Location and Access Details
The Knockentiber to Springside section comprises part of the former railway line running between Kilmarnock and Irvine and has been converted into a footpath/cycle path/farm access path following dismantling.
Access the line from the north side of Knockentiber village on the B751 at OS grid reference NS 400 96 or the unclassified road to Kilmarnock at NS 404 95. Access at the north end of Springside on Overton Road (to Warwickdale) at NS 69 91 or via the farm track (which crosses a stubble field in winter) at NS 69 93 which will direct you onto the line approximately 0.5 km east of the village. While it is a 4 km walk from end to end, the areas of greatest interest are actually around the villages. Park in either village and walk the path in either direction. It is an ideal site to cover by bicycle. Alternatively, an unclassified road from Knockentiber to the Cunninghamhead area crosses the line approximately half way where there is space for roadside parking on the left after the bridge.
Park at side of road (not ideal). Long ramp down to cycle track at Knockentiber, gentle grade at Springside.
Part of National Cycle Route N73, Irvine to Kilmarnock. The track between Knockentiber and Kilmarnock has been recently surfaced.
The disused railway line is a rich, semi-natural, linear habitat of overgrown hedgerow, scrub and rough grassland verges traversing some fairly interesting farmland. The land is drained by the Garrier and Woodhill Burns. Smaller areas include a juncus rush marsh, bramble-strewn wasteland, nettle beds, bricks and mortar and a marshy cutting on the line (before recently introduced drainage). However, recent tarmac “improvements” at the Knockentiber end have damaged much of the habitat, although hopefully within time the area will recover. Fly-tipping, burnt-out cars and illegal shooting are all a problem here from time to time.
Birdwatching, Timing and Points of Interest
Free from busy traffic, the line offers a good vantage point to observe typical farmland birds of Ayrshire and to connect with the locally rare Tree Sparrow. The density of breeding warblers and buntings is particularly high for the area. Average figures for the 1990’s: Willow Warbler (26 territories and upwards of 5 singing males during spring passage), Whitethroat (12 territories), Sedge Warbler (12), Grasshopper Warbler (3-4), Blackcap (2), Reed Bunting (4-5), Yellowhammer (14). Early mornings in May and June are the most productive months in terms of diversity and birdsong. September to December for passage, winter and more unusual species. Late winter is rather quiet. A total of 83 species has been recorded since 1991.
The following points along the line are of particular interest:
- Heading west from the Knockentiber end, the bridge over Woodhill Burn at NS 403 95 provides a good watchpoint for breeding warblers, Bullfinch, Long-tailed Tit, water birds on the burn below and perhaps Sparrowhawk and Buzzard over Bailiehill Mount to the north.
- The area around the juncus rush marsh at NS 97398 is excellent for warblers with reeling Grasshopper Warbler, Reed Buntings, Linnet, Goldfinch, Greenfinch and occasionally a single pair of Tree Sparrows breeding here. Grey Herons are regular here, Kingfisher can occur in the large ditch in autumn and Snipe in winter. Breeding Skylarks occur in the field of unimproved grassland on the other side of the line.
- The cutting at NS 92397 is a good area for all the warbler species as well as Goldfinch, Song Thrush, and the common woodland birds. Snipe are usually flushed here soon after dawn during hard weather.
- The bridge crossing the Garrier Burn at NS 90398 provides Sand Martin, Grey Heron and Mallard during the breeding season, large gatherings of Scandinavian thrushes in autumn and large winter parties of Magpies. Moving on, the fields on the right may have a few Wheatears during the passage periods.
- The line then crosses the Garrier Burn twice at NS 81397 and NS 78395 and this area holds good numbers of breeding Yellowhammers and Grey Partridges and usually a pair of Curlews. The large, mature beeches on the right are an important area for hole-nesting species including Tree Sparrow, Stock Dove, Jackdaw and tits.
- The gas works at NS 76 93 usually has single pairs of breeding Oystercatcher and Pied Wagtail and the surrounding scrub can hold a winter roost of Tree Sparrows.
- The beeches around the farm track at NS 74 94 have breeding Tree Sparrows and if stubble is present over the winter months the area should be checked for mixed feeding flocks of sparrows, buntings and finches. Large numbers of Collared Doves may build up here, e.g. 110 in October 1996.
- All Year:
- Many of the breeding residents. Grey Heron, Sparrowhawk, Lapwing (occasional), gulls, Rook.
- Warbler/hirundine passage, Meadow Pipit, Wheatear, Chiffchaff.
- Mallard, Kestrel, Grey Partridge, Quail (suspected 1997), Pheasant, Moorhen, Oystercatcher, Curlew, Stock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Skylark, Sand Martin, Pied Wagtail, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Song Thrush, Blackbird, Blackcap, Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler, Grasshopper Warbler, Willow Warbler, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Magpie, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Starling, House Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, Chaffinch, Linnet, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Bullfinch, Reed Bunting, Yellowhammer.
- Breeding species plus Swift, Swallow and House Martin overhead.
- Skylark and Meadow Pipit passage, thrush passage, Goldfinch flocks, Wheatear, Spotted Flycatcher, Larid flocks.
- Snipe, Grey Wagtail, Redwing, Fieldfare, Goldcrest, Coal Tit, Long-tailed Tit (flocks), Siskin, Redpoll (occasional), mixed flocks of Tree Sparrow (inc. roost), finches and buntings, Corvid flocks.
- Unusual or scarce:
- Cormorant (overhead), Whooper Swan, Greylag Goose, Teal, Buzzard, Peregrine, Merlin, Quail, Water Rail, Golden Plover, Cuckoo, Kingfisher, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Tree Pipit, Whinchat, Mistle Thrush, Garden Warbler, Treecreeper, Hooded Crow, Brambling.
Fifteen species of butterfly have been recorded including Grayling, Orange Tip, Small Heath and Clouded Yellow. Black Darter and Common Darter dragonflies are abundant (August to October) at the Knockentiber end. It is also interesting for flowering plants and Roe Deer at the Knockentiber end. Surely this green corridor for wildlife should have some sort of conservation status as it deserves to be protected from further degredation.