Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A race against the tide at Corbies Cove.

As we left Murray's Isles the temperature had risen noticeably and there was a line of blue sky approaching from the south.

 We were paddle sailing for Ravenshall Point on the NE shore of Wigtown Bay.

 As we crossed Fleet Bay we became rather warm in our dry suits so...

 ...we were on the lookout for somewhere to land and change into something cooler. The coast here is seldom visited but the main A75 road runs along a raised beach at the the top of the cliffs.

 We found a little gap in the rocks at Corbies Cove where a burn tumbled down from the cliffs above,

 The beach was disappearing fast in the Solway flood tide so it was a race to get changed. The water was literally lapping round our feet as we got changed.

This was another stunningly beautiful spot. It seemed a long way back to Ringdoo and Borness Points which were just visible on the horizon and which we had rounded the previous evening. The sky was now almost completely clear and despite being mid October it was getting hot!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A room with a view on Murray's Isles and anomalous petrol pumps.

 As we prepared to leave Barlocco beach the sky clouded over and there was a chill wind from the north. We decided to set off in our dry suits.

Having failed to circumnavigate Barlocco Isle the previous evening we set off to do so now. We literally floated over the route of our tough portage!

 The reefs of Barlocco Isle are a great place to explore as long as there is no swell.

 The sharp fangs of rock could easily puncture a kayak. From the channels of Barlocco we set off for...

 ...wooded Ardwall Isle with its former farm house hiding on the seaward side. The isle was once home to a well known smuggling family.

 From Ardwall Isle we set off across the channel to the Murray's Isles.

The flood spring tide was running and we had to set a surprisingly high ferry angle to maintain the transit of the white farm house above the gap in the reef.

The Murrays Isles are named after Mr James Murray of Cally. He was one of the drivers of the development of Gatehouse of Fleet in the 18th century. A descendant of his, Mrs Elizabeth Murray Usher bequeathed the isles to the National Trust of Scotland following her death in 1990. Mrs Murray Usher was the main landowner in the area and she had rather fixed ideas of how Gatehouse of Fleet should look. In the mid 20th century there were two petrol stations in Gatehouse, one at either end of the town. The Esso station with its red and white livery was the first. To get planning permission from Mrs Murray Usher for the second, Shell petrol station, it also had to paint its pumps red and white as well so that it did not clash. It was the only Shell petrol station in Britain that did not have yellow and white pumps!

We landed in a little cove on the SW side of the larger island and made our way up over very tussocky ground to the...

 ...lichen covered ruins of a cottage. The house has an interesting history. It was built at the same time that the canal was cut from the head of the Fleet estuary to the town of Gatehouse and Port Macadam was built.  The house was for the pilot who escorted ships up the Fleet.

It was customary in exposed locations, it was built with its gable facing the prevailing wind and the open sea. Unusually it had a window in the gable so that the pilot could keep a lookout for ships. The house was also used as an inn for sailors from ships waiting for the tide. The pilot was also the guardian of the Fleet Bay oyster beds. He also had a part time job as customs officer as smuggling was rife on this coast.

I do not normally land here in spring and early summer as the island is a breeding site used by herring gulls, lesser black backed gulls and cormorants.

It is the biggest cormorant colony in the Solway Firth. Once the birds have gone the...

 ...grasses and flowers grow profusely being well fertilised by the bird's guano.

We made our way back to the beach where we discovered a split piece of Silurian sandstone that appeared to have a fossil in it.

The little cove was sheltered from the wind so we settled down to a well deserved second breakfast.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Fiery matters at a Barlocco dawn.

 Dawn over Barlocco proved to be more than a match for the previous evenings sunset. It was as if...

 ...our fire from the previous evening had some how set the clouds alight.

 Before the first sun of the day fell on our beach...

 ...the Galloway Hills of Cairnharrow, Ben John and Mill Knock were illuminated in beautiful red light.

 We went down to the boats to collect our breakfast things as the sun slowly but steadily...

 ...dropped towards sea level, lighting successive layers of the land and seascape as it did so.

 There was not much sign of life at the caravan site across the bay as...

