Saturday, 17 March 2012

Scoops Reports 2012 - 17th March Black Laggan Burn, Millfore

17th March Black Laggan Burn, Millfore  Report by Cath Birkett

Frances, Thomas, Cath and Rachel drove to Clatterinshaws where Rachel and I took photos after we persuaded Thomas to stop a few times for us to try to capture the wonderful reflections shimmering in the still water.  I would have loved to have just been left there to spend the day walking beside the loch taking photos but, since I was supposed to be the leader of today’s walk that was not to be!  We caught up with Florence and Allan who were taking care driving along the rutted road and after we arrived, Richard got there with another car load.  Florence had brought Linda and Leslie, Allan was accompanied by Duncan, John, Charlotte and Alex and Richard had given a lift to Jim and Sue - Debi came on her own.
Spring was definitely on the way as sixteen ramblers walked along the forest road from Craigencallie, looking forward to a glorious day in the hills. The route was to take in the Black Laggan Burn and Millfore, returning via the White Laggan Burn and bothy.
The forest road to Loch Dee gave a good warm up for those unused to hill walking, passing the memorial seat dedicated to Dr. Robert Donald Borthwick of Dumfries, which is well placed for a panoramic view of the loch, with a background of the northern Galloway hills and Silver Flow. Both gates were unlocked so we could have taken our cars down the 5 miles which we then had to walk, but the day was sunny and the wind light as we set off and seemed to cover the distance fairly quickly.  I was leading but, as usual, had to run occasionally to keep to the front (rarely) as I was taking photos of course.  The group stopped once for sweets which I dished out to them to aid their energy levels along this route and then we had another stop as we left Loch Dee to follow White Laggan Burn for a while before it branched off into Black Laggan Burn.
The walkers turned off the forest road to examine the ruins of Black Laggan, a small shepherd’s cottage where McBain, the doyen of Galloway walking books in the early 20th century, tells us that 16 people once stayed.  A range of rain gauges were a subject of interest, used in a long study by the James Hutton Institute of Aberdeen, considering the effects of forestry and atmospheric pollution on stream water quality,  in the water catchment area of Loch Dee. It was here that Richard handed over the walkie-talkies to me and to Florence as leader and backup, with a quick explanation on their use.  I put mine in my pocket and then was inundated with noises from it as I kept touching the knobs and dials.  By this time the group had moved on ahead and I had trouble in catching up.  When I did I handed the contraption to Cath telling her she could be better with it than I was and she and Florence had a practice at contacting each other which was hilarious as they could hear each other anyway! 
 The Black Laggan Burn was now followed upwards along a black mossy track beside the tumbling water, which periodically plunged over boulders, twisting between the steep banks and providing spectacular waterfalls, perfect excuses for resting whilst viewing.

A herd of goats stood watching from above, blending in with the cleared forest wreckage, while the company passed by, bog hopping among the tufted grasses, but enjoying the warm sunshine on this side of the burn.
Further up amongst the trees a tributary was followed which was to lead to the top of Millfore, the path now edged with the furry buds of goat willow. A lunch stop was called before the open hill was reached, beside the bubbling burn and amongst more rain collecting instruments.  I asked Cath officially then if she would take over the leading as I could not keep up with the quicker walkers.
Refreshed and rested, the most testing part of the walk now stretched ahead. The steep open hill provided ever widening views of the hills behind, needing frequent stops to enjoy the soft colours and scenic beauty of the landscape. The quicker walkers surged ahead and, since they could see our objective, the summit of Millfore, were able to make their own way there, albeit in a slightly more circuitous route than Cath’s easier one.  Occasionally there were attempts at using the walkie-talkies!
The seeds of bog asphodel, left from their starry flowering of August, contrasted nicely with new green shoots of fir clubmoss, as the walkers climbed over the often boggy and pathless ground to the cairn and ordinance survey post, marking the summit of the hill.
A wonderful panorama was spread before the eyes. There are not many summits where such a spectacular view is obtained of complete ranges of hills. In the north the Silver Flow divides the Rhins of the Kells, with Backhill of Bush bothy standing out amongst trees, from the Dungeon range. In the northwest the Merrick range stands out and behind the White Loch of Drigmorn, Curleywee and the Lamachan range are close by. The far views southwards reach from the Mull of Galloway past the Lakeland hills to the Glenkens.
After a lengthy stay in the sunshine, the return route took the walkers to a wide grassy ledge below the White Loch, skirting the boggy beginnings of the Black Laggan Burn. The ridge leading from the Gairy of Pulnee was crossed and a wet, steep descent was made to the White Laggan Burn, with a clear view of the bothy and its red door - the next target.
 Cath led us down and I am sure that our route was slightly different from that taken by us on Tuesday as it seemed much easier – maybe this was because I had borrowed Andrea’s walking pole as I had forgotten mine and this helped to give me balance as we went over the wet and slippery terrain.  This brought us to the bothy which was investigated by some walkers while others found a place to sit, have a drink, biscuits and the rest of my sweets were distributed.  I removed my waterproof trousers which had alternated between being too hot and then useful when we walked through boggy bits and slipped over a few times.  My leggings underneath were really wet but they soon dried.  I shan’t wear the over trousers again unless it is going to be a much colder day.
The burn was followed until it reached the even boggier pony track from Drigmorn to Loch Dee. Another rest was in order at the bothy, before steps were retraced along the forest road where the sunshine had opened the flowers of coltsfoot, bright yellow blooms welcoming the spring sunshine still accompanying the ramblers back to the cars.  It was starting to get cold by the time we got there and it was good to jump into the relative warmth of the cars and set off for Richard and Andrea’s home in Newton Stewart.
Astonishingly, the road back to Newton Stewart was awash with sleet. The fields were white and in places deep tracks were left along the road surface. Luck had been with the ramblers on their warm sunny outing. As the usual watering places were by now closed, the company were generously invited to cream teas at a member’s home and energy was amply and deliciously replenished.
We all had the choice of apple, fruit and treacle scones baked by Andrea this afternoon, plus tea or coffee.  I was full to bursting after devouring an apple, then a fruit and then half of a treacle scone, the last two with jam and clotted cream.  These were the best scones I have EVER tasted!  I was totally unable to eat more than a Clementine later!  Great day - took 270+ photos!

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