Saturday, 24 March 2012

Scoops Reports 2012 - 24 March Glenluce Circular

24 March Glenluce Circular Report by Cath Birkett

Cath, Thomas, Frances and Isobel met the other walkers at Glenluce in the car park of the County Golf Course.  We were amazed to find the crowd of walkers there, with only one of the 35 of us being a new one – Heather, a friend of Rachel’s.  In addition to the six of us there were – Richard, Andrea, Jim, Mary , Catherine, Ken, Margaret, Audrey, Irene, Duncan, Shona, Peter, John, Alex, Tom and Audrey Proudfoot, Mike, Florence, Linda, Leslie, Jacqui, Mary (Cairnryan), Carl, Marilyn and Jim Sime, Charlotte, Christine (Portpatrick caravan) and Forbes.  That made a total of 34, can’t work out who the 35th walker was!  We made sure the managers of the clubhouse were aware of how many walkers would be in there later!

A record number of ramblers turned out on a beautiful morning at the County Golf Club, Glenluce. Thirty five walkers set out round the 18 hole links course to the shore, skirting the northernmost section of Luce Bay. The route was to be a leisurely circuit of the Luce valley, taking in Glen Luce Abbey, the woods of Castle O’ Park and St. Helena’s Isle.
We set off across the golf course, much to Shona’s dismay – I am not sure whether this was in horror at our bravery, stupidity or lack of sensitivity!  There were not many players on the course at the time and we got to the beach safely.

As the tide was out along the first section along the shore, there was a good view of the meandering course of the Piltanton Burn as it gained the freedom of the bay. The beach here is deep in shells and the walkers crunched their way along over razor, cockle, oyster, mussel, tellin and whelk shells, some members collecting the skeletons of sea urchins as they went along. After crossing a soft and spongy section covered with decaying seaweed, fields led the way, across the A75, to the quiet country road which would take the ramblers to Glen Luce Abbey.
Promises of many flowers to come were seen along the verges, but the sunshine had not yet tempted any to show their faces. The road led by the former Challoch junction of the Paddy line. The disused railway stretched away to the right, and the line from Stranraer to Barrhill wound its way across and back on bridges over the route of the walk. Soon there was a view of Glen Luce Abbey in the rising heat haze, quietly contemplating its position, a splendid ruin set amongst perfectly calm and peaceful Arcadian surroundings.
After crossing the Water of Luce, an early lunch stop was called for, in order to fully appreciate the work of the early monks who toiled so hard to build their magnificent place of worship. The abbey was founded in 1192 and survived, as a Cistercian monastery, to the sixteenth century, when alterations enabled it to become the home of the Commendator, who administered the abbey estates. One of the more unusual features of the ruins is the water- supply system of clay pipes interspersed with circular clay inspection units. It was only just after 11.30am when we reached the Abbey but most of the walkers sat down to enjoy their lunches while others of us wandered around with or without Cath who was passing on some of the information she had gathered about the derelict buildings.  We sat in gorgeous sunshine, all the benches were taken but there were ample spaces for ample backsides on the lower remains of the building.  When we set off once again, those who had not done so already, started to wander around to explore the area!
As the walk continued back towards Glen Luce, the source of the abbey water, St. Margaret’s well, was pointed out, now an insignificant spring, emptying below a tree clad bank alongside the road. This bank was climbed, the only hill on the walk, and continued as a farm track, giving wonderful views over the valley below. Next, the route took the walkers to the Viaduct, down a back road, where a bank of celandines glowed in the dappled shade of trees lining the accompanying steep sided burn.
Castle o’ Park, a seventeenth century tower house now administered as a holiday let by the Landmark trust, was found at the end of its service road from the viaduct. This was built with stones from the abbey, by the son of the last abbot, Thomas Hay. The castle was then circled through woodland – some broadleaves, which enabled wood sorrel, wood anemones, stitchwort and dandelions to brighten up the new green growth, and then tall, straight pine trees giving little light to the woodland floor, but providing a soft surface for the tiring feet of the ramblers.
Dog’s mercury flowers decorated the banks of the disused railway line which was the return route to the viaduct where the pre-bypass road led to a path by the river, under the A75, and back to the shores of Luce Bay. Gulleys were gradually filling as the tide had turned and a broken, but safe bridge was crossed by the 11th hole of the golf course.
St. Helena’s Isle was supposedly named by Admiral Hay, when he brought back cuttings of trees to plant here from the island prison of Napoleon. It is nowadays, rarely if at all, an island, needing a very high tide to cover the surrounding salt marsh.  The sea was now advancing across the sands, giving a totally different view of the shore than at the outset of the walk with the monks fish trap at the outflow of the Water of Luce, barely showing above the water.
The closing section of this week’s walk led along the edge of the golf course before the cars and the Club house beckoned with a warm welcome and delicious refreshments waiting for the weary foot soldiers. It had been a glorious day, a hopeful foretaste of good weather to continue into spring.
The only walkers not taking advantage of the hospitality at the golf club were Shona, Tom and Audrey, Mike, Marilyn and Jim, the last three having left us in the woods to cross the A75 earlier.  Our hosts had laid out tea and coffee, cakes and scones to which we helped ourselves. As always, our refreshments were accompanied by much noise and laughter but the other occupants in the clubhouse seemed undisturbed by us.

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