An Introduction to the Galloway Hills

Hill days for me have been at a premium recently as we completed our move from Yorkshire to the Galloway Forest Park in Southwest Scotland. After 3 weeks of unpacking I was very ready for a day out introducing myself to my new local hills.

Sunday was my first proper day in the Galloway Hills and what a day it was….
I was well aware of their reputation for being extremely tough…
But how tough only becomes clear when you’re actually out there…

I consider myself pretty much hill fit but Galloway hill fit is a whole new level of fitness….
The toughest day I’ve ever had in the hills….
No summit…
Socks, boots, trousers wet through by the end…
But what a fabulous day exploring and getting to know my new hills….

I opted for one of the smaller climbs today….
Millfore is a similar height to Kinder so I thought it a good hill to get a feel for the terrain….

The first part of the climb was straightforward….
Following a logging track up into the hills….
Easy enough….
The views of the surrounding hills obscured by the low cloud….

I knew there were no paths on the ground up here but I hoped I’d see some sign of where feet might have passed before me…..
Not a chance…..
Once you leave the track it’s straight into the long, wet grass and just try and pick a route that heads in the direction you want to go…..

Hard, hard going…..
Feet sinking into bog….
Holes in the ground….
The long grass getting me wetter and wetter….
I was glad I’d put my gaiters on, they are absolutely essential for this terrain…..

A fence to climb and then more thigh high grass to contend with…
Heather…..
Rocks….
Holes….
Streams…..
This is hard work, but it’s beautiful…..
So, so beautiful…..
I just wish the cloud would lift to show me all the beauty around me….

Then I’m confronted with a larger stream….
I can see a way across….
But I’m not too sure if it’s one I should risk while out here alone….
More traversing through the long grass….
paralleling the stream…
Looking for an easier route across…..

Finally one appears….
I’m going to have to paddle but it’s a way across….
My feet are still dry, for now….
Upwards, the walking becomes easier…..
The vegetation not so high…..
The ground wet but not as boggy…..
This I can deal with…..

Visibility however is deteriorating……
I’m in the cloud and the higher I go the less I can see…..

Knowing the descent is going to be hard work I decide to turn back before the summit….
I’m happy to walk by head torch but not in this, not yet….

Look at my map to choose my route down….
The easiest route navigation wise seemed to be head southwest to a stream then follow it down until I got to the electricity pylons…..
Then follow them back to the loggers track…..

Easy navigation, hard, hard going underfoot…….
I swore a few times….
My feet started feeling damp from all the constant water in the long grass….
My boots are great but nothing can resist that amount of water…..

My legs were tiring….
I got to the electricity pylons and was so happy to be less than a mile from a track…..
A fence to climb….
And then it seemed to get even harder…..
The ground so uneven…
Every time my foot went down through the vegetation I had no idea how far it would go…..
How uneven the surface I hit would be……
How boggy….
This was hard going….

Just a few hundred yards from the track I came to a stream…..
It was too deep……
Too wide…..
Flowing too fast…….
I couldn’t cross here…..
I could have cried…..
I wasn’t going back….
Not when I was so close…..

I weighed up my options….
I could follow the stream down but that looked really hard work, through a forest and my legs wanted no more….
So instead I walked upstream…….
Looking for an easier crossing point…
More hard walking….
But I needed a way out…

Finally, there it was….
A couple of metres wide….
Up to my knees…..
But flowing gently….

I waded across……
I got lots of water in my boots…..
I squelched all the way back to my car…..
But I was alive….
I really felt alive……

The toughest hill day I’ve ever had……
But what a fantastic day

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