Monday, July 02, 2012

Walk 298 -- New Abbey to Dumfries

Ages:  Colin was 70 years and 55 days.  Rosemary was 67 years and 198 days.
Weather:  Wet!  I carried my camera in a poly-bag, but didn’t take many photos.
Location:  New Abbey to Dumfries.
Distance:  10 miles.
Total distance:  3016 miles.
Terrain:  Path over fields and through woods — a bit overgrown but still lovely!  Track, then roads which became busier as the Walk progressed.  Mostly flat.
Tide:  Going out.
Rivers:  No.363, New Abbey Pow.  No.364, Cargen Pow.  No.365, River Nith.
Ferries:  None.
Piers:  None.
Kissing gates:  Nos.332, 333, 334 & 335 on the first part of the Walk, near New Abbey.
Pubs:  None.
‘Historic Scotland’ properties:  None.
Ferris wheels:  None.
Diversions:  None.
How we got there and back:  We were staying in our caravan in Dalbeattie.  This morning we drove to Dumfries and parked by the footbridge, the first crossing point on the River Nith.  Then we walked a mile up the riverside to the bus station where we caught a bus to New Abbey.
At the end we came to the footbridge in Dumfries.  We crossed over it to complete the Walk, then crossed back to the car.  From there we drove straight back to Dalbeattie for our tea and biscuits in the caravan.

I didn’t sleep very well the night after the last Walk.  It seemed the ‘Compeed’ I put on my heel, which is supposed to heal it, had inflamed the skin all around the plaster whereas the blister itself was healing nicely!  My whole heel was extremely sore, so in the morning I took all the dressings off and exposed it to the air all day.  When we went out I put a dry gauze over it temporarily, and took it off as soon as we got back.  Colin fiddled with my boot again and made it even more smooth inside.  Last night I had difficulty sleeping again because the pain was making me feel nauseous.  In the middle of the night I suddenly thought of ‘Sudocrem’ which I haven’t used for years.  (I remembered how effective it had been for my babies’ nappy rash.)  I knew I had an old tube at the bottom of my first aid bag. So I fished it out and smothered my heel in it.  I was amazed at its immediate effect, despite the fact it was years old!  I slept much better after that.    This blister is making me feel miserable, but I am determined to carry on with the walking.
The rain hardly let up all day, so we took only a few photos.  We started the Walk by crossing a cemetery next to the abbey.  A lorry with a digger on the back of it arrived and we wondered if they’d come to dig a new grave — don’t they dig graves with a spade anymore?
A gate at the other side led into a field with cows.  The grass was quite long and very wet, I was glad I was wearing overtrousers.  In fact my overtrousers had been quite muddy before we began this Walk, but swishing through the undergrowth cleaned them nicely for me!  The footpath took us alongside a small river, New Abbey Pow, and we soon crossed it on a bright red footbridge.  The water was running fast underneath, we have had deluges of rain recently.
We walked along a track past a farm.  We were talking, and I suddenly panicked because I thought we must have passed the turn-off and were walking too far in the wrong direction.  But we hadn’t, for when we looked carefully we saw a kissing gate and a footpath sign hidden behind huge undergrowth.
We crossed more fields, another footbridge over a tributary of the same river and entered a wood.  It was a lovely path despite the rain.  It was not so wet under the trees because the rain was of the misty type, hung in the air.  So we took the opportunity to sit on a mossy rock to eat our pies.  We continued through fields and woods next to the river all the way to Airds Point on the estuary of the River Nith.  There were boardwalks where it was exceptionally boggy, so we didn’t sink into the marshy ground at any point.
Occasionally we caught glimpses of the river through the trees.  This section was the most enjoyable of the whole Walk.  One tree branch had fallen low over the path, so we limboed underneath and carried on (she lies)!
We rounded the corner at Airds Point and thought we had come to the gasworks!  But we soon realised they were water storage containers.  A notice on a wall warned us “Post Tensioned Structure   NO CUTTING or DRILLING or FIXING to reservoir structure without prior approval of Scottish Water   OK then, we won’t.

Out in the estuary we could see two oystercatchers resting on posts like guardian angels.  Looking north we could see the estuary narrowing into a river as it neared Dumfries.

