Saturday, 25 February 2012

Scoops Reports 2012 - 25 February Loch Whinyeon , Castramont Circular

25 February Loch Whinyeon , Castramont Circular  Report by Cath Birkett

Fair weather greeted 18 ramblers when they met at Knocktinkle car park, Gatehouse of Fleet, on Saturday. This was a welcome change from the dreary wet walking days of late, but still there was no sunshine.
The car park is a fairly new facility dedicated to the memory of Betty Murray Usher who died in 1990, and whose family were the proprietors of the lands through which the day’s walk would explore. Cath, Thomas, Frances, Isobel, Rachel, Jim, Ken, Mary, Sue, Debi, Jack, Peter, John, Forbes, Leslie, Florence, Audrey and a visiting walker gathered there ready for the start of a new walk.
The dyke with its electric fence gave us the first excitement of the day and many stones slipped down as we tried to negotiate this obstacle.  However, quick repairs were made after we had all got through and the fields were enclosed once again.

The immediate steep climb up Grey Hill and Benfadyeon caught out those who had not walked for some time. The way across the wet lands was not too boggy and the extensive views from the top were worth the effort. A 360 degree panorama was laid out, covering many of the hills the company had walked in the last year.  In the west, from the Mull of Galloway peeping out behind the Isle of Whithorn, to Ben John, Cairnharrow and the masts of Cambret Hill, the view continued through Cairnsmore of Fleet, before taking in bronze moorland and the forests of the Grobdale walk.  To the east, with Loch Whinyeon in the foreground, it was easy to trace an earlier outing through the Glengap forest.  I was really worried that I would be totally unfit to climb the first hill but had been spurred on by Cath who called me a coward when I suggested missing this one out and meeting them all at Loch Whinyeon!  Jim has recently been ill and is still not 100% so he was struggling as were a few others.  I found the climb better than when I had done the recce and we reached the summit fairly easily.
The route now descended to the shores of Loch Whinyeon, and the sluice gate and remains of the tunnel which used to take water to the mills in Gatehouse, were explored. The modern outflow could be seen on the opposite shore, where the water now flows eastwards, to the works at Glengap.
The other two hills and the expanse between them were negotiated well, led by Cath who did an excellent job in remembering the way to go, occasionally being put right by Thomas! 
Two more hills were climbed, Craigtype and the Fell of Laghead, the highest of the day at 292metres.
Now the hardest work was done and the company approached the Castramont walk by crossing the Laurieston road and following a forest road for some way under the Craig of Grobdale.
Once on the rather muddy path, energy was restored by a lunch break overlooking
 Castramont Burn, before continuing by bridges and walk boards to ulreoch farm road. The sound of rushing water accompanied the walkers and a rather fine waterfall fell picturesquely through the trees.
A new dry stane dyke, bounding the fields above, was a fitting reminder that Mrs Murray Usher founded the Dry Stane Dyking Association of Great Britain.

Once on the farm road, bordered by old sessile oaks, it was downhill to the Castramont woods entrance, where the walkers once again endured a steadily rising path.  Through fallen beech leaves and increasingly wonderful gnarled old coppiced beeches, the way meandered through the woods, which are maintained by Scottish Nature.

After a brief view of Castramon House well below the path, the destination of the coppiced wood – charcoal platforms - were examined. A low wall and a cleared grassy circle are all that remains of this ancient craft.
As I had expected, the climb in Castramont wood was a bit of a slog for me and for others. However, it was well worth it to get to the site of the charcoal platforms and to get Cath’s description of their history. Despite the autumnal colours being well past, we could not have found more colours on an artist’s paint palet!

Laghead Burn was crossed when the road was once more reached and the farm track past Lagg was taken for the homeward stretch of the walk. Here a heralder of spring was spotted; a lone, shiny, golden celandine glowed by the path.
A gentler walk, gradually uphill, past unused pheasant pens, and many fords crossing the burn, was followed, until the cars could be seen and approached across grassy fields, to end a varied and pleasant walk. The turn off on the track from Lagg Farm was found easily and we were left with one last effort upwards over fields to reach the cars, with relief!  It had been a really wonderful walk, one on which the walkers had never been in its entirety.
The ramblers then retired to Galloway Lodge in Gatehouse to replenish their energy. The visiting walker left us there and Debi chose to return home, not joining the rest of us in the cafe at the Galloway Lodge where most of us enjoyed drinks and cakes – all except Cath who skipped her cake as she is back on her diet.  It seemed pretty unfair that she then paid for ALL our refreshments, spending her recce money!

