Southern Upland Way – Day 2
29th April 2013 – Stranraer to New Luce: 14.0 miles, 1,046 feet
“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves” John Muir – Scottish-born, American Naturalist (1838 -1914)
So this is yesterday’s blog, uploaded late, will work on today’s update in a while….
I have to admit that I wasn’t expecting much from today. I thought it was going to be mainly pastures and fields with a little bit of moorland thrown in at the end to break the monotony. How wrong I was and how thankful I am for that too.
Today was lovely, apart from the bloody wind. Even though it was at my back for most of the day, it was strong, relentless and made the day much harder than it should have been. In the end I was pressed into putting on my woolly hat, just to give my ears a break from the constant howling noise they were being subjected to.
I had an excellent night in the Old Manse B&B, it was quiet, comfortable and good value for money. I’d stay there again without any hesitation. I had breakfast at 08:00 and was down stairs to pay my bill by 09:10. I only had twenties and Marilyn didn’t have change, so I also got a discount, which I will post to her when I get home, because it was good value at the full price, without getting a discount into the bargain.
I started out in long sleeved baselayer, overtrousers over no trousers and my soft shell jacket. It had stopped raining just as I was looking out the window on my way out of the room, so the Paramo was packed away (no doubt for later).
I’d selected a route through a large plantation, called Big Plantation! I had no idea how good the path was going to be though, so I was a little nervous when I left the road and headed into the woods. I got a nice surprise though, a hardcore gravel path, no puddles, no boggy sections and the woods were lovely too. I stopped to look at a notice board beside a ruined arch in the forest and that was probably the worst decision of the day. One of the photographs on the board was ‘courtesy of Tom Stephenson’ – my internal juke box automatically selected ‘Pennine Way’ by Mick and the Moonshiners, which has the line ‘Tom Stephenson’s highway of freedom’ and that was it for the rest of the day, my head splinter or ear worm or whatever you want to call it, has been embedded. I couldn’t shake it, but it’s a great song and reminded me that I’ve been in contact with the band to try and get hold of a copy of their CD, it should be waiting for me when I get home in fact.
The path through Big Plantation joins the Southern Upland Way and immediately the path deteriorated into a muddy track, much abused by vehicles and one that had me wandering left and right trying to find the driest line. I met my only walker of the day here; an old boy out for his morning walk and a chatty fella he was too. He guessed I was walking ‘the path’ as he called it and wished me luck and fair weather. I pushed on ahead after a few minutes chatting.
The path joined the road for a minute but soon returned to the woods, all the way to the main road into Stranraer. The woods were lovely, with a pretty good path all the way through. I crossed the A75 beside the petrol station cum Spar shop, and followed the tarmac drive down towards Castle Kennedy. I enjoyed the view across the White Loch, but there’s not much to be seen of the castle from this vantage point.
It was back onto the road beyond there and a short, nasty section of pasture land that had been torn ragged by cattle, leaving no obvious path to follow, just a soggy, pitted field. Another short section of road led me to the best bit of the walk so far, the path beside the forest on Glenwhan Moor. On the map it looks like you’ll be walking under the edge of the forest, probably stumbling over roots and ducking under branches. Nothing could be further from the truth. The path is well defined, undulating through a heather moor, tight against a boundary wall (or dyke as they call them north of the border). I startled a young deer, grazing beside the path and it bolted off into the nearby trees, before I could get my camera out. I’d been on the lookout for Red Squirrels ever since I entered Big Plantation but I’ve still not seen one, I did at least have the deer ticked off though.
I really enjoyed this section, as it twisted and turned, with great views to the north of open moors and rocky tors. To the south it was felled trees and new undergrowth, but not looking quite as industrial as I’ve seen some felled areas in the past. I think it’s had time to grow through a bit and many of the old stumps were moss covered, with lots of heather growing between them. The wind was pretty bad over this section, as I was changing direction a lot and my hat kept getting dislodged as the wind found a way under the brim and tried to lift it off.
The only shower of the day hit me here too, around midday, but I made a super quick change into the Paramo and then took shelter behind a high wall with a slight overhang. Hail stones were evident amongst the rain drops for a couple of minutes in the middle of the shower and then the sun came out again and I swapped jackets and moved on.
