This was the big moment on Saturday. Ed Forrest, the project manager, helps Lady Hope Johnstone unveil a way marker to declare the Annandale Way officially open!
The 55-mile long distance path up (or down, your preference) the valley of the River Annan was first conceived as an idea in the aftermath of the foot and mouth outbreak in 2001 which hit this area particularly badly. It may have taken a few years and a lot of work to make the idea a reality, but Saturday's celebrations, with the sun beating down, showed Annandale, and the people who live here, in the best possible light. Hopefully, in the years ahead, there will be economic benefits for the region from visitors who come to walk all, or just part of it. I certainly look forward to exploring all it has to offer.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. On Saturday, the walk was broken down into short sections, and groups of people walked each section. This was the group which had signed up to walk from Lockerbie to Templand, an 'easy stroll' of around five miles, mostly on quiet country roads. What's with the Annandale Initiative bus? With Blair Crossan behind the wheel, we were brought to the starting point at Lockerbie Cemetery from the assembly point at the Town Hall. Blair then picked us up at the end of the walk and took us to the opening celebrations in Lochmaben, before delivering everyone safely back to Lockerbie later.
Seventeen of us, and two dogs, set out, here just passing under the old railway bridge that once carried the Lockerbie - Lochmaben - Dumfries line! My job was the 'sweeper', matching the pace (or should that be trying to keep up with) the slowest of the group! Zoe Roberts was the leader of our walk.
The fluorescent jacket is so they could find me if I got lost! Note the blue sky.
Anyway, it was not a race, and there was plenty of time to appreciate the surroundings, and take photos. I was fascinated by these spiders' webs!
Our perambulations took us over the River Dryfe, a tributary of the Annan.
The Way joins up established walks. Here we went through the Gallaberry Plantation, which used to be the grounds of Dryfeholm Manor, demolished in 1952.
Mike Libera and grandson Robbie examining the bark of this Wellingtonia, one of many interesting trees in Gallaberry.
Oops, there's only fifteen, plus me, makes sixteen. Don't tell me we've lost one already! Robbie, where are you hiding?
We walked through Millhousebridge, or 'Millus brig' as the locals tend to call it.
And here's the River Annan, from the bridge at Millhousebridge!
Some were grateful for the better weather than we've seen recently!
And we were soon at our destination. Coming from the north, walkers have a decision to make. They can chose to go via Lochmaben, or via Lockerbie, the loops meeting up at Kettleholm.
Lochmaben Community Centre was the next venue, safely transported there by Blair and his bus, to meet others who had walked different sections of the Way.
Or indeed those who had run parts of the route, as had this impressive lot!
Lockerbie and District Rotary Club was on hand to dispense medicinal refreshments.
Indeed, former Rotary Club President, Stuart Martin, was the master of ceremonies for the official bit of the day.
But not before the multitudes had been fed.
Impressive lady this. She's Linda Cracknell, and has already walked ALL of the Annandale Way. She's a writer, and teacher of creative writing. (Her own blog is here). Her involvement with the Annandale Way was to engage with youngsters from local schools, take them out along sections of the route, and encourage them to create poems based on their experiences. This was just a wonderful idea. You can find some of what was written here, and the students' work also features large in the booklet that has been published about the Way, see below.
Two Moffat Academy pupils read examples of the poems. This is Lauren Struthers, with Linda looking on rather proudly, I suspect.
And this is Mhairi Sharkey. Great job, girls.
Lady Hope Johnstone spoke eloquently before declaring the Annandale Way 'open'! Find out more about Sulwath Connections and the Annandale Way here.
The 'official' photo of the dignitaries on the day.
This is the guidebook I referred to above. It was produced in partnership with CREATE Curriculum for Excellence, School Services, Dumfries and Galloway Council.
Photos © Skip Cottage