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Scoops Reports 2012 - 11 February – Glasserton Circular

 11 February – Glasserton Circular  Report by Jim Deans

A dreich misty morning greeted the 15 walkers assembled at Glasserton church car park. The forecast was for much of the same throughout the day, but the group as usual were optimistic.  Cath, Frances, Isobel, Jim, Ken, Mary, Andrea, Richard, Audrey, Irene, Margaret, Florence, Leslie, Linda and Mary set off after Jim gave the group information on what was likely to be seen on the walk.

Blankets of snowdrops and a picturesque dead elm tree brought the group to Glasserton Mains cottages from where they headed north-west along the old drovers track.

The first point of interest was the row of derelict cottages by the Row plantation. Here the walk leader had a list of the names he'd found on the internet of the occupants of these cottages back in 1684. 
Continuing on, another old cottage complete with an old fireplace was explored. After passing Rouchan Pond the normally extensive views of the Machars were non-existent due to the mist.   Movement of cattle had muddied field entrances and mud became a prominent feature of the walk. 

I kept my camera in my rucksack all this time as the rain was light but continual.  However, I couldn’t resist using it again when we had to tackle the climb of our first gate.

Reaching Craiglemine the route now changed direction to the south-west and Carleton. Reaching Bessie Yon, another derelict house was explored. It contained a delightful old fireplace complete with pot hanger, pot, grate and oven, and although very rusty gave a glimpse of a long since past way of life. 

The track, deteriorating badly into mud, mud and more mud then led us to Bessie Yon and yet another empty cottage which we explored at length.  The kitchen looked like it might have been a later addition and the roof had been raised, evident by the addition of more levels of bricks in the chimney.  

Now an easterly route was taken over the rising undulating and boggy fells.  After carefully crossing a slippery stile over a drystane dyke the group continued upward to reach another drystane dyke. The trig point at the northern end of the Fell of Carleton stood twenty feet away, but only the intrepid few crossed the stile for a closer look. By now the rain had almost ceased, but the mist still had a damp feel to it.

Despite the slight rain the crossing of this section of moorland was still attractive but by this time my stomach was protesting and it was with relief that the Machermore’s Millstone was reached and we were able to use its surrounding rocks on which to sit and shelter and have our lunch. 

After crossing more rough undulating terrain the next objective of the Machermore's Millstone was reached.  Carved into a rocky outcrop almost a metre wide is an unfinished millstone.  

The walk leader had heard a story of its being unfinished due to the outbreak of war.  More likely is the local tradition that says the millstone was carved in the late 19th century by workmen rebuilding Carleton farm.  The outcrop of rock, known as Mill Stone Howe proved to be an ideal spot to enjoy a spot of lunch. Although the mist remained, the rough foamy tide at the Point and Lochans of Cairndoon could be seen clearly.

After lunch the outcrop known as Fox Hunt was skirted to reach Laggan Pond and Camp. Another drystane dyke was crossed to reach the top of this large promontory fort.
The amateur archaeologists in the group enjoyed identifying ramparts, ditches and the entrance.

The next section of the walk was along the cliff top overlooking Luce Bay. The unique shingle beach of Claymoddie came into regular view.  After more obstacles including barbed wire fences, dykes, burns and inoperable gates were negotiated, the farm track at Claymoddie was reached.

The route now took them inland to the crossroads of Claymoddie from where the estate road to Glasserton was accessed.  Reaching the site where Glasserton House stood, the group learned a little of its history and owners. To the rear, the outlines of the lawn terraces, blanketed by snowdrops, gave a good impression of how majestic it once was.

Now the group moved on to look at the 18th century Glasserton Home farm.  A new roof and wall have been incorporated with some of the original structure to create a grain store.  The surrounding cottages and a doo'cot also date back to the 18th century. 

We had another small peep at the past – seen inside one of the out-buildings.  From here it was a short distance back to the car park and the end of an interesting if somewhat misty walk.