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Pilgrimage in Dumfriesshire, Day 4

PostPosted: Sun Nov 03, 2013 12:05 am
by wjshaw2

Day_4.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

Today didn't actually have any Covenanter sites or St Connel sites, but gave me an excuse to traverse the whole length of Cairnkinna Hill, a new Sub2000ft to me. (My thoughts managed to invent a connection anyway - 'kinna' sounds a bit like Connel to me so maybe it's Connel's Cairn at the top...or not). I somehow avoided ever going up it when I lived round here. I remember we once borrowed the gate keys and drove over the forestry tracks from the top of the Shinnel appearing in, I think, Kelloholm so I always knew Sanquhar wasn't actually that far from home, even if by road it took forever to get there.

I was also starting to realise that one of the aims of the walk, to take it easy the whole way, not be rushed, and have time to sit and think if the mood took me, wasn't really happening very much. I'd made the legs about 5km too long for a proper seat in all the places I fancied a rest. Anyway, not much I could do about it now, the route was set and had to be followed. Not to a bitter conclusion by any means, but certainly not to a restful one. Still, relentless exercise teaches you different things equally worth learning.

The morning of day 4 was dry, enough to pack up camp and get down Chanlock Water, more bull dodging on the way down, to get to the cottage at Woodend before the rain arrived.

The first coos of the day.jpg
The first coos of the day, they were very interested in me

I'd suspected Woodend Cottage would be like Chanlockhead, but it has had money poured into it...but is still empty and the garden looks rather forlorn. I dodged the bulls by cutting through the overgrown garden against the wishes of the signs, but it's better than being squashed by an angry bull any day. In fact, I couldn't see any other gate onto the open hillside above the cottage apart from the one in the back garden. Still, please don't follow my bad example.

It was a soggy trudge up Cairnkinna, very soggy at points. But the top was reached - it's not quite at the big cairn but a bit off to the west although being a little unsure exactly where I criss-crossed over the summit and must have stood on any possible top at some point.

Cairnkinna, as seen through my specs, let alone the camera lense.jpg
Cairnkinna, as seen through my specs, let alone the camera lense

The cloud clearing off to the south.jpg
The cloud clearing off to the south

But I'm going north.jpg
But I'm going north

I didn't hang around too long here, despite it being the highest point of the whole five days. The cloud came and went a bit, but not sufficiently to tempt me to stick around.

From here it was the bleakest 7km of the 100km route. Tussocks and bogs in wet low cloud over rolling tops without navigational interest (there's a fence handrail from Black Rig, the first wee top after Cairnkinna, all the way to beyond Welltrees Tappin and on to the Southern Upland Way.

I made a few wee excursions off the fence to take in the tops of the lumps I was traversing - I'm unlikely ever to come back this way. So I dumped the pack at Jarney Knowes to take in Heathery Hill (an optical illusion makes Heathery Hill look 20m higher than Jarney Knowes, but it's only 3m higher. It works in the opposite direction too, making Jarney look higher) and also dumped the pack at the wall to get to the top of Corridow Hill.

Robbed cairn on top of Jarney Knowe.jpg
Robbed cairn at the top of Jarney Knowe. It made a good wee shelter for the stove though.

The top of Shiel Hill, a high tussock count.jpg
The top of Shiel Hill, with high tussockosity

The clouds roll away, revealing Welltrees Tappin.jpg
The clouds roll away, revealing Welltrees Tappin

Welltrees Tappin, a forbidden top.jpg
Welltrees Tappin, a top the farmer clearly wants no-one to get to

As I walked along here I was beginning to suspect my waterproofs of having ceased being waterproof. It is always disappointing, and a little bit chilly, when you make this discovery. Even more disappointing when know you still have a wet day ahead of you tomorrow. Still, I was staying in a pub in Sanquhar, so at least I could get dry overnight.

A wee bit past Welltrees Tappin I cut the corner to the Southern Upland way. I have to say it doesn't look hugely well walked in this section, but it is there and meant a slight increase in pace, starting on the long descent to Sanquhar.

A first glimpse of Sanquhar down the Southern Upland Way.jpg
A first glimpse of Sanquhar down the Southern Upland Way

I had a bit of a revelation on the way down the hill - the first clear spiritual lesson of the walk. In my morning prayer I'd read the story of "the man of God from Judah" who was sent to the northern kingdom of Israel with a message for the king. He successfully delivered the message and was heading home, under strict instructions from God to not stop for anything. He was waylaid by an old prophet who said, untruthfully, that he'd had a message from God to give the man of God from Judah a meal before heading home. He turned aside, only for the old prophet then to receive a real message from God that the man would therefore be killed on the road. And so, on the way home, the man of God from Judah was killed by a lion. It always seemed a bit harsh to me, nearly as harsh as not actually being given a name either.

On my walk down this hill, I was once again confronted by a large bull and lots of his ladies. He seemed to be standing right on the path ahead of me. I stopped and prayed, asking God whether I should carry on on the path or make a km diversion over to the other side of a stream. I expected to feel that I should do the diversion, but instead felt that the answer was to carry straight on. Slightly wary, but feeling I should at least give that answer a go I carried on the path. The bull disappeared over the horizon but I felt I must be getting quite close to him. At that point I spotted another little path which would take me round where I'd last seen the bull and so took it. As I came back over the crest of the rise, the bull appeared, now standing straight in front of my new path. He'd moved. If I'd stayed on the path, as I felt God tell me, I'd've avoided him completely. In fact I wouldn't even have seen him again. Luckily, I didn't get eaten by a lion because I'd decided I knew better than God, or even chased by a bull, as I made my way hurriedly back to the path I was meant to be on. The lesson? If I've heard something from God, don't divert from the path.

These pilgrimages do work after all :) .

Otherwise, the path to Sanquhar reminded me of why this area always seemed so barren to me when I was young. The long slope of low gradient and few features apart from bog and the odd splodge of thick forestry. Thankfully, there are signs of life here and elsewhere in the area. Coal mining, the last big local industry, may be mostly gone but there's clearly pride in the heritage of this area. The sign of this on this hillside is the native woodland plantation around the stream. A greater diversity of plant and wildlife would make a huge difference to this area. Better that than wind farms which threaten to cover most of SW Scotland.

Encouraging native woodland planting.jpg
An encouraging patch of native woodland planting

I was tired and damp and glad to get to the Glendyne Hotel and get warm and washed. It's cheap and basic, but comfortable. They didn't do food on a Wednesday, but the Chinese is next door and they let me sit in the bar and eat it, accompanied by a pint. A good end to a long day.