This circular walk takes in a section of the Southern Upland Way up to the Benbrack Striding Arch that we’d walked in the spring, and then a return along the Water of Ken – somewhere we’d explored doing the Alhang and Alwhat Hills in the summer. So it was interesting to go back here when the weather had turned a bit more wintry.
We parked at NX639917 where the SUW crosses the B729. The Way takes a track up through some sheep fields heading for forestry. This is a typical SUW path with lots of squelchy bits. However, when we escape from the trees at the bottom of Benbrack the snow was starting to get quite significant and made for easier walking. This was the first snow of the winter for Jazz and she flipped into mad mode. She likes rolling in it for no obvious reason: my current theory is her brain is over-heating from unexpected neuron firing and she is trying to cool it off. The interesting thing about climbing Benbrack was that I didn’t stop. Now I know this isn’t Annapurna but I always stop to catch my breath on every hill, so it was a real surprise to reach the top in one go. Never happened before. Could it be that at the end of the year I’m now getting a bit fit? Who knows, but I’m feeling smug as we stop for lunch at the top beside the Arch.
From the lack of tracks in the snow up here, we were the first visitors in a long time. The SUW is clearly not one you walk to meet the crowds. The Arch itself was even nicer in the snow with the neighbouring hills looking gorgeous. The snow even covered up the old construction material around the arch that annoyed me last time. Goodness knows what the next visitor will make of the tracks: one set of boots where a short-legged guy tries to deal with knee-deep snow; and then multiple, confused animal tracks and strange flattened areas where the beast rolled about. What sort of ritual was this?
We then headed down. Well, I headed down: my canine companion’s route looked like a textbook example of Brownian Motion 1. We were heading for Corlae on the road along the Water of Ken. We took the direct route: straight down through the dense conifer forest until we meet the forestry track that leads down to the road. The only problem was going into the dark forest from the blinding snow meant that I had to stand for a few minutes waiting for my eyes to get used to the gloom. And Jazz gets impatient: still, it’s marginally better having a mad spaniel trying to eat your gaiters than blindly stumbling about in dense forest eating branches. Once out of the trees we had lovely views over to hills to the north and west – past and future friends: Alhang and Alwhat, Cairnsmore of Carsphairn, and Beninner.
The walk back to the car is easy but a bit on the long side at 7km. However it was a lovely evening with a nice Moon rising and completely still and quiet with a lovely sunset. We met a couple of residents taking their evening constitutional and we paused to chat (the first people we’d seen all day so Jazz was keen to check them out for an evening snack). I said I thought the valley was a lovely spot and was told it was “damp and cold” – probably not something to mention when selling the place. Despite this lack of endorsement, the dog and I enjoyed the wander through the gloaming back to the car.
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- If you don’t know what this, you should have paid more attention to science at school rather than trying to flick paper at the attractive geeky guy in the front with his hand up. ↩
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