Saturday, 9 February 2013

2013 - 9 February 2013 – Knockman Wood & Garlies Castle

9 February 2013 – Knockman Wood & Garlies Castle  Report by Richard Kay

Isobel, Frances, Claire, Linda, Mary, David Pride, and Jimmy arrived at the turn off into Knockman Wood just as Irene was opening the gates for Duncan and his other passengers – thanks Irene! We drove on to the car park a bit further along the forest road where we met the other walkers: Audrey, Forbes, Richard (leading), Andrea (back-up), Robert, Rosie and a friend of hers, Margaret, Jim, John two sticks, Christine Sloan, Hilary (not seen her for ages, now lives quite close by the woods) and a visitor, Morag.  I phoned the Galloway Arms to let them know our numbers and estimated time of arrival for refreshments.

Twenty-one ramblers assembled at the Forestry Commission car park at Knockman wood near Minnigaff.  The weather was overcast with low cloud but the forecast hinted at better things later in the day so they set off up the new forest road towards the summit of Knockman Hill.  As they went they were distracted by a loud whistling noise; apparently a bird call. None of the walkers could identify it.  The road climbed through the coniferous woods and soon reached the old deer park dyke which formed the boundary with the areas managed by the Cree Valley Community Woodland Trust.  Here the conifers had been cleared and a mixture of older oak woods, new broadleaved planting and open spaces provided a more open aspect.

The weather was misty and it deteriorated through the day, turning to mizzle and occasional drizzle but just kept off actually raining until the walk was over.  I struggled with the initial uphill section but enjoyed being side-tracked by photographing fungus pointed out to me by Jim and by the barren and sometimes dead trees.  The mist hung everywhere which, of course, added atmospherics to everything.  The walkers disappearing into the distant murk just gave me extra material instead of spurring me on to catch up although I had to do some of that! However, with the walk not being a long one, there was no hurry and most of the walkers were glad of the excuse to stop on their way uphill to look at the information provided on the plentiful boards provided through funding by SNH.

 A newly repaired path led the group steadily up the hill towards the Boreland Chambered Cairn. The group paused briefly to examine the cairn and then continued to follow the rough track through the wood pasture zone towards the summit of the hill.  Numerous information boards outlined the environmental interest in the area.  On the way up they met a small group of walkers who were resting on their way back from the summit.  They had intended to make a more strenuous walk in the hills but had changed their plans because of the weather.  The group then climbed onwards and upwards into the mist.  When they reached the summit cairn they paused while the leader pointed out the fine views which were available.  Unfortunately none were visible in the mist.
The ramblers then left the prepared path and followed deer tracks down the hill while trying to avoid the worst of the boggy ground.  They soon reached the lower path and turned northwards to continue to descend gently.  A deer fence which enclosed a regeneration area followed the left side of the path.  At the lowest point of the fence the group again turned off the prepared path and followed the deer fence until turned back up the hill.  At this point the group could then see the effect of an earlier deer fence where the growth of trees was abruptly cut off at the old fence line.

I thought of Shirley and Carol all day as I followed behind Andrea and we reminisced over our day in August when we battled our way through the bracken, tripping over rocks, going down hidden holes and with me trying to see my way ahead (Andrea told the others she thought she had lost me a few times!).  Today the bracken was down, wet and red, slippery but easily negotiated after we left the solid path at the cairn.  I marvelled at how we had actually managed at all in some places where, even being able to see where we were putting our feet, we had to negotiate our way over increasingly wet ground. 

At this point the walkers left the fence and followed the harder ground through groups of oak and alder trees down to the old deer dyke; an impressive dry stone wall nearly 2 metres high.  An old gateway gave access onto the open moor.  The route crossed a small burn with the expert help of Richard and an area of mixed rocky and boggy ground to reach the old track marked on the maps.  The line of the track was just discernible over the grassy land and led to the site of an old ferm toun; a collection of long abandoned ruins where once families would have scratched a living from the unforgiving land.  Beyond the ruins the track led down to Garlies Wood which surrounds the castle.
On reaching the castle the ramblers spread out among various perches to take their lunches.  As they ate the rain began to drizzle from the leaden skies but the trees and ruins provided adequate shelter.  After lunch the group headed down through the woods to the Peat Rigg Strand.  This is a substantial burn.  Fortunately it was not running too fiercely and the group crossed largely dry shod.
Before long we were at the Peat Rig Strand burn and Richard assisted many of the walkers in crossing it, positioning himself in the middle to give balance to us.  I just had time to get photos of the waterfall just above where we had crossed before trying to catch up with the others.  I did so just as they had got to the other side of a sliding wooden gate and Richard was making a pretence of closing it !  I was actually shattered by this time and was glad that the next section of the walk, whilst boggy, was downhill!

