My hubby is going home today. He drops me off at Fagra Mill, just south of Dundrennan, and drives away. I’m all alone on a tiny lane, and feel rather abandoned. Silly. I spend most of my time walking alone, and have no reason to feel lonely. Yes, very silly.
It’s a beautiful day. Onwards.
After a two-mile walk down to Burnfoot beach, I reach the barrier that marks the beginning of MOD land. It’s bank holiday Monday and, as I expected, the ranges are open to the public.
Burnfoot beach is somewhat underwhelming – a dirty spread of rough shingle, no sand.
The only other person here is a lady walking her dog on the shore. She tells me the ranges really are open, and I should climb up Netherlaw Hill to get a good view. I thank her for her advice, while thinking I have a long walk planned today and no intention of going out of my way to climb any unnecessary hills!
I turn inland, and pick up the track that leads into the ranges. It’s very pleasant, running through Netherlaw Wood.
I startle a deer… and the deer startles me. I’m used to the small deer you sometimes find in woodland in Lincolnshire, but these deer are big, and leap about. Anyway, by the time I’ve recovered from my surprise, and swing my camera up, the animal has bounded off into thicker cover.
MOD signs warn me this is a ‘Controlled Impact Area’. I have no idea what that means, but decide I better not try to follow the deer. Stick to the track.
The woods are lovely, but I’m pleased when the track joins a proper tarmac road, and I can head back towards the shore. The landscape opens out. Grass and gorse. There’s the sea!
A cyclist passes me. He’s the only civilian I meet on the ranges, despite the fact it’s a public holiday and you would expect this walk to be popular.
One of the warning signs has been used for target practice. Or, maybe, has been hit by accident. Anyway, it’s proof they really do use live ammunition in this area.
Further along, and a wooden gate appears to have taken several hits too.
Off the track, lying around on the grass, are rusty tanks and the remnants of other armoured vehicles. Reminds me of Lulworth Ranges, where similar hulks littered the landscape.
When I reach the shore, I’m overwhelmed by the wonderful view. The bay in front of me is Mullock Bay. Beyond, on the horizon, is a long finger of land. That must be ‘The Rhins’, with the Mull of Galloway at its tip.
I feel a thrill of achievement. The Mull of Galloway is the southernmost point of Scotland and, after I round that distant point, I will be heading north once more.
But I mustn’t get ahead of myself… I’ve still got these ranges to cross. My path follows a track across the valley.
I nearly stumble over two tiny lambs. They’re lying so still… at first I think they might be dead. Have they been shot?! Then one of them raises a sleepy head.
They both totter to their feet and stand looking at me. Strangely, they seem completely unafraid. I wonder if they’ve been hand reared?
Then their mother calls. She’s several hundred feet away but – and I always find this a remarkable thing about lambs – they immediately recognise her calls and set off across the field towards her.
I pass several ruined buildings. Mullock, says my map. Abandoned farm houses?
My track joins a road, and for a moment I’m not sure which way to go, until I spot a footpath sign lying in the hedge.
I turn right and make my way up the road, and then see a jeep coming towards me. I stand aside to let it pass, but it comes to a halt beside me. Oh, no! What have I done wrong? Perhaps the ranges are not really closed after all?
Two guys jump out. They’re in some sort of green uniform, although not a military one. They notice my anxiety.
‘Don’t worry. We’re only stopping here because we have to set up a target.’
‘Oh,’ I say. ‘I thought you were going to warn me I was about to be machine gunned or something.’
‘No, that’s tomorrow,’ they laugh.
‘OK. I’ll make sure I’m out of here by then.’
I follow the footpath signs and turn off to the left along another road. This one climbs a hill. The photo below makes it look tame, but it’s really pretty steep, and I soon get out of breath.
I stop for a rest at the top, and look back down at the road I’ve just left. There are the men and, yes, they really are setting up a target. It’s huge. How could you miss that?
Onwards. My road swings back towards the sea. Ahead is Kirkcudbright Bay, and a headland with a lighthouse. I check my map. Not a headland, an island. It’s called Little Ross.
A nearby flagpole reminds me I’m lucky to be able to walk across the ranges. But the red flag – which should warn if there was live firing – looks rather old and mouldy. I wonder if it ever gets used?
This section of the walk is a bit boring, to be honest. The road is straight, wide, and there is little interesting to see.
I’m coming to the end of the ranges, and much of the land here seems to be farmland. I startle another deer. It disappears into a wooded valley and I run along the road in the hope I will see it again when I get down into the dip, but there’s no sign of it.
I reach an empty guard-house. Presumably, when the ranges are in action, this would be manned to keep people away. ‘Gipsy Point’ says a sign nearby.
I peer into the guardhouse. It’s Spartan, with a portaloo out the back. (I smile as I remember the guardhouse in the Castlemartin ranges near Pembroke, which had been kitted out with a comfortable armchair and a TripAdvisor sticker!)
Now I’m out of the ranges, and follow the footpath signs down a road, walk past a building of unknown purpose…
… and then take a footpath down towards the sea. This is better. A proper grassy path. Nice woodland.
I come out into a wide open space. There’s the sea ahead. I should be able to follow the track to the shore, and then follow the coast all the way up the estuary to Kirkcudbright.
There’s one more MOD lookout point to walk past. This one is facing out across the sea, as the waters at the entrance to Kirkcudbright Bay also form part of the ‘Danger Zone’.
The lookout tower is empty, but I can’t help feeling I’m being watched, and I’m glad to get through the gate and – officially – leave the MOD land behind.
Once safely back in civilian territory, I sit down on a soft clump of grass and shrug off my rucksack. Time for lunch.
To be continued…