Moffat – Lochmaben (18 Miles)
The previous evening had seen an improvement in the weather and a new arrival at the campsite. A small backpacking tent had appeared near ours and it turned out to be a walker on the Southern Upland Way. Just to give an idea of how remote the SUW is, this was the first place that he had had any facilities for 5 days. As I write this I would imagine he still has another 5 days walking to reach the end. We had a touch too much porridge in the morning, so, although we had a fair distance to go, we invited him across to share since we had the stove going already. (Ulterior motive here – it would cut down our pack weights a little!).
Looking back towards Moffat at the SUW
Gear and Tent stowed we set off in fine fettle, making for the A701 which the way follows for half a mile or so. This little stretch out of Moffat is delightful, crossing fields with fine views to the South and East before reaching a gate into a quiet lane. This is quite an important junction, although there is nothing to indicate it, and it is where the Southern Upland Way and Annandale Way run together for around a mile. The two paths and the river cross the three generations of the A/M74. Firstly under the Motorway, then under the old dual carriageway bridge (now the A701), and finally across the river by the original incarnation just before turning right up Crooked Brae, a long and seemingly never-ending hill.
Near the top the routes part. Ours took us through one of the now familiar Annandale Way gates (the level of funding that has gone into the infrastructure is impressive – this really has been well thought out) and headed down an old drove road to meet some sheep who didn’t know whether to run or follow us. It really is quite surreal when a whole flock starts to follow you down the track. It’s only day two – the socks couldn’t smell that badly already?
Again the walking here is delightful – the path is easy to follow and the all round views are impressive, especially the size of the humongous Forest of Ae which dominates the hills to the West.
Eventually we reached a road that would run alongside Kinnel Water for a couple of miles, and where the road is unfenced is a potential wild camping spot. The ground was fairly dry and with the river not far away it made a nice little spot – if you don’t mind waking up with a sheep in the tent that is!
Soon we left the road to enter some more forest, this time on the other side of the river. The waymarking here again is a little dubious, but fortunately all roads lead to Rome meaning that even if you do guess wrong you should end up in the right place anyway. The choice is of a higher or lower route – the official route takes the low road (take the finger posts literally) but the views are probably better on the upper route for just a little more effort.
Again the waymarking baffles after entering a field – follow it literally or you could spend a bit of time wandering around aimlessly looking for the exit – a couple of waymarker posts wouldn’t go amiss occasionally. (For what its worth climb the field then follow the power lines to the gate in the far corner). This brought us out to the A701 (again) which is busy and fast, although there is a good line of sight along the road at the point at which you cross.
View from the old Drove Road
The walk can be split here , picking up a bus onto St Anns or back to Beattock. Our plan was to continue onto Lochmaben to a campsite there. We stopped for a good rest just here, enjoying the good weather that was now accompanying us – most of the time. The conditions had been very fickle – warm in the sun one minute and freezing when it hid behind a cloud the next. Occasionally rain clouds would pass overhead or close by, spattering us with rain but nothing too serious – often in the distance there was some poor sod getting it sore, but it wasn’t us today. That would wait for tomorrow.
After lunch and a good rest we were in for a shock. As a signpost approached, the route had been taped off warning “Forestry Operations – Authorised Personnel Only”. Most of the time I’m inclined to obey these instructions, but this was slightly different. Having no idea of what route the Way took and the only directional information being the waymarkers (the route is not yet on OS mapping) we had little choice other than to go through. No diversionary route was provided which at least could have helped.
Fortunately there was none of the usual racket which goes with intensive harvesting so we took the chance and went through. It was a mess – in fact a WWI trench would have been in better condition. The route had practically been destroyed by tracked vehicles (possibly one of these tree eating machines) leaving deep mud everywhere. To either side, no harvesting had taken place so with our full packs on it was a case of push through the trees and wade through mud. The worst of it didn’t last too long though and soon we were back on slightly more manageable ground, before eventually sighing relief when we hit the forest track proper.
I really hope that the path through here is reinstated properly before it is reopened.
Enough of the bad stuff. The walk through the remainder of the forest was very pleasant, and it wasn’t too long before we were out in open country – a very pastoral setting. One of the attractions of the walk up to this point is the constantly changing landscape – moorland to forest; forest to lowland pasture. Much is reminiscent of walks much further South. There are times that you could be on the North Downs Way or the Ridgway – even the Dales Way. This is probably the most enjoyable section – it’s…nice. Charming might be a better description.
Just before the Way reaches Lochbrow Moor there is an official alternative route, mainly for dog walkers. This avoids a dairy farm and again constitutes pretty good planning on the part of the development team. Once past this, the way runs up a Beech lined farm track. At the brow of the hill is a fantastic view over the flood plain of the Annan and beyond. Even the M74 looked nice in the sun!
Time was pressing on and eventually we reached the point at which the Annandale Way splits. There are two options – the first a lower level route mainly following the river via Lockerbie, and the other, (our choice) a slightly more upland route via Lochmaben. We rested here for a while, around three miles short of our destination, before setting off again. The sun was now dropping low in the sky giving the feeling of a late summer evening – wonderful.
Passing through a gate we walked along what looked like a newly created right of way for the path – it ran along the edge of a field in between wall and fence. I now have begun to think that horse riders are very selfish creatures. The path, which would have been very pleasant, had been churned up badly by horses hooves, leaving much of it a muddy 6ft wide mess. Utterly selfish with no regard to other users – this was not the last time we would encounter this. Inconsiderate….
Anyway, this just left us with a 2 mile or so road walk into Lochmaben, much of it along the B7020. While a nice walk, more time had to be spent keeping an eye on the fast-moving traffic than the scenery. The development of an alternative route here wouldn’t go amiss.
To end, the night was spent at the council Campsite in Lochmaben – the Kirk Loch site. Although small this is a cracking little site, mainly for its location right by the Loch, but also its basic but clean facilities (the showers were superb). Even better there is a pub within spitting distance of the campsite which does very good pub grub. All in all a great finish to the day.
Beech Lined Track at Lochbrow
Day Rating – 9/10
Another fantastic day, and this still gets a high score despite the forestry problems (not the trails fault) and the long road walk to Lochmaben. It was a day of fine contrasts and constantly changing scenery which kept the interest level up for the whole day. One highlight was the constant liquid song of the Skylarks overhead, a feature of the walk. Again the campsite was right next to the path, avoiding the necessity of a long detour to find a pitch for the night. A stunning site with the swallows (house/sand martins?) giving us an aerobatics display over the Loch.
One of the best days trail walking I have experienced!
Kirk Loch Campsite - Lochmaben
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