 ...we warmed ourselves by the embers and warm stones of the previous night's super fire. Note that the large round log which formed the back of our fire has completely disappeared! This year has been a good year for fires. We are not just talking size but also about heat output. Crispy trouser bottoms are a sign of a good fire but are not in themselves a measure of how good a fire is. However, we now have a rough scale to judge future fires by: ten Inchmarnocks (Ix) make one Cara (Cx) and ten Caras make one Barlocco (Bx). It might be some time till we have another Barlocco (Bx)! A key feature of this fire had been Ian's large log fireback which acted both as a reflector and a generator of heat..

In the background we saw the tide was coming in but we were in no rush to carry the boats far. So Mike toasted his toes by the embers and Ian went hunting for shells.

Jennifer had found a groatie buckie (cowrie) on this beach and given it to me for my 60th birthday. Ian did his best to spot one but there were none to be found.

I went looking for lichens to photograph and gradually the tide came up to the boats...

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The folly of not bringing a trolley to Barlocco.

 Well laden with wood, we paddled out of Castle Haven under...

 ...the watchful yellow eye of the local heron.

 The sun was sinking fast, almost as fast as the sea level and...

 ...despite our best efforts the bar which connects Barlocco Isle to the mainland had dried. Our destination at Barlocco beach (the one with the fort folly) was 320m away on the other side. We could paddle 2.5km round Barlocco but the carry would still be 250m. A trolley would have been most beneficial but as I already knew there was little fire wood on the beaches, I had advised Ian and Mike to leave the trolleys and bring wood instead. In retrospect we should have brought one trolley and only two of us should have brought logs.

Anyway the retrospectoscope is a very powerful instrument so we had no choice but to get on with it. We left our bags of wood at the bar and carried the three kayaks up the beach. That was 1km of walking and 1km of carrying! We discovered that burning logs is not the only way to get warm. We just managed to beat...

 ...the sunset which was truly magnificent.

 The Solway skies really are wonderful whatever time of day...

...but this sunset was something special to behold.

My knees were absolutely killing me after the carry so I dropped my things and set up my tent just at the top of the beach beside the folly. The ground was not exactly level but my knees were done and I didn't care.

Ian and Mike found a much better camp site just 150m further on. Ian then very generously went back to recover the logs during the best bit of the sunset. I was particularly pleased about this as I just could not face a fourth trip back down the beach and back.

 While Ian was doing this I took some more photos with...

 ...his camera so that he would not miss out on photographs to help remember the wonderful Solway sunset by.

On his travels Ian had also found two very large logs which he rolled into place. One provided a back for the fire the other provided a seat. I used one of our ignition aids (bag of barbeque coals) and got the fire going with one match.

 As the giant star Arcturus slowly set in the west behind the Sun, we roasted sweet potatoes and Ian rushed off to replenish the supplies of Jura, which had run perilously low. My knees began to feel better and we chatted long into the night. On the far side of Wigton Bay the lights of the Machar's villages twinkled as meteors streaked and satellites cruised through the myriad of stars in the Milky Way above.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

The sound of heavy guns and a mushroom cloud rising over the Solway.

As we turned to the west we left Little Ross Island and the sound of heavy gunfire at the Dundrennan Range far behind.

The dramatic cliffs, stacks and skerries of this stretch of coast make an amazing contrast to the sheltered wooded coastline, which we had just left in Kirkcudbright Bay.

 We were now sheltered from the north wind and the sun on the rocks made it feel almost balmy...

...though in the shade of the narrow passages it was already very cold. We came across...

...this lion rampant mimetolith as we emerged into the sunlight again.

More gunfire from the range accompanied our return to the open sea. Even though we were now some distance away, the reverberations of some particularly heavy rounds shook the channel walls and our chests.

Once clear of the cliffs at Fauldbog Bay we looked back to discover a huge mushroom cloud. What on earth were they firing?

 Beyond the boundaries of Brighouse Bay the breach... the cliffs ended and the rocks reared up again.

  The wind swung round to the east and we benefited as it was no longer being broken up by the cliffs.

The wind assistance was most welcome as...

 ...we still had a long...

 ...long way to go. Once round Ringdoo Point we made for...

 ...Castle Haven Bay where we had left a stash of firewood.

The tide was dropping and the day was fading fast as we paddled into the bay. Our stash of firewood was actually a wooden pallet and we did not have long to demolish it. Ian broke the main timbers with a boulder before tackling the smaller pieces with a saw. I removed the nails so that they would not puncture our dry bags, which we attached to our back decks. The whole operation had taken just over 15 minutes but the bay had rapidly emptied. We really needed to press on. An 8m tide in the Solway goes out a long way...