I’d been looking for the ‘Ultreia’ plaque on the way markers along this section, as the guide mentioned the next Kist would be found on Glenwhan Moor. I eventually found the plaque and began scanning the sides of the path for anything out of place or strange looking. It didn’t take long until I found the Kist. Right beside the path, impossible to miss. I was surprised therefore to find so many more Waymerks in this one than I had in yesterday’s Kist on Broad Moor. I helped myself to one of the bronze coins inside the little cache and patted myself on the back, I was 2 for 2!
I passed into a dark and oppressive section of forest and felt sure I’d missed a marker post. I’d been busy tweeting my success in the great treasure hunt and I wasn’t sure if been paying attention, and perhaps I had missed one. I backtracked for a few yards to check I hadn’t and then continued on tentatively. The turn of the path didn’t seem to match my route, which compounded my doubts, but I soon saw the next way marker and headed out of the forest, down to a lovely little bridge at Craig Burn. From here the path went north, beside the railway, again on a nice little track though, another enjoyable little section.
I eventually crossed the railway and then across a very wobbly suspension bridge over the river. I say wobbly, but in truth it only wobbled because I was bouncing up and down on it, to make it wobble. I got quite a harmonic bounce going and soon felt a bit ill, so stopped messing, waited for the bridge to settle down then crossed to the other side. More pasture awaited on the other side, along with a sign telling me that cows can be dangerous and I was to proceed at my own risk! Not sure that’s really in the spirit of things and also don’t think it would absolve the farmer! It was a National Trail after all and I didn’t have much alternative other than to risk the wrath of the dangerous bovine inhabitants of the ‘field of death’.
Beyond the farm at Cruise I followed a rugged path up the hill to reach the open moorland at Kilhern Moss. I could have avoided this section, by staying on the road and saving myself about 3 miles. With hindsight I wish I had. The moor was fine, it was very soggy in places and my boots were soon covered in mud, but it was the wind that killed me. It had shifted slightly and was coming from the north west now. I had to pack the Tilley away as I would have been constantly picking it up or, more likely, chasing it across the fell. When I turned left at the ruined building marked in the map as Kilhern, the wind was almost in my face and the next couple of miles were bloody hard work. Without any hat on I was very aware of how much the wind howled and I had to put my woolly hat on to shield my ears and give them a break. The section from Kilhern to the road was the worst part of the walk so far. It was badly trodden by cattle and where it wasn’t a quagmire it was pitted and rutted to the point I was worried about turning an ankle. I eventually made it to the road, where I turned left, straight into the headwind.
I consoled myself with the thought of the nice quiet pub in New Luce. I’d been seeing signs for the Kenmuir Arms for the last several miles. Every suitable post almost had an A4 sheet pinned to it, extolling the virtues of the pub, it’s cask ales, it’s home made food, it’s warm and comfortable environs. But you know where this is going don’t you?
Of course, it was bloody shut wasn’t it! I struggled for the final mile and a half along the road, into the mother of all headwinds, straight past my B&B for the night, past the church and community hall, past the small sign that said ‘We’re Open for Cask Ales’ and straight to the front door of the pub, only to find it locked. A small sign on the door said ‘Closed Mondays’. I was a tad upset as you can probably imagine.
I wandered, disconsolately down to the Post Office /Shop and stocked up on water and snacks for lunch tomorrow and for Day 4. They said the pub may be open in the evening, but I’m not sure I want to go in now 🙂
I knocked on the door of the B&B and was shown to my room. I sit here now, showered and changed and quite cold! The room is like an ice box, even with the convection heater provided. I may yet try the pub, just to see if it’s warmer than this.
The folk in the shop were wrong, the pub isn’t open tonight. I’ve just been down and tested the door again, it’s still locked. I will spend the evening in my room, probably in bed. Without a phone signal or WiFi I can’t post this and the village doesn’t even have a call box so I can’t ring home and speak to the wife! It’s like being in the middle ages or something, I don’t remember the last place I’ve stayed where I couldn’t get either a phone signal or WiFi. Actually, it was probably Stonethwaite in 2011, but they had a call box at least.