The route then led up through an attractive stand of oak trees to another gate in the deer dyke.  They then emerged into open, if somewhat soggy, grazing land and they followed the wheel tracks of a farm vehicle down to the track in the valley.  The track took them past the Glenmalloch Schoolhouse.  The group wondered how a teacher had managed twenty-five girls in such a small room.
Beyond the schoolhouse the track ran along the wall of the Cumloden policy woods with its large trees and dense rhododendron.  Near the end of the policies the group crossed the moorland to reach the old track which leads back to the Pheasant Liggat in Knockman Wood.  A small diversion took them to the top of Torbain, a low grassy hill with a Millennium cairn on its summit.  The group crossed the hill and regained the track which they followed back to the cars.  The somewhat damp ramblers then returned to the Galloway Arms in Newton Stewart for tea and scones and a warm fire.  They were pleased to meet another rambler who is recovering from a broken leg but had made the effort to join them.

We were delighted when we were joined by Gordon who had primed me not to let anyone know that he might join us – he was not sure if it would happen and when he had arrived so much later than us I thought it wasn’t going to!  A pint of something alcoholic was his preference as he was catching the bus back to Ayr!  However, he was lucky to get an offer of a lift home.

Next week’s event is a moderate 8.5 mile walk along the coast from the Isle of Whithorn to Garlieston.  Meet at 09:00 at the Breastworks Car Park, Stranraer or 09:30 at the Riverside Car Park in Newton Stewart to share transport.  The group will start with a bus from Garlieston at 10:30 to the start of the walk.  New walkers are always welcome but please contact the walk leader on 01988 840268 to discuss the details.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

2013 - 2nd February - Dunskey & Killantringan

 Passage through Nursery Wood

 Oops, time I caught up - a shortcut needed, I think

Getting closer

 Snowdrops, at last!

A rest for some while others visit the Orr-Ewing military graveyard

 Must come back when the bluebells are flowering here

Bypassing Port Kale - we cross this bridge later, towards the end of our walk

I am starting to lag behind again, views are too good to ignore!

The trees don't need leaves on them to impress!

Colours reflecting in Dunskey Burn

Got to try to catch up - can't see anyone ahead!

I can hear voices

The group has paused to admire the waterfalls - what a beautiful bridge - and far too many opportunities for the taking of photographs

From the bridge

The track is getting muddier so the group will be getting slower - I might catch up soon!

 Lovely wide track through the woods on Craigbouie Fell

A surprise climb up from the track brought us to Old Loch

Wow! Snowdrops - our second sighting - well spotted Jim!

 Sunshine through the trees accentuate autumnal colour beneath this fabulous beech tree

New Loch - time for another short pause

Back a bit Jim.

 Decided not to, I guess. Wonder if you noticed the boat shed has lost its roof

Who threw my toys out - we think this is a Newfoundland dog - he did not seem interested in us at all

 Lunch just before 1pm - early for an Allan-led walk and much appreciated.

 Great to be going downhill after lunch for a change - easy surface too

 Killantringan Bay with its patchwork of colours, beautiful as ever

Killantringan Lighthouse - sure I saw more of the wreck of Craigantlet last time I was here. Perhaps the tide is higher.

I love this section of the walk, over Ouchtriemakain Moor - a much better day than when we were last here.

I got in the picture, thanks to Jimmy

Down to Portavaddie and up March Howe

....... after which we had a well-deserved rest for a short while

Approaching Port Kale beyond which is Port Mora. Between them is the burial area for Orr Ewing family, visited by us earlier

 Shorter legs have more difficulty getting down these steps but the chain link rope is a great help

What was going on here - can't be Poo Sticks, water was flowing the wrong way

  Port Mora. Cath gave us some history of the waterfalls, said to have health benefits, and of historical evidence of human occupation

 Looking back at Port Kale and the headland

  Someone is conquering his fear of 'edges' - well done

  Nearing Portpatrick and the end of our walk - hope they have got the kettle on at the Crown Hotel

