Saturday, 1 December 2012

Scoops Reports 2012– New Luce Circular

1 December 2012 – New Luce Circular - Report by Richard Kay

I got to the Freugh road turn off at Sandmill just a few minutes later than I had planned and then got stopped by a policeman in a van who was monitoring the closure of the road owing to the blasting of an incendiary device by army personnel and was really worried about not being able to pick up Marilyn. To cut a long story short, I was eventually allowed to go that short distance to pick her up. Meantime, I had left a message on Andrea’s mobile answer phone and she phoned us as we were on our way. I said we would be 10-15 minutes late. When we got to New Luce I realized that I had left my camera at home! By this time I was ‘spitting feathers’. My mood did not improve when I heard someone say ‘thank goodness’! I know who it was and I forgive you!! Then Marilyn, bless her heart, offered me the use of hers. Suddenly all was right with the world! We (Allan (our leader), Jim, Carl, Audrey, Margaret, Susan, Christine, Rachel, Jacqui, with her dog, Tilley, Irene, Duncan, John Smith, Peter Reid, Richard, Andrea, Ken (backup), Mary, new walkers Graham, John and Ian, Marilyn and I) walked out of New Luce towards Glenluce.
Saturday dawned with clear blue skies and a sharp frost. The low sun provided little warmth but twenty three ramblers assembled at New Luce memorial hall anticipating a brisk walk to Castle Kennedy. We set off down the Glenluce road and soon passed Cruise Farm. The group turned through a gate and descended the frost covered field towards the river along the Southern Upland Way (SUW). Once we reached the lower ground there was evidence that the river had taken a shortcut through the field during the recent floods. The “new” bridge over the river, an elegant suspension bridge erected by the army, took us over the Water of Luce. After crossing the bridge we turned off the SUW and climbed onto the wooded banks below the railway line. As we walked along a train passed at head level as it scurried down to Stranraer. A little further along the bank our leader pointed out the remains of an old railway cottage and a level crossing. He remembered when the track was passable for motor vehicles travelling between Craig Farm and Airyolland. There is little evidence of t he track at this point other than gates in the rail side fence. He also recalled an aerial ropeway in place which brought milk from Galdenoch Farm on the other side of the river.
The walk followed the course of one done previously but I did not realize this until later when we were crossing a burn. I took lots of photos here and was last to cross it. Allan assured me that he would be helping me with both hands to reach the other side, telling me to jump onto a large rock in front of him. It looked slippery to me and I told him so but he was adamant that it was fine. Of course I slipped on it but did not fall in the water, thank goodness! I bruised my thigh and a bit of my pride but I was OK. No-one was quick enough with a camera to record the slip – ha! 
 After crossing a small burn the track became more evident. It was followed to Craig Farm and then further south to a second railway crossing. Here we were met by an enthusiastic Labrador who proudly showed off her two excited puppies who were corralled in the porch. The leader then telephoned the signalman and, having been given the all clear the ramblers hurried across the line and up into the forest. At the start of the path we noticed a squirrel feeder attached to a tree. We then realised it was being monitored by a camera. The scientists will be seeing some unusual activity in the area.
Ian was struggling to keep up as we went up through a wide section in the forest but insisted that he was fine. It was really boggy here and everyone was taking a slight detour to avoid this section. A short halt in our ascent enabled Jim and Allan pass around some sweets, a much needed aid to raising our blood sugar levels! We are used to having a late lunch on Allan’s walks but it was with relief that lunch time arrived so that Ian could have a rest. John was managing fine, as was Graham. John had brought some lunch but Ian had not and he refused all offers of food from us.
 A steep climb through the wood then led us to a forest road. We then continued uphill to the end of the road where the group paused for lunch in a grassy clearing bathed in the weak winter sun. After lunch the group struggled to their feet and entered the forest follo wing an old dyke northwards. Several minor diversions were necessary to avoid boggy ground and fallen trees but eventually we arrived at the end of another forest track. The track was followed westwards. Initially it was overgrown and very wet in patches but it improved as we went along and soon the walkers were able to walk side by side and conversation returned to its usual pitch.
Allan had not done a recce recently which was particularly evident over the next section of the walk. It was incredibly boggy and littered with fallen trees but we managed to get through the first part of it until we reached a moss covered old dyke. Richard diverted to the right and was followed by a sensible group. I stayed behind Allan who took us through the forest, jumping pools of water between the lines of trees in an effort to stay close to the dyke. I loved this part of the walk, finding it funny and took lots of photos. We met Jim coming towards us from the opposite direction to help us through a dodgy part through which they had struggled before us!
As we went along numerous deer tracks from both Red and Roe deer were seen. Later we met the stalker driving in to commence his evening session of deer control. We also noticed various red tapes tied to trees and bushes and sections of fine string running along the forest road.
I was getting concerned about the time, having arranged with the County Golf Club to provide refreshments for us if we could get there and away by 5pm. It became increasingly evident that Allan’s estimate of the finish of the walk being 3pm was way out and I phoned the golf club to let them know we would not be there in time.
A little further on we came to the old quarry where there had been recent work leaving newly cut rock faces and large piles of crushed stone. We suspected that further felling is planned and that the track will be in much better condition next time we visit. The tapes and string were probably marking and measuring the work required. A short walk then brought us to the SUW again and the main New Luce to Castle Kennedy road. The walk had taken longer than anticipated and darkness was approaching. It was therefore decided to abandon the route along the SUW to Castle Kennedy as originally planned.
Rachel went with John and Ian, and Peter and John then left them walking along the road while she RAN to Castle Kennedy along the SUW path, collected her car and came back to pick up Ian who waiting in a gateway! She drove him back to CK (the others wanted to complete the walk) and then drove back to New Luce to join us. 
A small group followed the road down to Castle Kennedy and the waiting cars while the remaining walkers stegged back to New Luce along the road.
Meantime, the rest of us walked the 3.25 miles along the road back to New Luce. It was bitterly cold and we were all walking as fast as we could to get warm!
 Once again the hosts at the Kenmuir Arms provided a warm welcome and excellent tea and cakes, making a superb end to the walk.
It was lovely and warm in there and we spent a pleasant half an hour or more before heading home.

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