Saturday, 6 October 2012

Scoops Reports 2012 - 6 October Newton Stewart Circular

6 October Newton Stewart Circular  Report by Jim Deans

 Small hill by Barbuchany.

Frances, Isobel, Rachel and Heather met the other walkers in Newton Stewart: Carl, Irene, Duncan, Mary x 2, Peter, Ken, Margaret, Audrey, Gordon, Linda, Leslie, John and Jim who was leading the walk.  Jim and I did a quick recce of the Belted Galloway, a recently new restaurant at the side of the car park and then enquired of the Ramblers who wanted a scone later.  We informed the owners of this lovely venue – a dozen, we thought.
On a bright morning with a decent weather forecast, eighteen ramblers met at the Riverside car park, Newton Stewart for the walk.
The walk began by crossing the Cree at Sparling Bridge, and following the river up to Creebridge.  It's recorded that Robert the Bruce forded the Cree at this point in 1329 on a pilgrimage to St Ninians.
From here the route went through Minnigaff to Kirroughtree House. A short stop was taken for the walk leader to read out some of its history and association with Robert Burns and the Heron family.
The garden through which we were walking was full of early autumnal colour, in particular the rhododendrons and maples.
The perimeter path of Newton Stewart Golf course led up to the tenth tee where Wild Wood was accessed. The walk continued along the sometime muddy track to Bower Wood and the Old Edinburgh Rd at Minnigaff.
Carl and I lagged behind here, taking photos of the view of NS from the golf course and then of the tracks of footprints formed by the walkers as they disturbed the early morning dew!  A haze hung around the perimeters of the course which diverted us before we joined the others in the wood.  Here, the leaves were not in full autumnal colour but the bracken was in various stages of change while the floor of the wood was covered in an orange carpet.
The group now made their way to the Queen Mary Bridge, the site of the old Cumloden Woollen Mill. Now converted to upmarket flats, a millstone is still visible through one of the windows on the Penkiln side. On the bridge attempts were made to secure a wish by cleanly dropping pebbles into the wishing pot. A cheer would accompany a successful drop.
The next point of interest was Minnigaff Parish Church. The 900 year old Yew tree and the listed Heron memorial were among the many points of interest. Here the walk leader set the group the task of finding the headstone depicting an arrow piercing two ravens. This is related to the legend of the three brothers, McKie, Murdoch and McLurg trying to impress Robert the Bruce. One of the brothers shot two ravens with one arrow.  The search was successful.
I love wandering around this amazing cemetery, full of interesting memorial stones, many of which had been sculpted into beautiful shapes – some of these were not quite so beautiful as demonstrated in the one which a member of our group found – was its discoverer Audrey?
A lunch stop was taken on the banks of the Cree by the King George V and Queen Mary suspension bridge. A light shower saw a number of umbrellas produced.
Jim retraced our steps for a short way after we realized that Mary (Cairnryan) was not with the group.  She had not realized that we had left the cemetery but had met some walkers to whom we had chatted fleetingly earlier, and they had pointed her in our direction.  She was not far away when Jim met her!
After lunch the group made their way over the bridge and up to King Street. Here they learned that when the mills were in production, King Street and Arthur Street went by the names of Cotton Mill Row and the Gorbals.
A left turn at Duncree led to the old coach road which originally went from Old Hall Farm to House O' Hill. Here panoramic views of the Galloway hills were enjoyed.
The route now took a ninety degree turn south. Following drystone walls and crossing excellent stone stiles, fields of various sheep were crossed above Old Hall farm and Douglas Ewart High School to reach Corsbie road.
After entering Blairmount Park, an unexpected diversion took the group up to the trig point on Doon Hill. Very few people knew of the existence of a trig point in Newton Stewart. After encircling Blairmount Pond, the Barnkirk road and the A75 were carefully crossed.

Open fields were now crossed to begin the ascent to the mobile phone mast above Barrhill Wood.

Arriving at the mast a tea/coffee break was taken. The view of Newton Stewart from this point truly shows the town to be the Gateway to the Galloway Hills. The good weather allowed most of the hills of the Minnigaff range to be identified.
It is from here and down towards the Cree Valley that I always love the views and I took just as many photos as usual – Carl was busy recording the view with his video camera – we had to hurry to catch up again!
The descent eastwards afforded wonderful views of the Cree Valley. After crossing the embankment of the old railway line into Newton Stewart, an old metal gate was climbed and the riverside walking and cycle path accessed. From here a lovely riverside stroll brought the group back to the start point.
Tea, coffee, scones and other culinary delights at the Belted Galloway completed a very enjoyable day.
I think the only walker who did not partake of refreshments here was Peter who was anxious to get back to Bella, his dog, so that he could have another walk!  Despite asking for a dozen scones to be set aside, when the group saw the selection of cakes available, many of them had a change of mind!  The owners were very accommodating and made sure that we had plenty of tea and coffee – we shall go there again!

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