The Watson Trails in the Stewartry take a walk on the wild side

The life and work of a famous bird artist has been brought to life through two new walks.

Donald Watson was a painter who did much of his work in the Galloway landscape.

He was most famous for his accurate depiction of birds and their habitats, publishing a number of books about his work – specifically about the hen harrier.

He also illustrated many notable bird books in the Poyser and New Naturalist series for other writers and produced all of the plates in the Oxford Book of Birds.

The Watson Bird Trails have now been launched, complete with trail markers and interpretation boards, offering an insight into Donald’s work. They have been made possible thanks to funding from the Galloway Glens Landscape Partnership Scheme and the Blackcraig Wind Farm Community Fund.

They have been made possible thanks to the Watson Bird Project, involving Professor Roger Crofts, Chris Rollie and the Watson
Familia. It’s a longstanding initiative of the Glenkens Community and Arts Trust and aims to link birds, nature and the arts as a celebration of Donald’s work.

In recent years there have been a variety of activities including talks and guided walks, as well as an installation in the Donald Watson room in Balmaclellan Smiddy and an exhibition in the CatStrand.

Watson Bird Project director Professor Roger Crofts said: “I am delighted that the trail markers and interpretation boards have now been installed. I hope residents and visitors alike will gain new insights into the changing landscape of The Glenkens by using the two trails.

“I also hope that you will be stimulated into producing your own response in whatever medium is best for you: such as a photo, painting, sketch, poem, prose, music. Please send in your reactions via our web site.

“This work could not have been completed without the financial input from the Blackcraig Wind Farm Community Fund and the Galloway Glens Landscape Partnership, the support of many farmers, land and property owners for the placement of the signs, and the willing help of Galloway Glens staff.”

Two walks are on offer. The Donald Watson Walk starts at Dalry Town Hall and takes people on a walk around the town lasting around two hours.

And the Watson Arts Trail, which also starts and finishes at the town hall, allows people to visit nine sites around the Glenkens that either feature in or inspired some of Donald’s most famous paintings.

The route brochure and leaflets are available on the website, from The CatStrand, retail outlets in The Glenkens or by visiting the signs at Dalry Town Hall for information.

Galloway Glens project officer Nick Chisholm said: “The Donald Watson trails are a perfect opportunity to reflect upon landscape change. The artist captured the essence and texture of our landscape during the 50s, 60s and 70s. Much has changed since then – why not join the conversation about our ever-evolving landscape.

“We are so grateful to the National Lottery Heritage Fund for their input and the support of partners including Dumfries and Galloway Council’s environment

The Watson Bird Project is an initiative of the Glenkens and Community Arts Trust and the walks have also been supported by Glenkens and District Trust and the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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