Thursday, 20 July 2017

New Lanark. Falls of Clyde. Corra Linn. Bonnington Linn. A UK Wonder.

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I heard recently (from Alex, thank you) that the Falls of Clyde had been restored to full power for ten weeks only while repairs were undertaken at the nearby Power Station. For many decades now this chain of waterfalls on the upper reaches of the River Clyde  has been diverted for green energy use with the result that the numerous falls here are a pale shadow of their former glory- reduced to a trickle even after heavy rainfall most of the time.
During the Romantic, Victorian and Edwardian eras however well heeled folk  from all over Britain, Europe and even some from further afield like the USA and Canada made the pilgrimage here to visit/collect two of the wonders of that age. Number one attraction was the self contained mill town of New Lanark, a forward looking cotton mill complex built beside the river in the late 1700s to take advantage of the powerful falls using the water to drive the machinery inside. Many ground breaking advances in social reform and education for the workers developed here in this fairly remote spot in a deep river gorge 40 km from Glasgow. These advances were soon noticed in the wider industrial community and many were  adopted by other mills and factories later on. Things like school and education for mill workers children... better working conditions for those employed etc, insuring a loyal and happier workforce.
Although the falls are restored to full power during bank holidays and special occasions I've always missed them at full capacity for one reason or another so ten weeks roaring at full tilt was too good an opportunity to miss. Unfortunately, Alex was not available for the weekends I was free so it was just myself and Alan and his dog. There are four major separate falls near the mills or a few km upstream and at one time they were lauded as some of the finest displays in Britain contained in one place. The UK as a whole is a small narrow country with main rivers rarely exceeding 100 miles in length so although we get plenty of rain huge dramatic falls of impressive scale are a rarity.
I have to say both Alan and myself were impressed and we have seen loads of highland waterfalls, many of them very remote and hard to reach and ultimately a slight disappointment after miles of hard walking and rough ground to get there.
Although it had been raining the night before it was not a deluge but the falls here were still the best I've ever seen in this country. (Scotland that is) Only the waterfall and waterslide in upper Glen Nevis in full spate compares for scale. Although nothing like the same magnitude you do get a little taste of what the Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe must be like... transported here to humble Britain... in the way the upper falls around Bonnington Linn spread out with small wooded islands marooned between the thundering cataracts.
A grey wagtail. A water specialist and constant up and down merchant like the equally bobbing dipper so hard to get it in focus as it is always on the move. Either side to side or more commonly up and down.There is also a yellow wagtail which is quite confusing at times as they are both fairly yellow and similar looking.
No problem with this one. I have a way with animals. We seem to like each other. My wee pal.
A question. There are a few horse whisperers around, plenty of dog whisperers driving around every city and town in vans these days, even a ghost whisperer on TV ... but I've never seen a 'pussy whisperer' advertised anywhere. Why so? A minor mystery that :o)
Iris Blue.
Another question... if there are plenty of fish in the sea to eat why am I seeing sea birds like cormorants further and further inland, fishing in rivers and canals many miles from their usual habitat?
Beetles getting jiggy on flower.
The Corra Linn. The largest waterfall on the River Clyde.
And another with peat staining the water here.
Spectators on one of the viewing platforms above the various falls. William Wordsworth came here to marvel, Turner painted them, royalty visited several times... they were a big deal before easy international travel sucked visitors overseas.
They are still popular today, mainly thanks to the nearby New Lanark which is now an internationally renowned visitor attraction and world heritage site.
I don't remember this roof garden on one of the mills the last time I visited a few years ago but it was mid-winter then.
We had a good wander around the place but didn't go in to any of the buildings as I'd already been, prices have jumped up no doubt , post Brexit vote, like every other item, whether shipped from abroad or not, and we had other plans.
After Bonnington Linn most folk turn back but we did the full circle route up one bank then down the other all the way along the gorge to meet up with the A72 just to the west of Lanark itself, an elevated market town on a rising slope situated above New Lanark. On the OS landranger map Upper Clyde Valley Sheet 72 a dotted line showed our Clyde Valley path. This crosses the River Clyde again over an old pedestrian bridge ( just before the road bridge A72 to Lanark) and although it looks private go through a small gate beside houses at a CCTV sign to reach a pleasant riverside path.
Another gate further on leads to a narrow tarmac road with beautiful surroundings ( a Lanark upmarket suburbia) where we found other surprises waiting ( A secret public park) then zig zag steps back down to the river again. It felt a long way by this point but a fantastic five star circular walk. About 10 km but felt much longer due to its up and down nature. Much shorter just visiting New Lanark and Falls. Allow 4 to 6 hours total trip depending on speed and stops.
The slopes of the Clyde Valley... once the central belt's soft fruit growing mecca with apples, plums, various eating berries and jam a thriving industry before cheaper exports from abroad halted production. Now mainly garden centres here but still a pretty area and a great scenic drive along the winding A72 beside the river.
The hanging gardens of New Lanark. Raised back allotments.
A view over the Clyde Valley.
And a couple of sunsets to end.

