Sunday, 29 April 2012

Scoops Reports 2012 - 29 April Cairnsmore by the Door

29 April Cairnsmore by the Door  Report by Richard Kay

A small group of 12 ramblers, including 3 visitors from the Biggar Ramblers group, assembled at the Cairnsmore Car Park near Palnure on a bright and blustery morning with the intention of climbing the Cairnsmore of Fleet via the Door.  Cath, Thomas, Frances, Rachel and Alex met the other walkers at Palnure – Richard (leading), Mary, Leslie, Forbes and visiting Ramblers from Biggar – Pam, John and another, whose name I forget – for the start of quite a memorable walk!  I enjoyed the company of our visitors who may often have wished that they had opted for the lesser challenge, by far, of the Isle of Whithorn to Garlieston which most of their group were doing today! They had climbed the Merrick on the previous day.
They set off up the track towards Cairnsmore House with the trees showing signs of spring growth and a few bluebells showing colour amongst the undergrowth.  The route followed the traditional path until they reached the track at Cairnsmore farm.  Here they turned right towards the keeper’s cottage and then took the track eastwards above the Graddoch Burn.  The track continued to climb above the burn which it then crossed by a small stone bridge and emerged into an open field. Here the track was less well defined but the group followed the edge of the wood towards a gate which gave onto open moorland.  A few lambs scampered after their mothers but otherwise the cold wind kept most wildlife hidden.
 On the moor the track was once again well defined.  It had been a well made track with large boulders marking the edges and a cobbled infill but rain and farm traffic had reduced it to a stony scar across the moor.  The group continued steadily upwards and soon reached the top of Knocktim Hill.  They paused to admire the view westwards over Wigtown Bay and the Machars.  The Isle of Man and the Mull of Galloway were just visible in the haze.  The cold easterly wind was funnelled through the gap between the hills and the walkers donned their coats and gloves and pressed on.
Beyond Knocktim the track became wet and peaty for a short distance but the good stone track resumed as they approached the main hill.  The map indicated that the track finished at a branch of the Culcronchie Burn but the ramblers found that it continued over the moor towards the Door of Cairnsmore.
As the group approached the cliffs of the Door they turned from the track and started to tackle the main hill.  They picked a route between the rocks and boggy patches trying to follow the areas of well burnt heather where the going was easier.  The route was sheltered from the cold wind by the hill above them and they climbed steadily, pausing frequently to admire the view and to get their breath back.  Higher up the hill the slope eased off but the ferocious wind increased and threatened to blow them back down.
I found the going reasonably easy until just before lunch when the wind was searing!
Once the plateau was reached a short struggle against the wind led them to the cairn on the south summit of the Cairnsmore.  They paused briefly to admire the view eastwards and then pressed on to find some shelter for lunch.  They found a small hollow below some rocks and gratefully sat down to enjoy their meal.
Lunch was a little late owing to the determination of reaching the right spot and I was really hungry, despite having some Jelly Babies earlier!  Richard seemed quite content to stay in the hollow we had found but my feet were freezing and I could not even wander very far from the group when I crouched down for a private moment – Mary had gone further and got colder!
After lunch they descended to the Nick of Clashneach where they crossed the old dyke and started to follow an old fence line above the cliffs.  There were fine views of the Clints of the Spout cliffs on the east side of the Cairnsmore, once the home of eagles, and over the peat hags and forests towards Loch Grannoch.  The dry weather meant that the Spout of the Clints waterfall was no more than a damp trickle down the rocks.  The wind was particularly fierce and the group had to battle to maintain their balance.  Some of the smaller members felt in danger of being blown away – no prizes for guessing to whom he referred!  From there the views became even more photogenic and it was so frustrating having fingers which were too cold to function properly and the inability to stand up to take reasonable photos.  I was amazed at how well the photos I DID manage to take actually turned out.  I would have taken far more than the 88 I downloaded later today if it had not been so windy!
The group climbed steadily over the summit plateau and soon reached the shelter of the old cottage near the cairn.
We plodded across the summit plateau with determination, eventually reaching the memorial to the airmen, the trig point and taking shelter for a short while in the remains of a cottage which I had always just thought of as a more recent construction built specifically for walkers’ temporary use!
After a brief pause the group emerged into the wind again and, after pausing to examine the airmen’s memorial, set off down the traditional path back towards the car park.
I did detour a few times as we went down, to avoid the joint jarring of the stony pathway but this became more difficult further down although, thankfully, the path became ‘softer’ through the woods.  It was lovely to emerge from there onto open land and then to take the rhododendron lined path through a smaller wooded area, onto the road which took us back to our cars.
As they descended they soon reached the welcome shelter of the trees and a steady descent took them back to the car.  The day was concluded with excellent tea and cakes at the Stables tea room in Palnure.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Scoops Reports 2012 - 21 April Maidens – Dunure

