I catch the bus from Dumfries to Glencaple and it drops me off in the car park. Criffel looms across the river, dark and sullen.
The day is as dull as yesterday. Maybe duller. What a shame. All my photographs turn out looking muddy.
I’m following the River Nith up to Dumfries and the nearest crossing point over the water. An information board tells me this is one of the prettiest river valleys in Scotland. I’ll have to take their word for it. Today it just looks grey and boring.
One of Dumfries and Galloway’s Core Paths runs along the bank, so I’m anticipating an easy walk. I follow clear signposts. and cross over watery obstructions via neat little bridges. A good start.
I meet an elderly man with an even older dog. He tells me he’s 18 years old (the dog – not the man!)
Otherwise I have the bank to myself. There is evidence of recent floods, or maybe high tides, with damaged vegetation lying across the path.
The bridges have little logos attached. ‘Dumfries and Galloway Council. RANGER SERVICE’. I guess they’re responsible for the installation of the bridges and maintenance of the path.
Geese are using the river as a motorway, flying up and down in noisy, straggling lines. Some fly high, others prefer to stick close to the water.
I pass some fishing nets set out on stands along the bank. These are nets attached to static poles and are used to catch fish as the tide, or river current, drags them into the trap.
The bank is constantly interrupted by little streams and drains, all flowing into the main River Nith. Luckily, there are bridges to take me across. The next bridge I come to is a large one, and has a mess of driftwood piled up beside it.
I see a motorbike helmet stuck on a pole. Presumably it was washed up by the river? I wonder what happened to the rider. Did he/she fall in? Or did they just lose their helmet by leaving it carelessly on a bank somewhere?
I’m so busy musing about the helmet, I fail to notice the damaged bridge ahead. Until I’m up close and see the red and white tapes, and the sign. ‘CAUTION. Path Closed.’
The bridge has been damaged because the bank on the other side is collapsing. The notice advises me ‘to find an alternative route’. Easier said than done. Does that mean I have to go back and find the road?
My heart sinks at the thought of more road walking.
I take a closer look at the other side of the bridge. Yes, I can see where the bank is subsiding, and the concrete base supporting the wooden bridge is leaning at an odd angle. Looks like the whole thing might fall into the water at any moment.
But… the bridge is still standing. And I don’t weigh very much. (Ahem, maybe some wishful thinking here!). This little stream isn’t very deep, even if I do fall in, although my electronic equipment would be damaged, wouldn’t it? My camera, my phone, maybe my Garmin… but do I REALLY don’t want to back track and find a way up to the road?
So I climb over the tape, inch my way along the bridge – survive the crossing – and then nearly fall into the river as I climb over the tape on the other side.
Whew. Made it. I feel wickedly naughty and wildly triumphant at the same time. A little problem like a broken bridge isn’t going to stop me!
Then I look along the bank and wonder if I’ve made a big mistake. The path is indistinct along a narrow, crumbling strip of grassland.
Oh well, too late now. Onwards.
Sometimes I have to scramble over driftwood. Other times I have to watch my step on a badly eroded bank. I’m reassured to see the occasional footprint on the path – I’m not the only idiot who has decided to walk this way.
I pass another discarded helmet stuck on a pole. This one is belongs to a child, a push-bike rider. Must be a girl, because it’s pink.
Further along and the path improves. I find signposts, including one telling me the path I’ve just walked along is closed. The river narrows.
I reach Kingholm Quay. A mess of building materials obscures the footpath, including a slowly churning cement mixer. I don’t see any workmen.
I pick my way through. Kingholm Quay is an odd place. A mix of derelict buildings, houseboats, and pleasure craft. No pub or café though. Shame.
Beyond Kingholm Quay, I meet strollers and dog walkers. There is an easy concrete path which runs for a couple of miles…
…and takes me into Dumfries. The riverside area had been newly landscaped to form a very attractive park. Dock Park.
Here I end my walk. It’s only been short, because I’m travelling down to Manchester today to meet up with my family for the weekend. I’ll be back soon…
Miles walked today = 6 miles (none of it actually on the coast!)
Total miles around UK = 3,091.5 miles