I try to make my photos and blog special in my own modest way as I like to think I have some artistic talent for capturing views on walks. I also try to pick videos that reflect this outlook. Although I looked at various clips of this particular Via Ferrata  this one was head and shoulders above the rest for quality, camera work and editing, variety of subject matter and artistic merit. So good in fact it made me really nostalgic for the special atmosphere of the European Alps and backpacking trips abroad. Wah!!!! too old and skint now for this stuff but 20 years ago I'd have loved a go at this extreme route through tunnels, up vertical walls, over wires and into caverns. Enjoy. A delight to watch full screen for anyone, not just climbers. Professional standard 7 minute classic mini film.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Inverkip, Greenock and Gourock.

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A dry but very windy day at Inverkip, Greenock and Gourock. This was a walk from spring just passed that I've had on the computer back burner for ages and am finally posting now. Although fairly sunny and bright the wind was roaring with a vengeance although not that cold. The pier here was deserted with frequent waves lashing the ferry walkways and everyone else apart from us huddled inside the terminal buildings, hoping they would not get seasick crossing the water to Dunoon.
Due to the weather the high hills were ruled out as you would have really struggled at height so we picked a sheltered walk from Lunderston Bay along the coast to Inverkip marina instead, returning on a circular route via the slightly inland Ardgowan Estate.We being myself, Alan and his dog. A short walk of only a few miles duration but very scenic and worthwhile especially in spring. Inverkip above.
The sheltered marina.
Comical carving in the boatyard.
A view across the Firth of Clyde to the Argyll hills.
Inland near Inverkip. Although I've passed through this quiet little village many times I've never really explored it properly and was surprised to find it was a hotbed for witches in past times with several executions in the area. I'm very skeptical about the supposed guilt of witches, warlocks etc in times past as most of the accounts I've read its just different personalities entering into a tight knit closed community from outside... or friendless individuals that present an easy target... or folk some in the village didn't get on with or had a long standing grudge against... but more on that later.
Bluebell woods. Ardgowan Estate.
Mature trees and pathways through this lovely estate.
Three lambs.
Estate views.
Large thrush. After our walk here we drove the short distance round to Gourock and explored there.
Downtown Gourock. A popular seaside town still although on this particular Sunday it was deserted with everyone else huddled indoors. Wind still howling around the buildings here but not that cold with a warm jacket on.
Really nice spring display of tulips and cherry trees just managing to withstand the gale.
The local park in Gourock which has a popular children's zoo in one corner. Lost count of the number of these little gems in city and town parks which have been either burnt to the ground or the pet animals inside deliberately targeted and killed. (There is a point to this.)
Nice mix of colours. Same park.
The upper half of the park.
And back to the foreshore again. Good day out and it suited the conditions.
I found myself thinking of the witches killed in Inverkip when I watched a programme a couple of nights ago called 'Murdered for being different.' It was a hard, sad watch but well acted about a young goth couple ambushed in a small town English park about ten years ago which made all the papers at the time. Both college students, they had the usual piercings, dark clothes, hair, and makeup that goths usually wear when they go out and were kicked into comas by a local gang just for being different looking. Maybe they were bored, jealous, or something much deeper in us all but were less able to control it. The girl died of her injuries and the boy just survived after being in hospital at death's door.
Related to the last post where I experimented at 14 with a different look and hairstyle briefly I also found it was not wise to attract too much attention to yourself or stand out in any way as I was beaten up at school a few times for doing just that. It carried on for several months by certain individuals of the kind that always target any perceived weak link and act as an escalating gang together, focused on an attempt to break any individuals spirit, culminating in a broken bottle attack where I was stabbed in the upper thigh.
I then snapped mentally into a  different thought zone as I'd had enough by this time and got them alone outdoors without the comfort of the gang around them where I convinced them individually by my actions I would take any steps necessary to remove them completely if it didn't stop. Luckily, they were the same age and could be intimidated one on one,  and it worked, so they left me alone after that but I did mean it and could have easily ended up spending decades in prison or dead myself if they had carried on. I've not thought about it for years but it came flooding back watching this programme.
Sadly, we do not seem to have moved on any as a society since we burned or drowned witches and most folk will know of feral groups like that who routinely target handicapped people in various neighborhoods; or pick on folk with low IQs unable to defend themselves on the street; or folk alone or reclusive; or just different in some way. It happens in every society worldwide so it must be something deep down inside the human psyche to have the tribal impulse to eradicate anyone or anything that doesn't conform yet we often praise celebrities if they do something different or groundbreaking. Seemingly, according to that programme, the UK recorded it's highest level ever for hate crimes- 70,000 in one year. A civilized society? I think not.
Ironic, when most young people also have an innate desire to stand out from the surrounding herd.

