Two walks were planned for this week. The first, a 9 mile strenuous walks from Caldons, over Larg Hill to the Wood of Cree and the second an easy 6 mile stroll around the Wood of Cree and up to Loch Middle.
This first was a linear walk starting at Caldons a previous campsite at the southwest end of Loch Trool, climbing Larg Hill and finishing at the Wood of Cree car park near the otter pool on the River Cree. Therefore cars were left at each end.
The morning was dry after a wet night and there was a light snow covering on the Minnigaff Hills. The clouds were moving to the East so that the summit of Larg cleared.
Sixteen of us gathered for this walk and were welcomed by the leader. All were suitably attired and ready to walk in the snow. The walk had been checked out on Monday, a hot day when suntan cream had to be used! We had a pretty walk through Caldons woods and crossed Caldons burn to the west side to walk gradually uphill. The ground was, of course, wet and in some places very boggy but spotting numerous waterfalls was compensation.
We emerged from the forestry area to follow the Mulmein burn and squelched away across the Mulmein moss. Looking back, the sunshine and snow on Benyellary and the Merrick was a picture. We had passed Craignaw on our right and we were heading for the Nick of the Brushy. Out in the open, wind proof gear was necessary as we headed for the dyke as marked on the map. We waited for our lunch break until we reached the Nick and found what was initially a lovely sheltered place out of the wind with a beautiful view as far as the Cree estuary and the sea. The wind then shifted a little and we found ourselves in a wind gully, so everyone having eaten we set off again. To reach the summit we had the full force of the cold wind from the North West but the sun kept appearing between the clouds. From the summits of Larg, 676m and 660m, we had terrific views all round especially back to Curleywee and Milfore and as far as Ailsa Craig to the North West. The broad short grassed ridge was pleasant to walk and again, following the dyke, we eventually reached the tussocks of the forest ride. Once the track was reached, after a brief discussion we headed on for Loch Middle which was a very pretty place for us to have our tea break. We completed our 9.5 mile walk down the forest track and through the Wood of Cree where it was pleasing to see the first primroses as well as more lovely waterfalls.
It appeared that everyone had enjoyed their walk and people and cars were reunited for the onward journey, some pausing for tea at the Brig End café in Newton Stewart.
Meanwhile the second group had set off up the northern side of the Wood of Cree in bright sunshine. Spirits were high as we walked alongside the laughing waters of the Cordorcan burn. The chattering of the group precluded us from hearing any bird calls, except those of alarm, as the walkers climbed steadily towards the top of the wood. Here we left the RSPB reserve and headed up the forest road towards Loch Middle. Trees had been felled all about us, no doubt as a result of the disease affecting the larch. However, two diggers, idle today, had been busy dolloping (creating little lumps of earth) where young saplings would eventually be planted and the wood brought to life again.
As we rounded a bend we could see Craigmurchie on our left, but to our right we were dismayed to see the snow covered top of Larg Hill, the destination of our other group. We hoped they were not getting too cold, or finding the terrain too difficult up there.
Another mile further on the tranquil waters of the Loch came into view and soon we were on its shores where we found a sheltered spot out of the wind to take a coffee break. We were able to watch several geese in the distance already pairing up for the breeding season.
After coffee we retraced our steps towards the Wood of Cree. We were passed by a lone cyclist who seemed to be finding the going tough and then by a couple of holiday makers from Suffolk who were staying in the remote and isolated cottage at Cordorcan. They were relishing the peace and beauty of the area, no doubt a huge change from the bustle of life in the South.
On re-entering the wood we took the path to the north and soon reached the top of the hill where we were delighted to find that the RSPB had provided the perfect picnic sight for us -the stumps of felled trees just at sitting height.
After lunch we followed the path alongside the Pulhowan burn to the lookout point above the waterfall with views across the River Cree. The waterfall was not as impressive as in the past after the dry spell of weather and as it was difficult to squash all twenty two of us into the small space at the view point we soon continued along the path through the forest of young saplings covered In thick green moss, which gave them a strangely animalistic appearance. Meercat and rabbit shapes were clearly visible to those with an overactive imagination. Along the way we spotted the early flowerings of primroses, wood anemones and bright blue speedwell.
We emerged from the wood just as a black cloud threatened to empty itself upon us. Nevertheless we wandered along the path to visit the otters’ pool with little hope of seeing the creatures at that time of day.
We completed our day with a visit to the Belted Galloway where we received our customary warm welcome and a great selection of freshly made scones.
Next week there is a seven and a half mile walk from Torhousekie Stone Circle to Bladnoch which includes a tour of the fish farm. Meet at the Breastworks car park in Stranraer at 9.15am or the Riverside car park in Newton Stewart at 9.30am for car sharing. The walk starts at Torhousekie Stone Circle (NX 382 564) at 10am. Thinking of going straight to the start or of joining our group? Please phone the walk leader on 01776 403351 first.