21 April Maidens – Dunure Report by Cath and Rachel

Thomas, Cath, Amanda, Frances and Isobel drove to Maidens where Thomas left us and drove on to Dunure.    I had been worrying about not getting in touch with Douglas to tell him of the change of plan.  We were late in leaving as I had hoped that Thomas would see Douglas and let him know we were waiting for him.  Cath said she would wait for Douglas and Amanda opted to stay there with her. Thomas was going to walk back to meet us, leaving his car at Dunure.
Maidens car park was the rendezvous for the ramblers at the beginning of this week’s walk. Twenty six members turned out on a beautiful sunny day to sample a section of the Ayrshire Coastal Path.
Not long after we set off we met Gordon waiting for us and he tried to get in touch with Douglas too, without success for a long time.  The other walkers were: Rachel, Heather, Leslie, Linda, Peter, John, Audrey, Allan, Margaret, Ken, Mary x 2, Irene, Christine Sloan, Carl, Peter Bedford, Forbes, Audrey and Tom.  Before long we went by the house owned by Carol Smylie, which is for sale – apparently it looks good inside but gave no indication of that outside which looked pretty grey with a garden much in need of attention.
The old turnpike road ran along the beach here before entering the policies of Culzean castle; the walkers followed this trail, crossing the wide playing fields which now adorn the sea front, and then the sands, before entering the Long Avenue by way of a convenient footbridge. We had reached the Swan Pond when Cath phoned to ask how long she should wait for Douglas – it was about 11am by then – and we agreed to meet at the gas works later.
The Avenue ran by a derelict estate cottage, through woods with carpets of bluebells, wild garlic and marsh marigolds before reaching the Swan Pond.
A short tour of the grounds had the ramblers admiring a sculpture of an otter slide, carved out of a fallen cedar tree from Brodick Castle, by Isle of Arran sculptor, Marvin Elliot.
The walkers then paused to watch herons squabbling high up in a heronry before a short detour was made to admire the Cat Gates, designed around 1800, by Edinburgh architect John Thin. Stops were made at the Camellia House and the walled garden where old apple trees were in bloom. Passing magnificent flowering magnolia trees, the castle itself was reached and a final visit was made to the restored gas works.
The estate of Culzean is of great importance to Scotland’s cultural history; it emphasises the importance of the Picturesque movement of the late eighteenth century. Great credit must go to the management policies of the Country Park, the local authorities, and the Scottish National Trust in upkeeping and renovating the extensive grounds, and maintaining Robert Adam’s design of the Kennedy castle.
Gordon had finally got in touch with Douglas who had gone back to his caravan and then walked to Culzean –he was to meet us at the castle, near the bridge.  Meantime, Thomas had reached the estate and met up with Cath and Amanda nearby.  So now we were all together!  Thomas and Leslie left us here to walk back to Girvan. We did get down to the gas house and then moved off as quickly as I could get the walkers to so that we could get to our lunch spot before we all flaked out with hunger!  It was about 1pm by the time we got there.
Another beach beckoned and with great reluctance the ramblers continued their planned walk. The path now took the walkers through trees, past idealistic holiday cottages with a glorious seascape view and a stream running by the garden wall, back onto the shore, once again following the old turnpike road.

Cliffs of yellow sandstone and a stony foreshore made the going slow with the tide at its peak. A convenient slipway marked a sheltered resting spot for lunch,

where the somnolent tune of the waves allowed a leisurely wait for the tide to recede, enough to make the rocks at Isle Port passable.

Conglomerate rocks were a feature of the shore after the adventurous dash over rocks to avoid wet feet.  The formation of an ancient slurry, enfolding stones, and giving the look of badly mixed concrete, made the common name of pudding stone quite appropriate.

The cliffs gradually became higher and the route by the sea impassable, so the path climbed steeply, zig-zagging past an ancient settlement, to reach the top of the escarpment, where there was a wide view to Arran - Goat Fell standing proudly above Holy Isle, and Ireland just visible in the murky distance. A big black cloud hung out to sea but sunshine continued to accompany the walk.

A grass field smartly rolled in wide stripes was skirted and the way led inland, avoiding a steep inlet, to cross a burn by stepping stones. A ploughed field with spring barley just sprouting
took the walkers to an old lookout tower, where wartime coastguards watched for submarines and other shipping heading for the Clyde.
Soon after, the path dropped down through scrubland to enter Dunure’s Kennedy Park where another old ruined Kennedy castle, renovated dovecot and disused limekilns were passed and inspected as the company hurried to the tiny harbour for refreshments, after a most interesting and sunny walk.
We were in time to find the village hall still serving teas but it was so crowded and hot in there that, despite the possibility of our having our tea outside, most of us opted to go to the tea room at the harbour.  Cath had taken some drivers back to Maidens, Douglas to his caravan, and then come back by which time we had finished our tea!  Some of the drivers managed to get tea but Cath was happy to skip her coffee and avoid the calories of a cake! 
 We dropped Rachel and Heather off at Maidens and went on to Girvan where we picked up Thomas.  Linda was just ahead of us and Leslie got his lift home too.  Thomas and Leslie had had a shower of rain which left them pretty wet for quite a while.  Thomas had left his lunch in the car and the ice cream shop was closed in Girvan!!

