This circuit developed out of doing a stretch of the SUW near Sanquhar to join up bits we’d done on two previous walks, with a loop added to go through Mennock. It had the advantage of walking through parts that I had previously only driven through, and that’s no way to appreciate stuff or stop to read information signs.
So we parked beside the Nith at Blackaddie Bridge. As we’ve had twice our average rainfall this May you won’t be surprised to hear that the Nith was in full flow and looked great. We wandered up to the High Street and the Tollbooth. This is a perfect example of how 18th Century road-planners failed to anticipate modern road usage 1: the building juts out so much it brings the A76 down to one lane on a blind-corner to boot. Further along the High Street is the oldest Post Office in the world and still doing a roaring trade 2. The path then leaves the town up the Coo-Wynd where townsfolk used to herd their cattle and then a grassy lane onto the common riding land. You quickly get a nice view back into Upper Nithsdale and the oncoming showers that were to hit us periodically during the day.
We are heading for Cogshead where we join the path coming over from Wanlockhead. This is typical SUW moorland walking with lots of squelchy bits. Near the col we came across something that shows good and bad in one picture. At the top some kind soul has put a nice bench to let you catch your breath and admire the view. Unfortunately right next to it was a big heap of rusting old fencing. I hate this stuff: not only is it unsightly but it’s dangerous – a great place for animals to get caught and meet a slow end.
After Cogshead we double back a bit before going down the Shiel Burn heading for the track at Brandleys farm. This is sheep country so matey was on her lead. She wasn’t pleased about this and did a little rain-dance which promptly brought on a hail shower – and hail is stinging if you are in shorts! The track continues down into a lovely oak wood that gets better as you reach the start of the Mennock Pass. Here we were treated to warm sunshine, lots of bird-song and even a couple of my favourite butterflies, Small Copper. Unfortunately we had to endure a mile or so along the B797 and its convoys of camper vans. However, after we cross under the A76 things at Mennock start to quickly improve. Firstly there was a nice rabbit warren that demanded Jazz’s close inspection. Then we have a lovely walk along the banks of the Nith. Just as we get to Eliock Bridge the next heavy shower came along. We decided that sheltering under some trees near the bridge would be a good plan: it turned out to be an excellent plan.
Under the trees we found a bench from Upper Nithsdale anglers to commemorate club member Robert Gibson. It is a lovely spot overlooking the river and was alive with birds: squadrons of Hirundines and Grey Wagtails were feeding over the water; a female Goosander and three young paddled against the current 3, and a Common Sandpiper flew upstream. It was so good I didn’t notice that the shower had passed. Just as we were about to leave, our first Spotted Flycatcher of the year landed on a branch beside us and started feeding too. So our thanks went to the anglers and Mr Gibson.
The rest of the walk was along very quiet back-roads on the south of the Nith. This gives a good view over the valley to the hills on the north side that we’ve walked. Towards the end we cross over the Euchan Water. We came along here in February and I thought it would be a good place to re-visit in Spring. As Jazz had been on the lead for a lot the day she would appreciate going feral for a bit here, so we did a km or so along the Euchan. It certainly was worth re-visiting: it was incredibly verdant and the smell of wild garlic was useful in masking Spaniel-odour.
This was a good day out with nice variety: historical town, moorland, woodland and river. I’ll certainly be doing it again but without the boring bit over hill: instead, at Bogg farm take the signed public path over Auchentaggert Moor.
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