Monday, 17 August 2009

One Man Down...

Unfortunately the heavy rain in the night resulted in a muddy field for the boys which in turn resulted in a lost shoe for Yeoman. His shoes were already holding on merely through force of habit - a farrier booked for a couple of days' time, but what to do now? Rather amazingly, there is a farrier who lives nearby in the forest (!) but attempts to contact her came to nought, so Yeoman was trailered back to Straiton by the amazing Colin and I rode Doogs instead.

Today's route took us through Galloway Forest Park. The overnight rain meant that the colours and scents were really intense as we rode through the forest, past Lochs Bradan and Riecawr to Loch Doon. Doogs was most intrigued by a charming kids'adventure playground on the shores of Loch Riecawr! We were following a route called, appropriately enough, Forest Drive - good footing for the ponies and lovely riding.

Loch Doon (or Loch Doom as the predictive text on my phone insisted) is very scenic, but suffers from two things: good road access and a proximity to some ex-mining areas, now with lots of social deprivation. These twin factors have resulted in a major littering problem, as the yoofs hold frequent lager parties down by the shore.

The problem is being addressed by the Dalmellington partnership created by local people and agencies, which has at least stopped the frequent burning-out of caravans etc. I was shocked by the amount of litter (abandoned tents and bedding, lager tins etc) but was told by the farmers that this is a 100% improvement on years gone by. What a pity, since it is a stunningly scenic area. Don't know quite what the answer is - education I suppose (or hanging). The 'banks and braes o' bonnie Doon' are rather challenged right now. Camping overnight, we could hear a party going on nearby (but we weren't invited).

We stopped to look at the 13th century Loch Doon Castle on the shore: (a ruin) - interesting architecturally as it is 11 sided; rubble built at the bottom, then dressed stone, then rubble. It was moved to its present position, stone by stone, from its original site when the loch was dammed in the 30s - amazing! Hard to imagine that happening today.

This was the first time on the trip we had come into proximity with an industrial area, and the next day we were to ride close to coal handling yards and an open cast mine. First, though, we visited Craigengillan estate, originally built for the Macadam family (as in tarmacadam) - now privately owned with much recent restoration, conservation and path work being done.

The stable block is a beautiful example of its type, now housing a local riding school and livery yard. Really good to see it having such a useful life these days.

Then over a lovely hill track and road to Straiton (and Yeoman). Here we had arranged to meet John Scott MSP who is also a local farmer, and who is a major supporter of World Horse Welfare. We had had some trouble over the previous week contacting one another to arrange a meeting place, due to lack of phone signal etc. Over coffee, I discovered I had practically ridden over his ground (when I crossed Beneraird)...if only we'd known....

Thoroughly enjoyed this section and huge thanks are due to Carol, Colin and the girls, who were great company and much help - thanks to you all.

Next challenge...over the sea to Arran!

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