Saturday, 21 January 2012

Scoops Reports 2012 - 21 January 2012 – Garlies Castle from Knockman Wood

   21 January 2012 – Garlies Castle from Knockman Wood - Report by Richard Kay

After passing through the intimidating gates at Boreland Lodge twenty one ramblers (Frances, Isobel, Rachel, Marilyn, Andrea, Richard, Mary, Jim, Peter Bedford, Ken, Margaret, Audrey, Duncan, Irene, Florence, Peter Reid, John, Peter and Marie, Christine Sloan and a potential new member, Heather, who is a friend of Andrea’s) assembled in the Forestry Commission car park at Knockman Wood.  The weather was mixed with fierce showers scudding through on the brisk north-westerly breeze.
They set off up the new forest road which is now settling into the landscape, partly due to the work of the Cree Valley Community Woodlands Trust volunteers who have spread wild flower seeds along the banks.  The group soon reached the deer dyke around Knockman Wood and took the stoned path heading up the hill.  After a short climb the group paused to examine the ancient burial cairn beside the path.  This is recorded as a cairn of the Clyde series and probably about 3,000 years old.  There was little structure visible in the large pile of stones apart from two portal stones and a possible indication of the location of two stone horns adjacent to the portal.
From there the group climbed the rough path to the summit of Knockman Hill adjacent to the lonesome pine which has provided a waymarker for several walks.  Several information boards describing the wood pasture habitats provided an  interesting excuse to pause for breath. The wind was fierce on the exposed summit and after a brief pause for jelly babies they set off, through the blueberry, heather and bracken, down to the Knockman Wood circular path.
 We were back into the woods again but with trees there had wonderful shapes and colours and the cameras were out in full force.  The background sky was leaden with rain while the sun shone on the outlines of the trees and we were spoilt for choice in our subject matter!  Branches reaching up into the sky, covered in moss, curling all ways, tiny burns to be crossed, muddy sections to negotiate, and then we came out into more open ground and ready hands were available to help those who needed help in crossing a small burn and subsequent tiny ones.
On gaining the path they continued eastwards towards the fenced deer enclosure.  On reaching the lower end of the enclosure they turned off the path and followed a deer track which meandered eastwards until they reached the deer dyke again.  They negotiated a rough gateway and traversed the first significant burn.  With a little assistance the group all crossed dry shod and made their way across the moorland to the old farm toun above Garlies wood. This was recorded as a ruin on the1841 maps but the outline of the walls of several buildings could be made out on each side of the track.  As they progressed towards the wood the track marked on the map  disappeared and they made their way  across the soggy ground to the wood dyke which they followed to the gate.
Within wood the track was again visible and they followed it down to Garlies Castle where they paused for lunch.  The ruins stood tall among the trees though ivy and sycamores growing out of the walls pose a long term problem.  However, fallen stones provided excellent seats.

After lunch the ramblers set off down the hill towards the Peat Rig Strand.  They first crossed an old paddock with a fine view of a waterfall on the Castle Burn and passed beneath two evergreen oaks on their way down to the burn.  Recent rains had raised the level of the water and the Peat Rig Strand was crossed with some difficulty.  Fortunately, nobody fell in.
This was the best part for me!  Richard was indicating where we should cross and he helped Isobel over who had no bother.  Others decided to try further down and I did notice that Rachel, who had opted to follow Peter’s example, had a bit of a splash down just as she was reaching the other side.  Most people turned back to where Richard was waiting and I got a wonderful batch of photos of people leaping over the burn, with Richard’s help.
After crossing the Burn the group  climbed through the attractive oak woods and exited onto the open hill through a small gate.  Here they were greeted by a group of young cattle who retreated and watched them pass from a safe distance.  The route then followed the green hills down to the muddy valley track which they followed towards Cumloden and soon reached the old schoolhouse.  Until recently this had been semi derelict but has recently been sensitively restored and improved by the Landmark Trust and is let out for holidaymakers.  The school had originally been built by the then Countess of Galloway in the 1850s as an industrial school for girls.  It was difficult to imagine that the tiny building had provided an education for 25 girls and a home for their teacher.
Beyond the school the track improved somewhat and it was followed along the Cumloden garden wall almost as far as the Clauchrie Lodge.  The group took the track uphill back towards the car park.  Most of the group made a small diversion to the top of the small Torbain Hill where a small cairn had been erected to celebrate the millennium.  A large stone near its base had a large “MM” carved in it. There is a suggestion that this hill was not natural and is associated with a ditch and bank enclosure to the north.
 The group then reformed on the track and followed it through the woods back to the car park.  The afternoon was completed with a visit to Cinnamon in Newton Stewart to enjoy their renowned scones and tea.
 I had phoned Cinnamon in the morning, about 11am and, on hearing that there were only two scones left, requested that either they save one of these for me and one other, or that they made another batch of scones, telling them that there could be about a dozen of us coming in to enjoy them in the middle afternoon – the latter was chosen!  A cheer went up when I announced this a bit later!  When we did get there, about 2.30pm, we really did enjoy the freshly made scones but they would have been better if they had been fruit instead of plain – Andrea reckoned that my triumph was not quite so spectacular and that maybe I shouldn’t be on the social committee after all – I told her I wasn’t anyway!  Peter and Marie had left us after our short stop to look at the old schoolhouse near Cumloden as they lived not far away and Peter Bedford opted to get home to take his dog for a walk but the rest of us (18!) sat around the many tables we had dragged together and made a lot of noise, for which we DID apologise to other customers who seems totally unconcerned.  We cleared the tables afterwards and moved them all back before leaving, having thanked the staff there for their hospitality!

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