Auchengray Hill – one of Monica’s neighbours

2.21 miles 1h 44m ascent 132m

I have seen two suggested origins for the name Auchengray. Field of the moor or field of the herd. Auchen is common in place names, almost certainly coming from achadh, ‘field’ and an/na ‘the’; The second part might be gréaich, ‘mountain flat’, ‘level moory place’ or greigh ‘herd’. I’m discounting suggestions that the second part is from the Norse grar, meaning ‘gray’ since the first part of the name is Gaelic. There are no records of the name before it became anglicised so we will probably never know but the top of the hill is certainly a ‘level moory place’, as you can see in the photo above.

I had seen a description that basically said it was a walk up a track, through a gate, 125m of difficult terrain at the top, and Bob’s your uncle. Well. I do not have an uncle Robert.

There is a double gate where the track leaves the road and enough space to park a car without causing any obstruction. The track looked not to have been used in a good while. There was long grass but the gravel was visible. Auchengray Craigs were ahead of us. The sun was shining, there were plenty of wild flowers, the dogs were bounding along happily and all was well in the world.

Auchengray Craigs from the lower track

On the OS map the track heads NE for half a mile then turns NW. On the ground, the main track ends at a turning bay. The remains of a smaller path, completely overgrown, headed up to the NW. No problem, I can walk on heather. But the trees began to encroach then engulfed the track. Spruce needles were sticking into my arms and face. The only way that I knew the track was going this way was the drainage ditch running beside it. It was so bad, I contemplated walking in the ditch. But common sense kicked in. I didn’t know how deep the water was or how firm the base would be.

The overgrown path was particularly difficult since it might have been like this all the way to the top for all I knew. I felt I had been battling through it for ages, but when I emerged it had been less than ten minutes. The path was still overgrown but only to knee height and the gravel was even visible in places.

A little further along it became wetter, with sphagnum moss filling some deep dips. The overgrown path then seemed to meet another track, less overgrown, running across it. To the left it climbed. I checked this out on the way back down and found it ended after a short distance. To the right the path descended slightly and that’s the way we went.

And there was a gate into a field! (NX 92941 67934)

There were sheep in the distance so both dogs had to be on their leads. And the gate actually opened.

We turned uphill through bracken and marsh grass. Much easier walking. I couldn’t see a way out of the top of the field and did wonder how we were going to get back over the barbed wire topped wall. Going back to the gate and trying to find a way through the forest wasn’t an attractive option. But there was gate in the corner of the field (at NX 92946 67719.)

I say a gate. It had been a gate but the gap had been bridged by a wire fence and several large stones had been strategically placed so the gate could not be moved. Its saving grace was the lack of barbed wire. If I had been walking alone it would not even have registered as an obstacle, easily climbed.But with the dogs it was more of a problem. Lifting Mabel over was easy enough but a wriggling wet spaniel was a little more difficult.

But over they went.

The view forward from the not-a-gate

From here there was neither path nor fire break, just saplings, brash, rocks, and holes hidden in the sphagnum moss. It took me almost twenty minutes to make my way to the top just 160m away, with much stopping to consult the GPS. I carried Mabel much of the time and fell twice. It had not rained but I was thoroughly soaked, right down to my underwear. My feet were wet, the waterproof shoes having been overtopped in one of the hidden holes.

At the top

At one point, while checking where I was in relation to the summit, my phone slipped into the heather and proved particularly elusive. I eventually got my apple watch to make it ping and followed the sound.

Getting back was slightly quicker. I aimed towards the corner of a field a mile away on Glensone Hill and got back to the gate-that-is-not-a-gate more directly. And now I knew the section of path overgrown with spruce lower down was only a short stretch.

Just a wee hill at 197m but it was a bit of a challenge. Auchengray Hill is not quite a Monica, but is one of the OS named hill in the Greater Mabie triangle (bounded by the A710, the A711 and the Kirkbank to New Abbey Road).

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