Headline photo

Headline photo
Rockcliffe and Kippford from South Glen Brae: Ed Iglehart [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Introductory text

Kippford and Rockcliffe are on the East Stewartry Coast, an unspoilt National Scenic Area with two other NSAs in close proximity. It is in Dumfries & Galloway, South West Scotland, a region known for it's wonderful scenery, biodiversity, turbulent history, smugglers and black and white 'belted' cattle known as Galloway Belties. This stretch of coastline has many names. Known locally as the Colvend Coast or the 'Secret Coast' (due to the peace and tranquility) it is often referred to as the 'Scottish Riviera' due to it being the holiday resort of choice for Victorian millionaires and having a Gulf Stream influenced microclimate: evidenced by palm trees in some gardens. Castle Douglas, the food town is a short drive away and Kirkcudbright, the Artists Town is over the next headland.

This a scenic and unique part of the world and we started the blog to share the experience of living in this wonderful place. We hope that it will be of interest to others who live here and give those planning to visit the area a taste of all it has to offer.

The blog has a correspondent in both Kippford and Rockcliffe village, you can also follow their Twitter feeds on the right of the page. If you would like to get involved we look forward to hearing from you.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Screel walk inspires local weaver Katie Russell

Katie Russell,  tapestry weaver and keen walker hails from Castle Douglas. Earlier in the year Katie did a walk with her Dad and, as it's one of my favourites as Screel tops the view out over the Urr Estuary from Kippford, we asked her to share her experience with us for the blog.  From Kippford and Rockcliffe, the Screel walk is a short drive away along the A710 to Dalbeattie, left to Palnackie along the A711 (the road along the opposite shore). We are excited as it's our first long walk on the blog and it is especially interesting as Katie uses what she sees whilst out and about as inspiration for her work. For Katie her work, as with the walk, is a journey and so the two are symbiotic. 

Screel Walk courtesy of Katie Russell

NOTE: To get to the Forestry Commission car park at the foot of Screel follow the A711 from Dalbeattie or Kirkcudbright. (The car park is signposted south of Palnackie) 

It was easy to find the way and we arrived early, before 9am so the car park was empty. This was on a Sunday. Dad wasn't sure if we would get the walk done in the estimated time. He started in his shoes, but went back to the car to get his boots!  

The start of the walk is a gentle slope through the forest and that is easy going. 
When you come out of the forest there is a track that goes off to the left and another steep
path right beside it. Take the steep path. If you go on the first left you will end up in another forest!

Looking seaward: Kippford and Rockcliffe are top left of the photo: copyright K Russell

We realised that there were alternative paths, it depends on how adventurous you are feeling! Keep climbing the hill until you get to a bench from where you can admire the view of the bay.  We stopped there and had some water. 

You can then go straight into the forest and follow the path that is worn away, so you shouldn't get lost. Watch for tree roots if it has been raining, it is easy to stumble over them.  As you come out of the forest you will then start to see heather on the way up the hill. There will be areas that are boggy......unavoidable I'm afraid! But if you are wearing a good pair of walking boots then there should not be a problem. 

View from the summit of Screel: copyright K Russell
You keep going up until you are at the top from where you will see a fantastic view of the bay and also be able to see the cairn on the other summit on Screel. Walk over to there and then you will see more inland views over to Palnackie and Castle Douglas. 
It is advisable to take an OS map with you if you really want to be sure to identify the
places you see. My father enjoyed looking at how much of the coast line comprises of sand flats. Bengairn is the neighbouring, slightly higher hill, that is impressive and would also give great views. We contemplated it, but decided to keep that for another day.  Bengairn like Screel has heather and bracken, but will provide spectacular views also.

There are a number of paths going around Screel and it depends on how long you want to take to get to the top. If you want a short walk, then retrace your steps back the way you came. Alternatively you can follow a track down the side of Screel where the cairn is. Be advised there are rocky parts and walking poles come in useful in places! Dad managed with one, but I needed two. We found that going slowly, stopping every so often to take photos, stopping at the top and going slowly down took us back to the car park in about 3.5hrs. 

Twin Peaks: the summit of Screel: copyright K Russell
The heather and bracken was lovely in contrast to the greens of the forests.  I took a lot of photos of this and eventually worked up a sampler in wool, cotton and silk inspired by one of the images.

We startled a couple of deer that shot out onto the path in front of us.....too quick to take a photo unfortunately!
A grass snake, lots of interesting beetles and we heard a red grouse. The rock formations are interesting going up Screel and on the way down. My father took images of the rock formations and was quite interested in possibly producing watercolours from them. We came across a few people of all ages on the walk, all kitted out in outdoor gear with poles.

The stone cairn on the summit of Screel: copyright K Russell
The top of Screel is not somewhere to sit for too long if you are not wrapped up, but is excellent for photography and for the hardy, some painting and sketching.  I found the views of Bengairn and Tum Hill quiet inspiring with all the contrasting colours and textures. I will definitely come back and see the heather when it has changed in colour to give me more ideas. I would like to explore using thicker wools and possibly other coarse yarns. Although it was slightly misty in the distance this provided some inspiring images too. There were a lot of images really that could be used for all kinds of artwork. That is what I love about walking in this region. There is variety. 

This walk is particularly worth doing if you want to see the views of this region and into England. 

A photo of the weaving sampler that Katie wove inspired by the walk. Katie says "It took 

many hours of blending colours, but was worth it. Couldn't have produced that without

being inspired by the landscape." 

It was inspired by the heather, bracken, forest and sky and woven with wool, cotton and silkcopyright K Russell

 I was doing the walk as a novice! I am not an experienced hill walker at all! But it was well worth the steep climb! At present I am gathering images together from different parts of the region for one of my projects and Screel was a good starting off point.

You can find more information on Katie and her work on the kfrweaving website

Thank you Katie for sharing this with us.

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