The River Ayr starts as an overflow from Glenbuck Loch on the Ayrshire/Lanarkshire
border and flows westwards for 67 km to enter the Firth of Clyde at Ayr.
Throughout its length, the River Ayr is of good quality. This large river has a healthy population of game fish and runs of salmon and sea trout.
The River Ayr Way is a project which provides an uninterrupted walk for the length of the river, starting near Glenbuck, through the parish of Muirkirk, Sorn and Catrine and on passed Failford and Auchincruive towards the sea at Ayr. The inaugural walk took place on Saturday 10th June 2006. I am busy at present revisiting the River Ayr Way to see how it has developed. There is still work ongoing on some parts of the route but as far as I'm aware there is nothing major that will stop people being able to walk it. Here at Catrine a new temporary foot bridge was put in place on the 4th of June 2007 and as you will see from the picture below it is a substantial construction that will present no problems at all. I actually think it's a better bridge than the original in that is has a level concreted surface that makes for safe non slip walking compared to the arched wooden surface of the old bridge, which was treacherous in wet or icy weather. I spoke to the civil engineer who designed the temporary bridge and he was telling me that he now has the task of redesigning the old bridge. Seemingly it is listed and it is beyond renovation and therefore it will be copied. I voiced my concerns about it having a dangerous walking surface and he said it would be done in a non slip grid metal construction that meets modern health and safety standards. When the work will be done, is anyone's guess but it won't bother me how long it takes, as I do believe the temporary bridge is a good one.
I was through Barskimming again today 14th August 2007 and I spoke to Lord Strathclyde who informed me that the route which was agreed 18 months ago, was still in progress through the estate and that the council were dragging their heels. I intend to check it out within the next few weeks to see what is happening there, as many people have been asking me when it will be completed.
Another interesting development of the walk is the addition of a pathway into my old haunt at Catrine House where I enjoyed living for 20 years before moving back to Catrine village. The Templetons are building a farm shop and coffee shop and ice cream parlour, as part of their efforts to diversify from a life time of breeding Ayrshire cattle. There will be parking for up to 60 vehicles and I know from experience that if Helen Templeton has anything to do with the coffee shop the food will be first class.
So the message from Rab is get out walking and see for yourself the beauties of our surroundings but we need to put in the effort to continue to develop it. Our river, as I have mentioned in previous sections of my web pages, is much cleaner today than it was when I was a kid, when industrial pollution was rife and was tolerated. It still however has a long way to go and we now need to tackle the problem of raw sewerage from the old practice of bursting the bottom out of the septic tanks when they were installed to let them seep away and never hardly need emptied. And also the dairy industry and their slurry tanks need an huge overhaul. I'm sure that if the proper will was there then all these dairy farms could be producing large quantities of valuable gas from their slurry and using their effluent in more efficient ways that would improve the water quality of our lochs and rivers and also lead to much needed efficiencies on their farms and better animal husbandry. It may also allow the residents of the area a break from having to breath in the vapors each time they spread slurry on the fields. Our own human sewerage systems probably are in much need of the same kind of thinking. Instead of the politicians talking nonsense about curtailing Air travel in an effort to solve global warming they really need to invest now in some of these challenges I have mentioned as well as many others like stopping pumping raw effluent out to sea.
The walk is a real asset to the area for locals and visitors alike. I am for ever discovering new things along this route. The herb or wild flower below is only one of many I have yet to find a name for. I has a very pungent odour when in bloom, like something from my granny's time and I wonder if it can be camphor. Maybe if anyone recognises it they can tell me. I remember years ago speaking to a chap who was staying at the caravan park and he pointed out what I think was the same plant, growing at Catrine House and he said it was quite rare. I think he was a botanist.
I seem to remember it had a different smell though, more of a meadowsweet because I had always quite treasured it's fragrance. I'm totally confused now because this camphor scent completely dominates this part of the walk when this flower is in bloom. It's a wonderful experience because it completely dominates this piece of ground to such an extent that I wondered if someone had planted it there.
The whole thing has served to remind me of how fond I am of wild flowers and I am now hoping that I can find time to study them in more detail.
The picture on the left shows the part of the walk where it grows. This is on the Catrine side of the New Howford Bridge just before the path splits to go down below the bridge or up to Catrine House for a coffee or an ice cream. There are still signs of rhododendrons along this way which is perhaps an indication that it was part of a walk or horse trail through the woodlands of the former estate. I believe it was all part of the Ballochmyle estate in Burns's time and Dugald Stewart's son Mathew bought part of it when he built the new Catrine House which was built on the same site as the new log cabin the Templetons are now having erected as their coffee shop and ice cream parlour. This site was also a stopping off point on the main coaching route from Edinburgh and the remnants of the original coach road still cut through the field in front of the cabin as it stretches down to where it forded the river just on the other side of the old Howford Bridge.
The Ayr Way has brought me back to walking and I am finding a new fitness. So much so, that I was back up Ben Nevis last week and I am pleased to report that I found the area almost litter free. I was fortunate to get an almost clear day for the Ben last Thursday 09/08/2007 which was remarkable given the wet year it's been. The first really good day I'll be back and I don't know why but I can't think of a better place to be when the sky is clear.