 Tea and scones were good, time to go home now

 2 February 2013 – Dunskey Circular – Report by Richard Kay
A bright breezy February morning greeted 24 ramblers as they assembled at the south car park in Portpatrick: 
Cath, Frances, Isobel, Richard, Andrea, Jim, Erika, Anne, Ken, Margaret, Audrey, Shona, Irene, Jimmy, Rachel, Heather, Claire, John, Allan, Marilyn and Jim, with their dog, Charlie,  Jacqui, with Tilly, Linda (delighted to see you! ) and a visitor, Rachel, who had joined us for the day. The Crown Hotel was informed that 22 of us would be there about 3pm to have refreshments.
Far way to the south the Mountains of Mourne peeked over the horizon; the destination for an excursion by members in May.  The group assembled and, after a few words from the walk leader, set off round the bay and then took to the back streets.  The route followed streets not previously visited and then climbed a steep overgrown path which took them to the old railway line.  After a short pause to regain their breath the ramblers continued upwards as views over the village opened up below them.  A little further on they passed the school with is bright copper roof and then looked down onto the site of the railway station. 
A short walk took them to the edge of the village and the ramblers crossed the main road and followed the road to Dunskey Home Farm. A pair of roe deer bounced off across the fields. From there they descended through the Nursery Wood and along to the edge of Dunskey Glen.  The track following the rim of the Glen led them eventually to a brackeny promontory between Port Mora and Port Kale where the owners of the estate had created a small family cemetery.  The well kept stones recorded several generations of the family on a site with beautiful views southwestwards over the sea.
We turned inland again and followed really muddy tracks up through the glen following Dunskey Burn and all its waterfalls.  I was having a field day and was not concerned about catching up as the tracks were so slippery and deep in mud where diversions were often needing to be made, that I knew the group would be slow, having to go in single file.  I  made the right decisions in the turnings off when needed – always obvious ones, and caught up with them as they reached a substantial bridge over a particularly deep waterfall. 
They moved on after I had managed to get a few photos of them, the bridge and the waterfalls and then spent much more time recording the action of the water as it cascaded down the glen and over the rocks, the moss covered trees and rocks beside them reflecting the sun into the water.  The autumnal colours turned the water into a multi-coloured pallet.
After a short pause the group followed the track down to the burn in the bottom of the glen and then took the muddy path back up alongside the burn as it tumbled down to the sea.  After crossing the burn twice by excellent bridges the path led them back to the estate drive which, with the kind permission of the owner, they followed northwards to the Old Loch.  This is an unusual loch which crosses the watershed and has a dam at each end.  The dam was once used as a water source to power the estate sawmill.  The sluice gate is still visible at the end of the southern dam. The loch is now an attractive feature and home to a pair of swans.
The ramblers crossed the southern dam and followed the path through the wood beyond.  There had been extensive planting of a variety of rhododendrons which are now growing well and will provide a real show later in the year.
We admired magnificent birch trees, bereft of their autumnal leaves which still coated the ground beneath them.
 Beyond the wood they crossed a field and reached the bank of the New Loch, a somewhat larger body of water, apparently well patronised by fishermen.  The group walked round the south end of the loch to the North Drive.  They were surprised to see that recent gales had lifted the roof completely off the boathouse and deposited it on an adjacent rhododendron. 
The walkers took the north drive (at the end of which most of us were delighted to have our first sighting of a New Foundland dog – a huge black dog by its kennel, seemingly undisturbed by 24 people walking by) to the Lochnaw road which they followed northwards until they reached the road to Kilantringan lighthouse.  On entering that road they turned off to find a sheltered spot among the whins to enjoy lunch in the sunshine.
Envigorated by their lunch the ramblers set off cheerfully down the road towards the lighthouse. The remains of the Craigantlet, which was wrecked in the bay below the lighthouse thirty years ago, were just breaking the waves in the high tide.  There seemed much less of the ship since our last visit. 
Only I took photos of Killantringan Bay as the others started to make the steep climb up the hill on top of which is a SUW marker – then down the other side!  The view from it was probably worth the effort although the lighthouse, foghorn and meagre remains of the a ship wrecked in Portmaggie Bay could be seen just as easily from below it!
On reaching the sea the group turned south following the Southern Upland Way along the cliffs back towards Portpatrick.
The walk from there was lovely, the weather showing no similarities to that experienced last time we had walked along this stretch of coastline.   I was telling Jimmy about the company of Tasha and Estelle in November and remembering just how cold we all were!  Today would have been a much better day for them to have joined us!
The deep glen above Portavaddie caused some to puff a little but a mostly easy path soon got them back to Port Kale.  At this point the path descends steeply by rough steps cut in the rocks to sea level.  The fixed chain at the side of the path was a great assistance.  The group crossed the beach and the bridge over the Dunskey Burn (the dropping of sticks down into the water of the out burn from the bridge caused much hilarity but whether this was a twist on the practice of throwing Poo sticks into water to judge whose stick would flow fastest, I could not tell!) and then followed the narrow path round below the grave site and descended to Port Mora.  This was the site of the landfall for one of the cross channel telephone lines.  Until recently there had been a small hut which had contained the cable junctions and switch gear.  This has completely disappeared and all that marks the site is the painted pole which supported the marker beacon.  The adjacent visitor centre was firmly closed, and in spite of a notice suggesting it might open, no one could ever remember seeing it in use.
Once into Port Mora a few people stopped to hear Cath tell of the historical evidence of human occupation of the caves and of the supposed health benefits of the waterfall, which was tumbling into the sea beneath which the walkers were now taking an uphill path.
The ramblers climbed over the rocks below the two caves on the south side of the beach and then ascended the path to the golf course.  The radio masts above Portpatrick and the end of the walk were now in sight which spurred the group onwards and back down into the village as the sun lowered its way down towards the Irish coast.  The event finished with tea and scones in the Crown Hotel which was greatly enjoyed by all.