Saturday, 14 October 2017

Loch Lomond Gallery. Balloch Castle Country Park. Walled Garden.

                                                ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN.
A gallery of photos taken around Loch Lomond, Balloch and Balloch Castle Country Park. Above is a Loch Lomond Shores info board and a nice varied walk can be had on minor roads and wooded trails from here up the western shore of this famous loch.
We started off at the free car park in Balloch near the country park then crossed the River Leven, seen here above, before walking to Lomond Shores. Outdoor TV legend Tom Weir was once quoted as saying " The great thing about Balloch is that it's easy to get out of..." but that's a bit harsh as it is a scenic spot. Loads of moored boats dot the River Leven around Balloch and its popular with tourists and walkers most of the year. A frequent train service from Glasgow and various buses also drop you very close to both the country park and Lomond Shores so its easy to reach as well.
This building houses an aquarium...kayaks, Segway electric scooters and a tree top adventure course can also be hired if you have the spare cash.
The tree top route is in a good spot and fairly long compared to some others I've seen but obviously geared to extract coins from peoples pockets. As usual our wallets stayed shut, apart from a cheeky wee smoked sausage from the chip shop afterwards
A nice period pub in Balloch.
Tour boats operate around Balloch Pier. Loch Lomond is one of the biggest inland lochs in Scotland (freshwater not a sea loch)  has 23 wooded islands, mainly at the shallower, wider southern end and grows both narrower and deeper the further north into the mountains it travels. We were originally supposed to be heading for the mountain peaks to do a Munro but when we arrived the forecast had changed to mist, drizzle and dull conditions. The story of the west coast Scottish summer this year.
If we had headed further north as intended we would not have seen much as the mountains stayed buried in thick mist most of the day. A view here of Inchmurrin, the largest island in the loch. Several of the biggest islands are inhabited with farms, a few cottages, (Inchmurrin has a seasonal pub, which I've been in, and a very hardy nudest colony... which I've never seen a member of in 40 odd years of hopeful staring from my kayak)
As it was such a revelation to me years ago when I first explored the wonderful archipelago of islands out here after many years of racing past them in various cars to do the Scottish Munros I knew I had to give them a major chapter in my outdoor comedy novel Autohighography and drop an obvious clue as to my early methods for finding certain club members.
Tour boat with the slopes of Ben Lomond behind, Scotland's most southerly Munro, rising into the mist.
Autumn colours beside the Maid of the Loch, a static paddle steamer which is free to visit.
A better view from the other side. Hopefully at some point they will have raised enough funds to properly restore it and get it operating again. I presume it will then be confined to the 23 mile long, 5 miles across at the widest point, loch. A large boat, even for Loch Lomond.
The shore walk takes you past Cameron House Hotel, an upmarket establishment where the sea plane is now based. Flights start at £100 pounds or thereabouts.
The seaplane coming in to the landing jetty.
Duck Bay Marina, a popular hotel and summer picnic spot with a large grassy meadow and long parking bays overlooking the loch. At this point we circled round to the front entrance gates of Cameron House and a different wooded path takes you back not far from the main road but still secluded and enjoyable through open woodlands.
We then had the option of following the River Leven downstream, past all the boats, until we reached the quieter middle section of the river at Alexandria.

Cyclists on the River Leven path which makes a fine walk/ cycle in itself from Dumbarton to Balloch. Worn out from fighting wars with the English to gain Scottish Independence Robert the Bruce settled near here in a mansion house to spend his final years, hunting ducks in the nearby Leven Swamp and sailing on the river past Dumbarton into the expansive Firth of Clyde.
A spot of lunch and a rest followed before we cut back via Alexandria main street and its lovely park, seen here.
Autumn flower displays.
Former motor factory now an outlet shopping arcade in Alexandria.
A detail above the entrance doors.
Balloch Castle and Country Park. A popular large former grand estate containing many different varieties of trees, sweeping meadows, small sandy beaches beside the loch,... and a pretty walled garden, which featured in the last post. (most photos were taken around this garden in the last post but a couple were included from Glasgow parks to get a full spectrum of colours.)
                                                      The Walled Garden. A panorama.
                                                          October trees in Balloch

                                               And a last view of Loch Lomond, below.

I thought readers might enjoy this. Ireland is rightly famed for its musical talent where it seems almost every family has someone in it that can play an instrument, sing, or dance to a very high standard. Unlike Glasgow and the Highlands where pubs are shutting at an alarming rate, after the smoking ban and cheap supermarket booze offers, I noticed on trips to Ireland that the pubs there are still thriving. No wonder though when you have ability like this on show. As reported on here earlier we went to the Merchant City Festival in Glasgow a couple of months ago and ended up in the Barras Market instead as it was mainly food pop up stands everywhere and not much genuine street entertainment going on.
Few cities or towns in the world can beat Ireland for putting on a show and they seem to be able to play together seamlessly at the drop of a hat. When I was learning the piano I never could and anyone else playing alongside me just put me off. I wasn't good enough, basically. This is a brilliant video set in Ennis, a town in County Clare near the River Shannon. What tourist looking for something different or unique wouldn't want to be in the crowd walking down that street? Ireland is also famous in recent years for quality food at all income levels. Although we have great scenery and a colourful history, Scotland certainly has a lot to learn in some areas. Also noticed on visits the towns and villages in Ireland all look like Tobermory, i.e a wonderland of colourful houses and villages that sparkle and cheer the mood, even in the rain...we have Tobermory ...and that's it. Tobermory on Mull is a photogenic Scottish tourist attraction yet it really has nothing extra over other Scottish villages except its painted waterfront houses. Definitely missing a golden opportunity there... for a few tins of paint and some creative imagination.
DIY Image on a door in the park. Presumably put up unofficially by an unpaid young local artist, showing his or her stencil skills. Every town or village usually has someone with artistic flair- many going unrecognized at present.
 For example... why not Scottish flower murals-like thistles, yellow poppies, lupins etc... pastel or vivid, subtle muted basic tartan patterns,nothing garish though, or black and white stencil drawings on some of the prominent houses, pubs or shops-obviously not all...or a village mural trail painted by the local youngsters... mix it up for each village or town that looks fairly drab and uniform at the moment ( a lot of them currently do :o) to make each different and stand out but keep the better ones as they are now- i.e. Scottish traditional white or grey the sparkling white ones on Islay as they are perfect already....we don't have to copy Ireland's flair -we can surely invent our own individual style... but still keep good taste as to the design. Even a dozen or so extra villages, like Tobermory, but different and individual, would boost the local economy.


