the best part for me!  Richard was indicating where we should cross and he helped Isobel over who had no bother.  Others decided to try further down and I did notice that Rachel, who had opted to follow Peter’s example, had a bit of a splash down just as she was reaching the other side.  Most people turned back to where Richard was waiting and I got a wonderful batch of photos of people leaping over the burn, with Richard’s help.
After crossing the Burn the group  climbed through the attractive oak woods and exited onto the open hill through a small gate.  Here they were greeted by a group of young cattle who retreated and watched them pass from a safe distance.  The route then followed the green hills down to the muddy valley track which they followed towards Cumloden and soon reached the old schoolhouse.  Until recently this had been semi derelict but has recently been sensitively restored and improved by the Landmark Trust and is let out for holidaymakers.  The school had originally been built by the then Countess of Galloway in the 1850s as an industrial school for girls.  It was difficult to imagine that the tiny building had provided an education for 25 girls and a home for their teacher.
Beyond the school the track improved somewhat and it was followed along the Cumloden garden wall almost as far as the Clauchrie Lodge.  The group took the track uphill back towards the car park.  Most of the group made a small diversion to the top of the small Torbain Hill where a small cairn had been erected to celebrate the millennium.  A large stone near its base had a large “MM” carved in it. There is a suggestion that this hill was not natural and is associated with a ditch and bank enclosure to the north.
 The group then reformed on the track and followed it through the woods back to the car park.  The afternoon was completed with a visit to Cinnamon in Newton Stewart to enjoy their renowned scones and tea.
 I had phoned Cinnamon in the morning, about 11am and, on hearing that there were only two scones left, requested that either they save one of these for me and one other, or that they made another batch of scones, telling them that there could be about a dozen of us coming in to enjoy them in the middle afternoon – the latter was chosen!  A cheer went up when I announced this a bit later!  When we did get there, about 2.30pm, we really did enjoy the freshly made scones but they would have been better if they had been fruit instead of plain – Andrea reckoned that my triumph was not quite so spectacular and that maybe I shouldn’t be on the social committee after all – I told her I wasn’t anyway!  Peter and Marie had left us after our short stop to look at the old schoolhouse near Cumloden as they lived not far away and Peter Bedford opted to get home to take his dog for a walk but the rest of us (18!) sat around the many tables we had dragged together and made a lot of noise, for which we DID apologise to other customers who seems totally unconcerned.  We cleared the tables afterwards and moved them all back before leaving, having thanked the staff there for their hospitality!

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Scoops Reports 2012 - 7 January 2012 – Loch Middle/Craigmurchie

7 January 2012 – Loch Middle/Craigmurchie 

 7 January 2012 – Loch Middle/Craigmurchie  Report by Jim Deans  

The car park at the Wood of Cree nature reserve was the start point for the walk.
Nineteen walkers (Frances, Isobel, Rache, Jack, Peter, John, Lesley, Christine Sloan, Audrey, Irene, Duncan, Andrea, Richard, Ken, Jim, Peter, Mary Sloan, Peter and Marie) set off following the Cordorcan burn through the reserve, its many tumbling waterfalls delighting the photographers in the group.  Rachel and I were primed with our cameras but Rachel was not as photo-happy as I was so she did not always have to catch up with the others, like me!  As on the recce the waterfalls were in full flow – I think the track was even muddier this time though.
Every so often an information board would give details of the flora, fauna and wildlife likely to be around. The Wood of Cree is the largest ancient wood in southern Scotland with a great variety of birds.  However, with such a large group walking, it was always going to be unlikely to spot many. Once away from the burn I kept up, of course and then we had a slight detour to explore the remains of buildings at Cordorcan, which was a good distraction.
At the edge of the reserve the ruined buildings at Cordorcan were explored. Now the forest track was followed all the way to Loch Middle. Timber operations were in progress and trees could be seen being cut down and the branches being stripped. On reaching the loch the anti-clockwise track was followed round to the short concrete jetty where group photos were taken.  We followed the forest road, this time without having to negotiate our way around a fallen tree trunk as this had been removed.  It was raining slightly as we got closer to the action still going on with the logging – tree trunks being put together in piles ready for collection. Loch Middle was skirted and the walk uphill by the side of the dyke seemed easier this time although it was no less boggy – some squeals came from behind us but everyone had been warned to keep to the side of this seemingly wide, grassy section and get as close to the trees as possible so as not to sink down into this section.  It was definitely MUCH less windy that it had been on Tuesday which made the taking of a group photograph much easier.
Now a drystone dyke through a boggy forest was followed uphill. Once clear of the woods, the slopes of Craigmurchie were accessed.  After a short but stiff climb the trig point at 286 mtrs was reached. Wide ranging but somewhat hazy views were enjoyed as peaks and landmarks were identified. A short walk from the trig point was a small cairn on top of a larger one.  Jim led us to the cairn and then we made our way down towards the sheep pens.  I stayed on the same side of the dyke as on Tuesday while all the others followed Jim down the other side.  I was doing fine until I was told that lunch was to be taken in the forest, not near the sheep pens as before, so I had to get over the dyke further down.  Fortunately I found a lower section to climb and it was easy enough.  We were glad of the shelter of the woods – when we moved further down afterwards it was much windier there.  Close to us in the woods were some large boulders with fascinating markings on them – natural ones. 

More slippery boggy ground followed on the descent to the forest below. Here a pair of roe deer were disturbed. Under the cover of fir trees, a lunch break was taken. Scattered about were large weathered boulders with unusual markings. Following lunch a drystane dyke was followed down to an interesting collection of old sheep pens. Old sheep dosing bottles were spotted in the dyke.

The Pulhowan burn was next to be crossed. While most walkers found a narrow crossing point upstream some took the more unorthodox route across a tree. It was not long before we reached the excitement of the day – crossing the Pulhowan burn, which everybody did without any trouble.  Duncan got over after me and gave a hand to subsequent walkers as I took the ‘action’ photos.  Jim and John got over with the aid of a very bowed tree!  

Now the drystane dyke, muddy and boggy in several places, was followed to regain the forest track of the outward journey.
The forest track was now retraced back to the reserve where the Scrubland trail was taken.
Following a zigzag route and crossing a number of wooden bridges the large waterfall and viewpoint above Pulhowan Bridge was reached. After a short break
at the viewpoint the undulating path back to the reserve entrance was followed.
It was decided, rightly, that the track down to the bottom of the waterfall was too slippery and we returned to the car park via the way marked track.
A large group of deer was spotted on the drive back to Newton Stewart.

Tea, coffee and cakes in Cinnamon topped an enjoyable walk.  12 of us went into Cinnamon for tea and cakes – Andrea, Richard, Mary, Jim, Ken, Isobel, Rachel, Duncan, Irene, Audrey, Christine and I.   I had persuaded Rachel to park in the Co-op car park so that we could get as close as possible and then ran to overtake Andrea who had somehow managed to get in front of us (AND bought some shoes in D&E’s shoe sale!) so that if there were any scones left I would get there first.  There weren’t so I made do with a slice of banana loaf with butter which was good!