Saturday, 3 November 2012

Scoops Reports 2012 - 3 November Beneraird

3 November Beneraird  Report by Gordon Phillips


Frances, Jacqui, Leslie and Florence drove to the start of the walk, near the power station between Glenapp and Ballantrae where we met the other walkers.  Cath, Thomas came with John, a man who had walked with us a few times, years ago and who had rejoined us recently, Mary Sloan and Anne.  Rachel came with Claire and French Claire and a new walker, Dunlop who wore wellies which was probably the best footwear for the walk, as it turned out!  John came on his motor bike and Richard arrived with Jim.  Gordon had travelled by bus, as usual.  With Christine Sloan and Carl there were 19 of us setting off but our numbers swelled to 20 when Robert caught up with us later.
Wigtownshire ramblers did an eight mile circular route up Beneraird and Smyrton Hills which are just two of the many hills situated in the Glenapp area.  Twenty walkers met at the crossroads just off the A77 where there is ample car parking for the cars that came from Stranraer, the South Rhins and Newton Stewart. The leader welcomed and introduced three new members to the group and hoped they would enjoy today’s walk.
Setting off on a clear sunny but cold morning along an old farm road they passed the electricity convertor station which takes the power to Northern Ireland. The equipment hummed loudly in the quiet morning; more intrusive than the traffic on the nearby main road.
After all the recent heavy rain that has fallen recently in this part of Scotland the going was very muddy, slowing their progress until they reached the old road that takes you from Ballantrae to New Luce, a distance of some 19 miles. As this road once carried horse drawn traffic many years ago the ground was somewhat easier to walk on. The first stop was at an area described on the map as hut circles where we learnt that these were small dwelling places with low earth sides and a timber structure was erected above this. Today all that is left are several circles in the grass where the houses once stood.
It was cold and windy but sunny as Gordon led us along a track with which we are familiar but which was much muddier than when we last used it and we arrived at the top of Benaraird by mid-day. 
 Making their way up to Beneraird they met the farmer on his quad bike taking feed to the animals grazing on the hillside. This was a relief to some of the group as the beasts turned their attention to the food and ignored the walkers completely.  Once on the summit the leader pointed out several hills visible today mainly towards the Galloway ranges.
Heading down the road towards Lagafater Lodge the leader took the group to the remains of a Liberator aircraft which crashed on the hillside in 1945 resulting in 17 deaths out of the twenty that were on board on that dreadful day. The plane was on its way from Northern England to Prestwick when, in thick fog and perhaps due to the lack of reliable navigation aids, the plane hit the hill. One of the survivors crawled to the lodge to raise the alarm and when the rescue services finally got to the site they discovered two of passengers were still alive. This was made even more remarkable in that two days had passed since the accident happened. A lunch stop was taken there beside the wreckage whilst they remembered all who had perished on that fateful journey.
Our return to the main track became one of pot luck on the terrain over which we travelled!  Carl was lucky not to be sucked down to Australia when he fell forward after getting stuck up to his waist in a marshy, mossy section.  I was too late to record the event with my camera as he extricated himself pretty quickly!
After lunch they retraced their steps to the top of the pass and then crossed over a grouse moor to the headwaters of the Water of App.  A brace of Red Grouse took off noisily and swept down into the valley. After crossing the burn a short steep climb took them to Smyrton Hill with its panoramic views of the Clyde and Loch Ryan with the ferries making their way to and from Ireland.  From the summit it was a very steep descent down to Smyrton Bridge and the track back to the start.
John had been struggling a bit as we had gone upwards but felt even worse as we had a fairly steep descent back towards Smyrton Bridge.  Richard and I held back for him with concern – his knees seemed to be giving him a lot of pain.
The group thanked the leader for an excellent walk in the autumn sunshine before retiring to Stranraer for coffee and scones in “Stir It”, one of the many fine tearooms to be found in the town.
 Rachel had received a phone call to say that Mary had gone into labour and Rachel was needed to take care of their son, Luke, so she had to go straight back to Stranraer.  It was agreed that we would go to Stir It so that she could join us after collecting him.  The four of us went with Cath, Thomas, Anne, both Claire’s, Mary and Rachel, later, with her nephew.  Florence had phoned Ian who came to pick her up and we were delighted when he joined us with his tea and cake!  We heard later that Mary had a baby girl.

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