We followed a straight track northwards for the next one and a half miles.  It was officially along the estuary shore, but trees have grown up so much we only caught occasional glimpses of the water.  It was a bit boring really, except for the foxgloves.  After we had emerged from the trees there were hosts of them in full flower up the hill to our left.  A glorious sight!
The track came to an end, and we tried to turn right.  But the track marked on our brand new OS map didn’t seem to exist!  (This has happened so many times in Scotland we shall be glad to get back into England!)  The cottage on that corner looked as if it was being done up while the owners live in a caravan in the garden.
We had to turn left, then right on to a tarmacked lane, we had no choice.  This lane was lined with oak trees, and we soon realised that it was originally an avenue leading to a manor house.  We were marching alongside a woodland nature reserve where we would rather have been walking, but we couldn’t find a way in until we were almost past it.  Having beaten down the nettles, we sat on the low wall which lined the avenue to eat our sarnies and apples.  It was not so wet under the trees.
We came to the main road where we donned our bright yellow waistcoats.  It was more than three miles to Dumfries, and this was the only route we could walk from now on.  Yuk!
After two hundred yards we came to an octagonal house — was it an old toll house or a lodge to a country estate?  It looked too new to be either, but perhaps it had been recently done up.  Outside was a notice pointing to a café.  In view of the rain and the three miles of road we still had to walk, we really fancied a cup of tea.  Foolishly we thought the café was just there, if not in the octagonal house then very near it, not half a mile up a hill as we subsequently found out.  We should have looked more closely at the map, but we didn’t because it was tucked away in Colin’s rucksack out of the rain.
We started up a driveway which reminded me of the driveway to my childhood school, Farnborough Hill in Hampshire.  The convent school where I was educated (and incidentally was very unhappy throughout my school life because I didn’t ‘fit in’) was housed in a palace!  It had been bought and extended, at great cost, by the exiled Empress Eugénie of France, the widow of Napoléon III.  When she died, the property was bought by the nuns and turned into a girls’ school.  The palace was on a hill, and there were two driveways leading up from the road.  The ‘front’ drive was lined with rhododendrons and azaleas which were a riot of colour each May and June.  Walking up this driveway in Scotland, I had a distinct feeling of déjà vu! 
We seemed to be climbing for ages and not getting anywhere.  So we asked a man who was walking down with his dog how much further it was to the café.  “Oh!  Don’t go there!”  he answered, “It’s full of sweaty bikers, the woman who runs it is bad-tempered and she runs out of milk!”  He then admitted that this was not his experience because he had never been in there, it was a friend who had described it thus.  He tried to persuade us to go to the “hotel” because it is “not expensive and much more comfortable”.  Yes, but I would have to take my boots off, and with all my foot problems I’d never get them on again.  We carried on, then realised he still hadn’t told us how much further it was.  At last we reached a car park, but there was no sign of the café.  I went one way, Colin went the other round in a circle, and when we met up neither of us had found the café — or the hotel for that matter!  Then we realised it was up a different path tucked behind some trees.
It was called “The Bicycle Shed”.  We had steaming hot mugs of tea at very reasonable prices, the lady who served us was charming, and she had plenty of milk.  What’s more, there were no sweaty bikers, just two sweaty hikers — us!  Definitely our sort of place.

Suitably refreshed, we returned downhill to the road and trudged on northwards.  We came to the hamlet of Islesteps where I thought I’d take off my wet-weather gear because the rain had eased and I was hot.  We came to a bus shelter (Delight!) but there was no seat in it (Whaa-aa-ah!)  We continued round a corner and sat on the wall of a bridge to eat our chocolate.  The rain increased, so we left our gear on.
As we approached Dumfries we were passed by a group of people walking the other way.  We were careful not to turn off the main road too soon because we have been caught in dead-end housing estates before.  Eventually we came to a footpath notice which directed us to the playing fields and river walk where we had parked.  So we walked through the estates and across the playing fields — where we met that same group of people walking the other way!  They must have cut through an earlier estate on a path which wasn’t on our map — again!
Our car was parked very near the first bridge on the River Nith, a footbridge.  We were amused to find a ‘mobility impaired rest area’ at each end of the bridge.  Having just walked ten miles in the rain, we felt we were quite mobility impaired, but where was the seat?  We crossed over the bridge to finish the Walk on the other side.

That ended Walk no.298, we shall pick up Walk no.299 next time by the footbridge to the south of Dumfries.  It was ten to five, so the Walk had taken us seven and a quarter hours.  We crossed back to the car, and then drove straight back to Dalbeattie for our tea and biscuits in the caravan.  This morning we had walked a mile upstream alongside the river into Dumfries in order to catch the bus near the first road bridge across the river.  The blister on my foot is healing — hooray!  hooray!
The next day we packed up our caravan in Dalbeattie and towed it to Powfoot, to a caravan site right on the ‘beach’ of the Solway Firth.  (Not much of a beach because it was well into the estuary.)  We didn’t much like this site, as it turned out.  It pretended it was posh with prices to match, but it wasn’t really.  We were pitched on grass which was not well drained and really muddy in places.  Showers were extra, £1 a time, so we both decided to wait until we got to Carlisle.  We were parked next to a field full of donkeys, alpacas and emus.  The owner kept trying to sell us a static caravan on the site — he was such a nuisance with his sales talk that in the end I took all the brochures he had foisted on us back to reception and said. “Leave us alone!”  We were really glad to leave after four nights there.

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