I did learn my lesson after that and kept my head below the parapet for the rest of the time I was in juvenile prison (i.e. school) but with more people than ever going to university, college etc.. where are all these smart folk on the internet where every woman, girl, female etc is routinely labelled a slag, slapper, hoe etc just for posting a perfectly innocuous photograph of themselves fully clothed  and it's accepted as normal behaviour.... and Yahoo News comments, anytime I've dipped into that murky pool, seems to be a steady diet of hatred and fixed extreme views slightly to the right of Jack the Ripper where everyone is an expert on everything. Given that unfiltered platforms like this are fast replacing traditional news outlets how is that moving us forward towards a more tolerant society in any way, shape or form?

On a different note I liked this video as it clearly shows the route up Monte Pelmo. The hardest route I've climbed abroad without a rope as it scrambles up a near vertical cliff then traverses along a narrow ledge system to reach the summit with steep walls in every direction. Luckily the scrambling is easy but the exposure was mind-blowing from the ledges and I don't remember any fixed ropes in place when we did it decades ago. The summit was a surprise as well with loose scree piled high everywhere and a faint path through it. Only a few months out of every year when its free of snow so not that many ascents I'd imagine each summer. A stunning mountain.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Cumbernauld Part Two. Meeting a Special Lady.

A week after the first trip I was back in Cumbernauld again, a Scottish new town situated on high moorland between Glasgow and Edinburgh. (see previous post for part one.) This time I had my bike with me as I intended to explore further afield in what would be a new area for me, Cumbernauld is a new town of the 1960s era, deliberately build around the motorcar so pedestrians and cyclists have their own purpose built network of  underpasses, bridges and paths designed to keep them apart. I thought it would be fun to explore a new area as I have always loved wandering round unusual urban districts and I had a friend to meet up with this time.
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                                        Cumbernauld- A town build for people and cars.
This time I didn't park in the shopping centre itself, with its restrictive two hour parking limit, but instead picked a nearby quiet suburban street and discreetly parked there.
I was off to see a very special lady and explore the area surrounding Cumbernauld.
First off though I freewheeled down through Cumbernauld Glen- a mix of tightly packed plantation type pine trees, spindly silver birch with a few larger deciduous specimens scattered around. Very different woodland from the Victorian designed Glasgow city parks I am used to with a more enclosed untamed but thinner feel. (i.e. the trees here are much thinner in girth but plentiful in number- no Cabability Brown landscapes in this area. Cumbernauld was also known for its wild white cattle herds roaming here in the past which some believe may be partly descended from the now extinct auroch. A large formidable oxen with long pointed horns.
White cattle variations are also found at nearby Palacerigg, Chatelherault, and Northumberland, many herds a modern remnant on great estates where these animals where once kept for hunting, the breed being generally more aggressive than their docile milking cousins.
At the bottom of Cumbernauld Glen (Some Outlander scenes filmed here in the woods) a long underpass tunnel awaited. I've always enjoyed tunnels, caves. and underground spaces of any description so I was in my element here. Loads of underpass tunnels in Cumbernauld. Not so good for young children, the elderly, or anyone of a nervous disposition  though going through here by themselves, especially at night or in the winter months where its dark by 3:00pm some overcast days.
A painting in the tunnel by a street artist. This could be the artist's name or a reference to the trend of some rich Asian businessmen where I believe it's a popular status symbol in the east to give illegal rhino horns as a present to put on their mantelpiece, gathering dust. When you have large amounts of money and millionaires the world and its precious resources becomes your playground and I have no doubt tigers, rhinos, snow leopards and many other big mammals still with us today will soon go the way of the legendary auroch- which was also driven (hunted/ loss of habitat/ domesticated cattle diseases etc) to extinction in the 1600s, despite attempts to save it. Are we any better today with more species than ever on the brink?
The underpass tunnel delivered me out at Cumbernauld Village, the original habitation centre surrounded and swallowed up by the new town.
As you can see by this info board the village has its own history.
The main street in Cumbernauld Village.
From here I visited Dullatur, Croy, the route of the Antonine Wall, (built across Scotland by the Romans to keep out the Highland tribes further north who were never subdued) and the Forth and Clyde Canal. Very friendly looking Roman solider here, but no doubt popular with young children as a local landmark.