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Scoops Reports 2012 - 14 April Palnure Circular

14 April  Palnure Circular  Report by Jim Deans

Frances, Cath, Thomas and Isobel drove to Palnure, to the car park for those walking, in particular, up Cairnsmore of Fleet. The other walkers were: Jim (leader), Ken (back up), Richard, Peter x 2, Mary x 2, Audrey, Margaret, Leslie, John, Carl, Catherine, Audrey and Tom.
On a dry but cold morning of broken sunshine, 22 walkers gathered at the Cairnsmore Car park for the walk to Creetown.  The walk began by following the route of the old Portpatrick & Wigtownshire Joint Railway between Palnure and Creetown. This was converted to a walk and cycle path in 2000 and is a part of the National Cycle Route.

After passing through Cuil and Blairs woods, trees were replaced with a panoramic view of the Cree estuary emptying into Wigtown bay. The path now crossed above Blair House and Spittal farms. With the late lambing season recently started, neighbouring fields were a mix of new born lambs and expectant ewes.

Beyond Spittal, the route now followed the road towards Creetown. This was followed for a few hundred yards to Lennies, before accessing the public footpath down through Barholm Mains. A pair of horses galloped in an adjoining field.  A line of old large beech trees led to the 'Coach House' of Barholm Mains. These were the stables of Barholm House, a Robert Adam designed classical country house unfortunately destroyed by fire in the 1950's.

After a short walk through the woods, the Barholm bridge was crossed into Creetown. Bridge Street led to the Moneypool Burn and the steps up to the Gem Rock Museum. Rucksacks were now discarded for a variety of wonderful refreshments in the cafe.

 I was first into the Gem Rock Museum Cafe and made sure of my scone and tea and got Isobel a mug of black coffee.  She turned down the offer of a cake, much to my surprise – it turned out that she was expecting to go to another cafe on the way home!  As usual we were a jolly crowd and enjoyed this break in the walk, from 11.30am to noon, and then set off on the next section of the walk.

Too soon and reluctantly the walk was resumed. The route now followed the Moneypool Burn to Chain Bridge. After a short road walk, the riverside path was accessed. Wood anemone, celandine, bluebells and other wild flowers and plants flourished.
Crossing Chain Bridge the group now took to the fields to cross the disused 'Paddy Line' on the Gatehouse to Creetown section. After following a line of old gnarled beech trees, a circle of large boulders made an excellent wind break for a lunch stop.
It was then that I realized I had left my lunch at home and Mary (Cairnryan) offered some of hers to me.

Following lunch, the concrete road up to Crinan was accessed. At Crinan a peacock was watched displaying its colourful array.
Now concrete road became farm track and led to Clanary. After passing the time of day and discussing new born lambs with the good people at Clanary, the hill track was taken to round Blairs Hill. To the north east, the 'Door of Cairnsmore' was prominent.
Soon the forest at Kirroughtree and Newton Stewart became visible. Reaching the sheep pens above Cuil, a wonderful vista lay below. The Cree, the Machars and the Minnigaff hills were all in view. With the tide out, the Cree appeared as a small trickle in the confines of its tidal banks. Neighbouring fields were again alive with the sounds of new born lambs.

At Cuil farm, banks of daffodils, cherry blossom and other colourful flowers were a magnet for the photographers. The farmer, a recent award winner with the Blackface Sheep Breeders Association was met and thanked for his indulgence of the ramblers during lambing time.  From here it was a short distance to the car park and the end of the walk.

Despite our earlier visit to the Gem Rock Museum, most of the walkers were happy with Isobel’s suggestion of getting further refreshments in Newton Stewart so 12 of us arrived at Cinnamon by about 3pm.  I phoned to find out if any scones were left - there were none but the banana loaf I had more than compensated.  Audrey, Duncan, Irene, the two Mary’s, Ken, Margaret and Catherine all enjoyed their drinks and cakes too.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Scoops Reports 2012 - 7 April New Luce Circular

