Early wintry showers did not put sixteen members of the Wigtownshire Ramblers, including two visitors, off their Saturday walk, the weather forecast promising better weather to come.
However, showers accompanied the walkers as they started their circular walk from Wigtown which began at the County buildings. After proceeding down Bank Street and out through the portals of the old east gate to the churchyard, many viewed the pre reformation church.
The inscriptions on the graves of the martyrs, Margaret Lachlan, aged 63, and Margaret Wilson, aged 18, caused great interest. They endured a watery death at the stake in 1685, for adhering to their Covenanting faith and refusing to swear allegiance to the king.
Passing to the end of the lane, the walkers took the path by the former harbour, where a granite stake, erected in 1936 on the merse, marks the place where the martyrs died. Originally the River Bladnoch cut a deep channel where the stake is sited; the river has altered its course and the harbour is now situated further south. The route for the walk went alongside a newly flooded piece of wetland until the former railway station house on Harbour Road was reached. From there the group accessed the grassy bank along which trains had once travelled, passing Maidland Pond before continuing along the tree lined wide grassy track.
The old Bladnoch railway bridge caused an obstacle in the river walk in that it no longer exists; the railway bank was negotiated with great care, making use of the many narrow tree trunks lining the slippery slope downwards. Sheep scampered ahead of the group as they crossed the field to access the road towards Bladnoch and its distillery. At present whiskey at this famous distillery is not in production but it is hoped that a buyer has been found and work will recommence in the near future.
Having made their way past the silent buildings, the company now made their way along a narrow path between the river and the leat which provides water for the distillery. This leat allows sweet water, from above the tidal limit and therefore uncontaminated by the briny sea, to be brought about a mile and a half to the works. It was dug in 1830 by the same navvies who were also paving the streets of Wigtown.
Half way down the leat the ramblers, accompanied by the sun which was now piercing the clouds, crossed a narrow walkway and Cotland woods were entered. Having climbed over a gate on leaving the woodland, the company strode onwards and upwards, with ever expanding views over the water to the hills beyond. The way was becoming more difficult as fields with livestock feeding at a number of troughs had become quagmire-like. A keen photographer in their midst, having diverted to try to capture the flight of a couple of herons, tried to make her way back to the group and became bogged down for a while, the mud sometimes oozing right over her boots which almost succeeded in wresting them from her feet!
A field of kale was skirted and, as the group passed between the black cloaked straw bales, they became aware of the emerging view of the snow laden Galloway Hills, the Cairnsmore of Fleet being the most prominent. The lunch time stop gave all a chance to appreciate this view from a seated position for half an hour before the walk was resumed.
Fields were crossed, past Cotland Loch and over the brow of House Hill until at last the Kirkcowan road was reached, crossed, and Kirvennie Hill and the linking Broadfield farm track over more muddy fields were negotiated. By Hollybush House, Common Moss Lane was entered, a grassy track which soon brushed some of the mud from the boots. The streets of Wigtown were entered again via Lovers Walk and Kirkland road.
Once back at the county buildings boots and muddy trousers changed, a warm welcome was given to the ramblers at the Bayview Bistro where hot drinks and their excellent scones were enjoyed.
Next week’s walk, an altered one from that on the Ramblers original programme is a 6.5 mile walk through woods to the Silver Rig Mine and beside the river. Meet for car sharing at Breastworks, Stranraer, 9am, Riverside Newton Stewart, 9.30am, or at the walk start at High Camer Wood Picnic Site (NX 365 732) 10am. If going straight to the start please contact walk leader 01776 840226. All are welcome.