Snow forces cyclists’ route change

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Dumfries and Galloway Cyclists Touring Club held its latest ride on Saturday.

Participants were ride leader Jim Cowan, with Bob Rostock, Sandy Galashan and Jim Wilson.

The planned route was to have been into the hills via Penwhirn reservoir, but the recent problems experienced with snow drifts (even on main roads) suggested this be postponed.

It was decided that a similar direction would be followed initially, but that it would stick to lower altitudes.

With three riders having 10 miles or so already covered, the group set off from the Breastworks car park at the usual winter 10.30 start time. Following the main roads, the riders joined the cycle tracks on London Road as far as Westwood Avenue. Here a woodland track can be joined to take you to the Link Road between A77 and A75 east of the town avoiding traffic on the alternative routes.

In most weather conditions it has a good hard surface, and being short it should not deter any kind of cyclist. It‘s popular with dog walkers and there is much more chance that you will come across some wildlife (including red squirrels). A brief pause was taken, where the track crosses the railway line, to reflect on the changes to rail traffic in the vicinity over the years. Gone are the town station, the railway sidings, engine sheds and turntable for the steam engines. Gone are the sidings where steel was transferred from long-haul rail to road transport for final deliveries.

Additions to the view are the windmills in the distance near Portpatrick, while in the foreground is the extension of the industrial site to fill all the available land up to the railway boundaries. Apparently this was a new viewpoint for most of the riders.

The Link Road was followed briefly northwards towards A75, but a right turn and a sharp initial gradient took the group into Limekiln Road as a quieter alternative route eastwards. Strangely, there is no specific mention of kilns in this vicinity in the better-known guidebooks, but the kiln at Portpatrick harbour does get a mention.

The route then went under the railway line at Loch Magillie and north to join A75 at Inch Church. After a quick dash eastwards, they were at Castle Kennedy where, with a turn northwards, they resumed a more relaxed pace.

Here, since you are adjacent to a former wartime airfield, there are no troublesome gradients for the first mile. The woodlands of the estate lie to the west and it could be worth pausing at the access track for some bird watching, not forgetting that geese are often to be seen grazing the flat grasslands opposite.

The next two miles were somewhat different – the elevation increases by 100 feet as the road climbs through the tree belt on to Airyolland Moss. Some cyclists take this as a challenge. Some find that they need to (frequently!) admire the view.

The leader resisted the inclination to take in the panorama of Luce Bay stretching out behind, but took up a position at the rear of the group. The fitter members tackled the climb rather more aggressively. Regrouping at New Luce, they adjourned to the Kenmuir Arms just at opening time for lunch.

With the increased vigour rendered by the food stop, a return to lower levels was in prospect, and they set off on the Glenluce Road. This was narrowed by snow drifted and ploughed high on both sides. A further stop was soon required to repair a rear flat tyre.

At Balmesh, the group took the Boreland Road westwards, passing the ruined Cistercian Glenluce Abbey established in 1190 as a daughter house of Dundrennan. As the road climbs the lower slopes of Challoch Hill, the leader resumed his usual dignified progress and recovered his puff on the eventual drop down to A75 to rejoin the group.

Making a scheduled appointment at a local sporting fixture was to be attempted by a quick sprint into Stranraer on the main road. The leader would, however, have been an excessive handicap. He volunteered merely to follow in the slipstream of the pack. In fact, he caught up at Dunragit – not by superhuman effort, but by virtue of a further puncture stop.

This time, despite the spares and tools available and repair attempts, the damage was such that a “lift” had to be called in. The remaining trio set off southwards over the railway level-crossing for Sandhead, Woodlea tearoom, and refreshments to fuel the journey home.

The wind had been brisk, and temperatures low, but the day was an enjoyable workout after an enforced break due to the weather. The distance was about 32 miles for the circuit.