7 April New Luce Circular Report by Cath Birkett

Frances, Cath, Thomas, Rachel and Heather joined the other walkers in New Luce where we had to park on the south side of the village instead of at the village hall as there was a big funeral service being held in the village church.  The other walkers were: Richard, Andrea, Jim, Mary, Ken, Margaret, Audrey, Susan, John, Peter, Alex, Allan, Mike, Carl and Peter Bedford.
Bright sunshine unexpectedly greeted twenty Ramblers as they assembled for their walk in New Luce.  The group set off through the village and, first, explored the footpath to the rear of the houses.  Here they found a memorial to Alexander Peden, the famous Covenanter preacher who had been the minister in New Luce in the 1660s.  The stone built memorial had been constructed from the remnants of the memorial Free Church.
Leaving the village on the Glenluce Road the group passed a modern cairn, part of an arts project around the village.  Further on the fields were full of young lambs gambolling in the sunshine.  A further mile down the road, just short of Cruise Farm, they joined the Southern Upland Way and followed the old road over the moors to Kilhern.  After the recent sunny weather the track was unusually dry with only a few patches which had to be negotiated with care.  Along the way they saw a newly born lamb being cleaned by its mother.  The group passed as quickly as possible to let her get on with the job.
The group paused briefly at the forlorn ruins of Kilhern Farm.  The walk leader remembered when this was an active and well maintained mixed farm.  He described his visits by wagon to collect pigs for market.  Most of the buildings had lost their roofs and few doors or windows remained.  Amazement was expressed at the extent of dilapidation since the farm was abandoned in 1964.  Sweets were distributed, helping those of us who needed our blood sugar levels raised and we were told that our leader’s walks never included a lunch break before 12.30pm.  
The route turned northwards from the farm following the more recent access road to the farm.  The group continued along the track under the watchful gaze of a herd of highland cattle and their calves.
A short diversion was made to the Caves of Kilhern, a stone-age burial cairn with a least four large stone cysts, one of which retains its capping stone.
The track then dropped steadily towards the Dranigower Road and the Cross Water of Luce.  A small larch wood shrouded the ruins of another, probably older, farmstead.  A pair of crows sped over the track into the wood raucously mobbing a large buzzard.  They continued their harassment through the wood and persisted after the buzzard had taken refuge in a tree.
When we reached a high point I was hoping that this would be our lunch stop but it was not to be.  Trying not to disturb the few sheep near the track, one with a lamb which had no back legs but which was gamely moving along on its front ones, following its mother who was walking onwards slowly, making sure her offspring was safely behind, we eventually gained the road and turned right.  We clambered over a dyke and made our way over the Cross Water of Luce using a trellised ironwork bridge and I took loads of photos either side of the bridge.  We sat down beside the Loups of Barnshangan waterfalls to have our lunch – a perfect lunch stop – and I, who had been so desperate to eat, forgot everything else except getting the best photos I could of the water gushing from various angles, below us.  Before we left Rachel and I had clambered down to get closer views and then had to get a move on to catch up with the other walkers.
The ramblers soon reached the tarmac road and walked a short distance eastwards and then carefully crossed the old iron footbridge over the Loups of Barnshangan on the Cross Water of Luce.  Lunch was declared and the group found seats on the rocks above the waterfalls.  The falls were attractive and the tinkle of the water combined with the sunshine provided a delightful interlude.  Water levels were low and it could be imagined that these falls would present a very different aspect in spate.
After a leisurely lunch the group crossed the fields to Barnshangan Farm and then took the old track northwards towards open moorland.  At the end of the track they found a series of bumps, depressions and ditches which was all that remains of the Barnshangan Lead Mine.  It was difficult to see a system in the ruins.  The mine had been active sporadically during the mid and late eighteenth century with further development in the late nineteenth century.  It is likely that the different working periods confused the layout.  The shape of the ground and location of the adits suggest that it was always a fairly shallow mine.  Looking eastwards from the farm the wind turbines on Artfield Fell were turning steadily in the breeze and away to the north those at Arecleoch were also visible.  Should all the new applications be approved this area will once again be a hive of industrial production.
After inspecting the mines the ramblers set off across the farmland of Knockiebae and climbed the small hill behind the farm.  Here foundations had been laid for a new wind turbine.  The wide views in all directions suggest that this will be an excellent site for a windmill.  The sun was now largely obscured by grey clouds and a few spots of rain were felt in the breeze.
 Leaving Balneil the ramblers followed an old track down the hill towards the Barnshangan farm road.  They then followed the road back to New Luce village and the cars.
We crossed the Main river again, noticing another iron sculpture (there had been one near the Cross river which we had seen at the beginning of our walk) but no-one could decide what it represented although someone did suggest if looked like a Venus fly trap!  Some walkers stop to view the memorial stone in a front garden commemorating those who lost their lives in the Crimean War.  We got back to the cars about 3pm and estimated that the walk had perhaps been about 9 miles.  It seemed like a dozen of us were looking forward to having refreshments in the golf club at Glenluce and when we had parked there, amongst more cars than I had ever seen there before, I ran in to ask if they could cope with us!  In fact 15 of us enjoyed our drinks and cakes – everyone except Allan, John, Alex and Peter who had not joined us.