8.4 miles 4h 7m ascent 229m
River Ayr Way: Failford to Tarholm
It was back to Failford for the next stage of the Way. This time with the luxury of pavement and without rain. A path took us into Ayr Gorge to walk through the woodlands in the footsteps of Robert Burns.
Can I forget the hallow’d grove,To Mary in Heaven, 1789
Where, by the winding Ayr, we met,
To live one day of parting love!
Eternity will not efface
The woodland has been a wildlife reserve since 1983 and has walks of varying lengths as well as plenty of information boards. We had a pleasant stroll through the mature birch and conifer. The tracks were firm underfoot, Autumn’s colours were just emerging from the sylvan green and the summer flowers had dropped their petals. Long sets of steps took us up the sides of the gorge then back down to the riverside. I forget how many times.
A final flight of steps brought us out of the Wildlife Reserve and to a path beside a field of barley. The river was far below us but I didn’t need to worry about Christy falling down the slope since, as seems typical of the River Ayr Way, the pathway was fenced-in and topped with barbed-wire so.
The route shown on the OS map follows the river all the way to Stair but that path is no longer safe and leaves the river at Daldorch. A River Ayr Way sign pointed to our right, across a field guarded by stiles. We had to manhandle the dogs over the first stile with much squirming on the part of the spaniel, but the second stile was more canine friendly, its barbed-wire covered and a gap left for the dogs to walk through. The dog friendly stile was, however, designed by someone accustomed to dismounting horses. I for one would have welcomed an additional lower step. Across the road a box welcomed the girls. I have no idea what that was all about.
As we slogged up the farm track, I realised that a river walk “from source to sea”, is not necessarily all downhill. But the effort of climbing to higher ground at least gave us views along the valley to a viaduct in the distance. I guessed the viaduct to be five miles away which was much further away than I expected it to be. A poor estimate. It turned out to be a little over a mile and a half away. I’ll have to see about getting my “how far away is that?” meter recalibrated.
Our attention, well mine at least, was caught by an aircraft climbing out of Prestwick. At first glance I thought it was a Boeing 747, but as it came closer I saw only two engines and saw it was an Airbus. I didn’t recognise the airline livery, and had to Google it when I got home. It took quite some time to find, because it wasn’t an ‘airliner’. It was none other than Voyager ZZ336 the Government VIP transport that sparked controversy earlier this year following its £900,000 paint-job. (I don’t feel to bad about initially misidentifying it though because when I tried a reverse image search on my grainy photo of it, Google thought it was a 747!). Enough about planes though. Back to the walk.
A car passed us on the farm track causing a huge flock of birds to rise from the fields. My first though on seeing such a large cloud of birds was starlings, but these were crows. A murder! Unfortunately the birds were already dispersing by the time I could get the camera up so my photograph doesn’t do the murder justice. A cattle grid here didn’t have a gate so Mabel had to be carried across, while Christy managed to skirt along its edge.
We came to the B730 at Yett. And now I know that a yett is a barred gate, I made no secret of my knowledge. Unfortunately this didn’t impress my Cumbrian friend who told me she had known the word since childhood. [Note to self: find some arcane Mancunian words to drop into conversation. Pah! I can’t be mithered].
There were perhaps 500m on the B730, but there was little traffic and the had a grass verge to walk on. We rejoined the original River Ayr Way where the road bends a few hundred metres north of Stair. An opening by an overgrown gate led to a typical fenced-in path along the edge of a small wood, then across a (water)meadow. Here we met mud, its depth uncertain until the dogs ploughed into it. Once they had, we knew it was too deep to just walk through. We picked our way carefully keeping to the edge, taking care not to get caught by the barbed-wire. We reached some squelchy rather than muddy ground and sighed with relief. But then a curse was called down upon us. Someone, I will not say who, said “that must be the worst of it over”. I felt the air chill, the sky darken and knew our ordeal was not yet over.
Ahead, instead of mud we found standing water. The fence meant we had no alternative but to press on. There was no circling around this problem. Christy, unconcerned, ran back and forth with his stick, dropping it in the water in front of me. It was deep enough at one point that Mabel was swimming. I made it through with one dry foot. It had only been 100m, but the water-meadow left its stamp on the day. It is what I will recall when thinking of section 4.
Back by the river, we were now about halfway through the section and started to look for a likely lunch spot. It would be a while before we found one but the pathway was easy going and there were wooden walkways where it would have been muddy or wet. (The water meadow could have done with one of those). We reached the viaduct that had seemed so far away and we both noticed how new the sandstone looked. It is over a hundred years old but was refurbished in 2008 which perhaps explains its appearance.
We crossed the road at Gadgirth Bridge, and then walked along the riverside into Annbank. A couple of very welcome picnic benches were just what we needed for lunch. The one downside was that there were shards of broken glass under both benches so the dogs couldn’t roam freely.
The route through Annbank is not particularly well signed but finding the way is easy enough. A track heads down to the river but the River Ayr Way cuts through a field just a stone’s throw from the water. This took us past stands of bamboo of all things to a kissing gate designed for 2D people. There was no way I could get through it wearing a rucksack and I had to climb around it while Audrey smirked.
The riverside path has fallen into the river by Auld Ha’ which meant we had to walk through a field of cows. They seemed to barely notice us but all the same I was glad to get past them. Back on the path there were fishermen’s benches and huts along, some in great disrepair, some completely overgrown, very few looking usable. There were name plates on trees along here, Auldha’, Weebeth, etc. which I presume mark specific fishing spots.
A meadow side the path would have been full of flowers a couple of weeks earlier but most were now in seed. A shame, it would have been quite a sight last month. But perhaps the weirdest thing all day was a fir tree with Christmas decorations hanging on it.
A little short of Tarholm one of the hides had a poem on the wall exhorting us to take our litter home. I can’t disagree.
We ended the stage at Tarholm. It had been a good day with nice weather, easy walking most of the time, and beautiful river views but we did finish with wet feet and muddy dogs.