Back in Cumbernauld I also found a scenic balcony trail which I enjoyed, suitable for a bike with good elevated views over the new town running near Carrickstone and through a local golf course.
This took me up onto the high ridge lands to the north of Cumbernauld with great expansive views in the direction of Kilsyth and the eastern end of the Campsie Fells.
Not wanting to keep a lady waiting however I soon turned south again and made for Cumbernauld Country Park.
As before a network of purpose built cycle tracks helped to speed me on my way. A lot faster than walking as I discovered on this trip Cumbernauld  on foot is a very spread out place. Designed purely for people with cars it is not an easy or convenient place for anyone without one with long hikes everywhere as a pedestrian, even to reach the town centre. There are local buses but a car or at least a bike is a real essential item living here. Bleak in bad weather I'd imagine with the foul conditions we get in Scotland.
However this day it was dry but overcast and I was able to keep my appointment with my destination.
Lovely bum. Up until this point I'd only viewed Andy Scott's sculpture from the front, passing on the motorway underneath her. Unlike the famous Kelpies this is not an easy place to reach for passing visitors with no signposted car park facilities close by so she remains wonderfully unsullied and less frequented- as befits a goddess of the modern era. You have to make a pilgrimage to reach her. As I've always had a thing for goddesses anyway since early childhood  Arria remains my favorite work of this internationally renowned artist.
Probably because she follows a long line of similar creatures throughout human history from the earliest times. Sweet Isis, Aphrodite, Demeter, Gaia, Persephone (Queen of the Underworld and still my spring companion each year in mortal form :) Rhea, Kali, Aurora, Selene (the mother of vampires) and so on down the ages.
When I was around 14/15 years of age, being the late 1960s, I had shoulder length hair which one momentous day, entranced by the power and beauty of Egyptian hieroglyphics,  I cut in the style of Cleopatra with straight sides and a severe front fringe. I also sculpted my finger nails into talons at one point by discreetly cutting them into sharp daggers. It helped the overall image that I had black hair anyway, like hers in popular culture if not in fact, although, being a queen, she probably arranged it in a range of different styles to suit any occasion for effect. Fortunately, like a lot of teens, I was also attracted to anything suitably dark and Gothic and had taken up throwing knifes, spending hours in the local woods practicing until I could hit any tree 30 feet away 8 times out of 10. This was lucky as I didn't get bullied as much as I might have been growing up in a rough council estate and was mainly left by myself to pursue my own interests. Being a visionary of any kind is a lonely occupation however and you mainly travel on a bus through life with few other passengers. I had also discovered the Velvet Underground around that period but no-one else in school had even heard of them, let alone liked them so I had to wait another full year before I met some like minded companions to share my passions. Ah, those mixed up teenage years.
Why settle for one icon to worship when you can have a pantheon of different stars I decided early on in life. As we are finally at the dawn of understanding how the universe around us actually works we will no doubt discover it to be constructed by a superior machine, an advanced robot built by an even more advanced race to carry out basic mundane tasks like galaxy building and life-form construction while they busy themselves elsewhere. i.e. God as a robot or even a complex mathematical equation :o)  A leap too far? Well, does a sapling in a vast greenhouse worship its creator, the gardener, who planted the seed... or comprehend what goes on beyond the glass? Does it really matter as long as it grows, is happy within itself, and is nourished?
Our own tentative steps in computer technology, game open worlds and 3 D printing plus driver-less vehicles already point in that direction for some.
On the way back it was mostly uphill and the shopping centre seemed a long way off. First a bridge...
Then more underpass tunnels...
New housing stock....
Stairs and more stairs with helpful little signs saying 'Only two miles to Cumbernauld Shopping Centre. You are nearly there!'
And then finally a long uphill pull on what felt like a never ending ramp to the ridge-top, passing a few equally panting citizens heading for the shops. Locals without cars must be very fit here. What's it called?  F******* Cumbernauld :o)
I was very glad I was not a pedestrian by this point as I was getting really tired by now, although I was on foot pushing the bike uphill most of the way by this stage.
An enjoyable and interesting trip however.
And so is this..

 20 years ago I was lucky enough to enjoy several trips to the Italian Dolomites on backpacking tours through the mountains on high level trails but we also sampled many classic Via Ferrata routes around Cortina D' Ampezzo so this excellent video looks very familiar as it features huts and climbs we visited then. Like the music as well. Well edited and worth a look. Adventurous stuff for a young family.

The Mandelbrot set.