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Sunday, 18 July 2010

The Wigtownshire Ramblers-Cairnsmore via the Dukes Path July 2010

It's Saturday the 17th of July 2010.
Todays walk is a circular to the summit of Cairnsmore of Fleet.Wherever we can find it, we'll take a path built by a previous incumbent of the Cairnsmore estate, the Duke of Bedford.

To get an idea of todays walk I've copied the following tract of text from the Cairnsmore of Fleet National Nature Reserve's webpage.

The imposing granite hill that is Cairnsmore stands above Wigtown Bay and is one of the most southerly of the Galloway Hills. It is the only remaining large area of unforested ground stretching from the Fleet river valley bottom to summit top. There is a diverse range of upland habitats, heather moorland, blanket bog and wind clipped summit heath, all of which provide a home to species such as bog cotton, sundew, sphagnum moss and heather, wheatear, skylark, curlew, black and red grouse. Peregrine falcon, hen harrier and merlin hunt the moorland, and if you’re lucky a golden eagle may also be seen. Brown hares inhabit the lower ground with their cousin, the mountain hare, at higher altitude. Red deer and wild goat can be seen on the hill, with roe deer found where the Reserve meets with forestry ground.

The fact that today's walk has been graded as an A,is reflected in todays numbers.Were a group of nine.
After rendezvousing at the Cairnsmore car park we set off in northerly direction via Strathmaddie,Greenheights Plantation and The Belts before joining the track running alongside the Cairnsmore Burn.
I'm deputy walk leader today and we're hoping for a little better weather than we encountered on Wednesdays recce.
We continue along the track as it turns more easterly until reaching the forest at Ardwell Hill.Now we take a path which will lead us through the woods to a forest road.Todays leader makes sure the group safely cross a slippery plank over a fern covered burn.

N.B After initiating nicknames for some members of the group,the idea seems to be catching on, and proving to be a topic of fun.Todays walk leader has since been christened 'Shorty'.
Reaching the forest road we continue north.Here the trees are a fair height and only occasionally a view appears.Here we get a look over to Curleywee.
Continuing on for a kilometre or so,we cross the Mill and Blairbuies burns.After a long dry spell the burns are again tumbling down the mountainside.Dry is good,wet makes the pictures.

Now we leave the firm footing of the forest road for a muddy forest path which takes us around Blairbuies Hill.Lots of evidence here of how well built the Dukes Path once was.

The point we've now reached links two of our previous walks.Last July we were here doing the Billy Marshalls Walk,and January this year we'd done much of what we've walked up to now on our Bargaly Walk
Time for a quick drinks and jellybabies break
Now out of the woods we're on Cairnsmores lower rocky slopes.
A change of direction now as we head south along what was possibly the Dukes Path.It feels steep, but the gradient at the moment probably averages around 1 in 5.
A lone tent sits below between Corwar and Dallash.There were two tents on Wednesday,someones had enough of the wet weather perhaps.
The weather up to now has been of wet flurries,and the walkers have been busy donning and discarding waterproofs fairly frequently.
We didn't encounter the goats on Saturday's walk.These pictures are from the recce.
On Wednesday's recce this was probably the last picture I took before descending again.From here upwards we were in the clouds and rain.
Today looks more promising...fingers crossed.
Now I've got a view over the Cree Valley....
...turning to this ten minutes later.
As deputy walk leader I'm in my correct position,to the rear.Ha ha.I've got the staying power,but when it comes to climbing steeply I'm very slow.We're on the steeper climb to Eastmans Cairn here where the gradient is more like 1 in 3,and sometimes 1 in 1.
Now we reach Eastmans Cairn.From here it's a much gentler slope.
This is a boulder strewn landscape here.On Wednesday around about here we found a small piece,about 8 inches square of light aircraft metal.I didn't take a picture since it was pouring down, but it was probably a remnant from a Heinkel HE-111 which crashed here in 1941.
Scotlands Air Crashes
Almost at the summit.Between the misty flurries there are views to be seen.The Cree estuary on one side and Loch Grannoch down the other.
A pile of stones,another cairn slighly lower,a trig point and a drystane shelter signifies our arrival at the summit.It's quite cold up here.
We get ourselves settled into the shelter for lunch.
Where I'm sitting is too close to the others to get them all in one picture.I'll try stitching a couple of the above pictures to see what it produces.........................

............a result ! Well,almost! I'm not sure if I've captured Slew at his best.Ha ha.
Here's a few pictures of a previous visit on a much nicer day.

Here's the memorial stone erected to remember the airmen who perished in various air crashes on Cairnsmore during World War 2.
Both the original and the metal etched additional plaque are getting a little weather-beaten.
We're taking the well walked traditional route back down.The weather's improving all the time,and it looks like we've seen the last of the rain.(On Wednesday the path was more akin to a burn).
We can see that the tide's coming in.The Cree estuary always makes a better picture with lots of water.
We're soon back down to the forest.Now the nicer weather's here no ones in a hurry.We're also missing our walk leader Shorty and one other walker at the moment.We've christened the other walker with a nickname.It's going to be either 'The Wanderer' as is his habit, or 'The Wonderer' as in the statement 'Wonder where he is'.
A nice stroll back through the Cairnsmore estate gets us back to the vehicles,where those of us who have to wait get ourselves relaxed and comfortable (No one's more relaxed then Slew).
Shorty turns up without the Wanderer.
All well that ends well though,our missing man has made an appearance,though not where he's expected.
A good hard walk with great company and an exciting conclusion.Very enjoyable.

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