The creators of the Mull of Galloway Trail in southwest Scotland are shocked by the damage caused by a recent January storm. Members of the Stranraer Rotary Club walked the trail – which joined the IAT in May 2013 – to view the impact of the wind and high tides. Coastal erosion was clearly visible in several areas.

Over a year ago following erosion at Cailiness, the fence was moved inland to allow walkers to continue on the bank between the shore and field. Shortly after that, another gap appeared and it was necessary to set up a diversion along the side of the field. Although this hole was recently filled with rubble, another adjacent piece of land was washed into the sea during the storm and the fence, which was erected last year, has collapsed. While a long term solution has not yet been identified, walkers can continue in the meantime to use the short diversion which has been signposted at either end.

From Cailiness to Maryport several gaps have appeared along the side of the path, but fortunately these can be avoided, as there is plenty of room between the path and the field. However this section is now strewn with litter which has been washed onto the trail. It is hoped that arrangements can be made to clear this in the near future.

Between Sandhead and Ardwell there is more evidence of the power of the sea, with many grassy sections having stones thrown upon them by the surf. These will require to be removed and hopefully members of the Rotary Club will tackle this in the near future. One of the worst areas covered with stones is the picnic area at Ardwell, but fortunately the information board and the waymarker are still standing, although now surrounded with pebbles from the beach.

The bridge over the burn at Sandmill has been badly damaged with the railing on the shore side being bent over against the rail on the other side. Contact has been made with the engineer who manufactured the bridge with a view to having the necessary repairs carried out.

Following an inspection of the trail, a work program will be drawn up which includes restoration and maintenance throughout the growing season. While members and friends of the Rotary Club will again be involved, the Criminal Justice Department has agreed that individuals on Community Payback will assist with strimming and clearing of litter. Similar work will be carried out by Apex trainees on a regular basis.

President Gary Small commented, “Maintaining both the Mull of Galloway Trail and the Loch Ryan Coastal Path in good condition, especially over the summer months, is a huge undertaking and the assistance given by the Criminal Justice Department and Apex is invaluable. Help which will ensure that the trail is kept in a satisfactory state also comes from the local Council and friends of the Rotary Club. We are looking at ways of improving walking conditions where at present it is necessary to walk on the stony foreshore. In these areas we hope to arrange for new paths to be made between the shore and the public road. Some additional waymarker posts will also be added along the route.”

The Mull of Galloway Trail will again be included in this year’s programme of walks organised by the Newton Stewart Walking Festival. Last year Robert Clark and Tom Stevenson led a party of 24 walkers from New England Bay to the Mull, but due to atrocious weather conditions a majority of the walkers gave up at Drummore. This section of the trail will again be used on Saturday 10 May, in hopefully much better weather conditions!

Last year, for the first time the Rotary Club organised a successful Trail and Sail event with runners starting at either the Mull or Sandhead and, after arriving at Stranraer Harbour, boarded yachts which sailed round Ailsa Craig or Milleur Buoy and then back to the harbour where a barbeque was enjoyed. Eight yachts took part last year and hopefully there will be more participants for this year’s event, which will take place on Saturday 31 May.

Other planned events by local organisations include a repeat of the Mull of Galloway Trail Challenge, which raised funds for the local McMillan Cancer Support Group. The whole length of the trail was used and while some walked the entire 24 miles, others made up teams of four with each member walking part of the route.

Project Manager, Tom Stevenson said “It is great to see that the Mull of Galloway Trail is being used for various events and hopefully this will help to publicise the trail and attract more visitors to the area. The members of the Rotary Club were delighted that Cotton Joe Norman from North Carolina was the first to walk the Scottish section of the International Appalachian Trail (IAT) from the Mull of Galloway to Cape Wrath towards the end of last year. Full details of this epic journey have been posted on the IAT website with a photo of Joe at the Mull. There was also an article in the Free Press dated 26 November 2013 confirming that Joe had safely arrived at Cape Wrath on 9 November. Dick Anderson from Maine, Founder of the IAT, has promised me that there will be more “thru hikers” coming to walk the trail this year, which is certainly good news for local businesses.”

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