I was woken every hour last night by the noisy, windy tent and after packing up in the dark morning, my priority is finding drinking water even though it’s raining. Sourcing drinking water is a peculiar difficulty of the uninhabited coast as, although frequent, most streams are downstream of houses and farmland and therefore not safe to drink. I carry a water filter, but it doesn’t remove agricultural chemicals. As a result, I often rely on purifying water sources marked as Wells or Springs on the Ordnance Survey map, public toilets if they are open or diverting from the coast and knocking on doors if all else fails.
After four hours walking in the heavy rain, I see a Well marked on the map and on locating it kneel down by the road and start to filter. A lady sees me from her house and calls to me asking, quite understandably, what I’m doing. When I explain, she tells me all the water sources here are polluted by slurry spread on the fields. She had a legal battle with the local farmer who ended up having to pay for a separate water pipe to her house after she was hospitalised from the drinking water. She makes me a cup of tea, fills my water bottle and gives me a gigantic chocolate bar. She’s very well travelled, and we have a welcomingly diverting chat about exotic climes as the Scottish rain pours down.
The incessant rain limits photographic opportunities compounded by being forced to detour inland on roads to avoid the live firing on Kirkcudbright army range. I decide the day is best spent covering distance as fast as possible which also helps me keep warm.
Because of the cold wet I haven’t stopped to eat, so when the rains momentarily subside at St Mary’s Isle, I collapse on the shore and prepare to boil water for a dehydrated meal. Two figures approach along the shore, whom I soon learn are chef Ed Pook and wild food expert Mark Williams. We’re all pleased to bump into someone else enjoying this remote and beautiful corner of the world, to my delight Mark offers me some Velvet Shank and Jelly Ear mushrooms from his foraging bag to add to my lunch. “Oh and you’ve got to try some of this” he walks a few meters to gather some Sea Radish and Scurvy Grass handing them to me like a magician. They head on their way as I add the fresh ingredients to my pot.
Outside a pub in Kirkcudbright a man lowers his cigarette to ask if “you’s coming in?” in such a hospitable manner that I feel like a fool to be pressing on into the darkening, and still raining night. As night falls I’m on the slopes of Senwick Wood and realise there are no flat sheltered places to put up my tent nearby. I see on the map there are the ruins of Senwick Church two miles ahead, and I hope this has flatter drier ground. When I arrive my torchlight picks out the tombstones of the old graveyard, but the ground is thankfully flat. I’m so wet and weary that I only consider if it’s a bit spooky sleeping in a graveyard when the tent is up and I’m in the sleeping bag. Moments later I’m asleep. The next morning there’s been a light snowfall so when I pack up the tent, it leaves a coffin shaped print on the ground and I realise I’ve been sleeping in the same orientation as all the other souls resting there.