Today I plan to walk up the River Cree from Creetown, cross over the bridge at Newton Stewart, and continue down the other side of the river to Wigtown. I have a complicated travel plan that involves two buses… but… it’s raining.
What a miserable day! I decide to walk under the shelter of my big green umbrella.
I head out of Creetown along its access road. Yet again, my route won’t follow the shoreline very closely. Below me are green fields, the busy A75, an area of marsh, and the River Cree in the distance.
Although my road is quiet, I’m splattered with spray every time a car goes past, so I’m glad to spot the point where I can head off to the right along a cycle route. This should take me all the way to Newton Stewart.
The great thing about carrying an umbrella is it means I can use my camera despite the rain. Bit awkward, of course, holding the umbrella with one hand and working the camera with the other, but better than having no photographs at all!
It’s a pleasant walk, despite the weather.
Over on the other side of the river the sun seems to be shining. Typical! Wish I was over there.
The cycle route follows the ridge of an old railway line. On either side are farms and fields. ‘Warning’ says a sign. ‘Gates will be opened after stock has been moved.’
Stock? Uh-oh. That means cows. Sure enough, ahead I see two gates, about 10 feet apart, and a cow is standing stubbornly between them. But there is nowhere else to go. No other way round.
Unfortunately, I realise, I will need to shut the first gate before I open the second gate. This will give me an awkward few moments when I am very vulnerable – penned in with the cow – and with no easy escape route if the cow decides to turn nasty.
Another coastal walker, Ju (aka The Helpful Mammal), once advised me not to look directly at cows because they can interpret direct eye-contact as a threat.
It takes every effort of will to open and then close the first gate, and approach the bolt for the second gate – which is exactly three feet away from where the cow is standing – without once glancing at the beast.
Once safely on the other side of the second gate, I look back. Crikey! The cow had two little calves with her. If I’d known that… well, perhaps it was better not to have known.
The cows in the neighbouring field take an interest in my walk. In fact, they join me as a bizarre bovine convoy, for a few hundred feet.
Cows are crazy beasts. I’ll never understand them.
I’m following Cycle Route number 7. My husband joined me on my trek recently – although he goes cycling while I walk – and he told me he cycled along here. “It’s lovely. You’ll enjoy it,” he said. Funny he didn’t mention the cows…
The route runs through a strip of woodland. Disappointingly, given Scotland’s famous Right to Roam policy, not only is there a strand of barbed wire running along the top of the fencing, but there is also a strand of electric wire too. Why? To keep out marauding cyclists?
On the other side of the fence, in the ‘forbidden’ woodland, is a lovely carpet of bluebells.
After a few miles, the cycle route crosses a quiet lane, and continues on the other side as a narrow road…
…that passes under the remains of an old railway viaduct. The brick pillars still stand, pointlessly, on either side, but the overhead arch no longer exists.
I’ve walked off the edge of my current OS Explorer map, and now I’m reliant on my husband’s less-detailed Landranger map. I think of him as I follow a quiet lane through pretty countryside. He must have cycled along here too.
I pass a field of heifers, and they all come charging down the slope to greet me. Why am I such a cow-magnet today?!
I guess they’re hoping I’ve brought them food, because they’ve probably been fed by the farmer all over the winter. Tough luck, ladies. You must find your own food now. It’s called ‘grass’ and its the green stuff all around you.
I’m on the edge of a forested area where there are plenty of cycling routes for mountain bikes. Ahead, at another crossroads, I spot the first car I’ve seen for a long time. It’s carrying a rack of cycles on its roof.
Because I’ve been thinking a lot about cattle, when I see a ‘FOR SALE’ sign, I assume the place is a farm and they’re selling beef. Or, maybe, milk? Or cheese? Or… perhaps they’re actually selling cows?
As I get nearer, I realise it’s the house that’s for sale. The local estate agents have chosen, somewhat misleadingly I think, to use a picture of two cows on their display boards!
I pass through Stronord and past an Outdoor Education Centre. That usually means noisy school trips full of over-excited kids, but I don’t see anybody around.
I follow the road up into the forest. Ahead is a car park, and I meet several groups of strollers and a few dog walkers.
After a while, my forest road descends a very, very steep hill – (I think of the poor cyclists) – at the bottom of which is a wider road, and a small cluster of houses.
I join a minor road, and see the A75 ahead. For one moment I think I’m going to have to walk alongside heavy traffic after all. But the cycle way veers off to one side. Whew!
It runs parallel to the main road, screened from the traffic by bushes…
…and then I cross over a roundabout and see Newton Stewart ahead. The cycle way becomes a wide pavement.
‘Sorry, excuse me,’ says a lovely Scottish voice, and a cyclist overtakes me. I realise, with some surprise, she’s actually the first cyclist I’ve met on the cycle route all day!
Newton Stewart is an attractive place, despite the dull light and the heavy skies. I stop on the bridge to take photographs of the town.
On the other side of the bridge is a small park. I decide to sit down on a bench and have a rest while I consider what to do next.
As soon as I sit down it begins raining again – a constant, heavy barrage of drops – and I shelter under my umbrella. At least, with my umbrella protecting my camera, I can take a good photo looking back at the bridge.
My original plan was to pick up my car and drive further down the road to park in Wigtown. From there I would catch a bus back here, to Newton Stewart, and then spend the afternoon walking the 7-8 miles back to my car.
Check my watch. Yes, I could make it. In fact, there’s plenty of time to catch the bus, as long as I get a move on. But it’s still raining relentlessly. Perhaps it will stop soon?
I sit huddled under my umbrella and stare at a padlock that a romantic couple have attached to one of the park railings. It looks rather lonely on its own.
After a while, I realise I’m beginning to shiver, and I’ve procrastinated for so long it’s now too late to catch the bus. Never mind. I’ll go and find a nice, dry café in Newton Stewart and order a hot, cooked lunch instead.
Walked today = 8 miles
Total around coastline of Britain =3,232 miles