Wednesday, 11 October 2017

The Secret Garden. An Autumn Extravaganza.

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                                                       There is a special place 
                                                         that all fairy folk know
                                                   where the colours of autumn
                                                 seem to have been handpicked
                                                               for sheer beauty
                                                             variety of colour
                                                                    and form.
                                                             Do human hands
                                                  still garden here....
                                                      or some other magic force
                                                       Where abundance flows
                                                                at seasons end
                                                          and cold night frosts
                                                          herald the yearly change
                                                             of the 'little death.'
 in the gardens of Persephone
                                                        as she sinks below again

                                                       to claim a darker throne
                                          beside a new consort, far underground
                                                      and the world fades away
                                                          into winter once again
                                          without her sparkling form beside us.
                                            So how can we even think of destroying...
                                something so precious, complex, and unique as this? 
                                       Our own sweet Earth. Our home.

Keeping with the seasonal changes here is a perfect match for variety and colour. I've long been a fan of this French singer and the best of her groundbreaking elaborate videos. A work of art in itself and well worth a watch full screen.




Friday, 6 October 2017

Tall Ship Glenlee. Riverside Museum. Stobhill Hospital. Townhead Interchange. When Progress Steals Our Soul.

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This is part two of a bike/walking tour around Glasgow. It was going to be one post but I realized early on I had too many photographs for that.  After our cycle ride along the Forth and Clyde Canal through Glasgow then a northwards loop across the top of the city we ended up in Springburn (seen here on Balygrayhill) after travelling through Lambhill then Milton. Springburn's flats are some of the highest left in Glasgow, both in numbers of floors and position on the top of a hill, making them a distinctive landmark. Next to the flats is Springburn Park, which is where we were heading now as you can do a number of interesting cycle rides across Glasgow's urban sprawl using canal tow paths, quiet back streets, cycle paths and waste ground. It's something I never tire of as its constantly changing- new buildings springing up- entire districts changing-varied landscapes- amazing views- new cycle tracks- interesting unexpected encounters with locals ( "come back here and fight you coward... this is Tongland!") - it ticks all the boxes for me. It can be very green and beautiful at times as you snake through numerous parks, follow green ribbons and assorted woodlands and the possible routes are many. Luckily Alan enjoys it as well, (Alex never did :o) and this time he wanted to see Stobhill Hospital, which is now almost empty. Several of Glasgow's older local hospitals have now shut with everyone expected to transfer into the enormous behemoth on the south side at Govan.
This is it here. The 14 floor Queen Elizabeth University Hospital. One of the largest in Europe it cost almost a billion pounds to build which included a £100,000 two word name change to fit the Queen into the title. It was originally named South Glasgow University Hospital on plans to let everyone know where its situated. As it takes longer for me sometimes to travel into the city centre these days by bus from the outskirts of the city than the journey from Glasgow to Edinburgh I'd imagine this is not convenient for everyone, especially elderly or disabled living on the outskirts. (I know this from a recent trip to Edinburgh where we hit the Glasgow rush hour traffic at peak times and it took an absolute age to get back. Over an hour to my house from the city centre- much less than that between city centre bus stations over 40 miles apart.) Nicknamed the 'Death Star' by amused/ cynical locals, not for its record of patient care but more to do with it's vast size, its towering presence over the community and a 24/7 day and night helicopter landing pad on the roof for far flung emergencies in coastal towns or offshore islands.
Alan cycling around the abandoned Stobhill Hospital. This does have security in place but as we were on bikes and only curious to see it, not to break in, by the time they approached us to tell us it was off limits we were on our way out again. Some of the hospital still seems to be in use so its a bit confusing. Similar to Yorkhill (sick children) in the last post and the nearby Western Infirmary which has been earmarked for demolition to create space for the University of Glasgow upgrade.
A lovely clock tower. As its on a hill this may be a water tower similar to the landmark tower at Ruchill in previous post which is the only part of the hospital there still standing. Maybe because its too complex to demolish with tanks and direct mains pipes under pressure hidden inside. It is a nice landmark.

Taking of upgrades the same thing is going to happen with money (actual cash) which is being deliberately phased out altogether in the near future. Not because people want it particularly but because big business and banks desire it (if you can move money around digitally it cuts costs and creates yet more profit- no money counters- no security guards- no desk staff dealing with customers-far less workers- far less jobs in the industry- pure profit right to the top where its always aimed at- WW3 is happening by stealth right now and people are smiling, waving and running like zombies towards the machine guns. Research has proved time and time again that if you are spending electronically rather than cash you spend more. Another reason to do away with it... for more profit. No wages bills to employ anyone to look after it either. Makes perfect sense. It's also great for advertisers trying to sell you products as with online payments they can capture and track every aspect of your life in fine detail. Getting your data is the new currency for both crooks and companies. Owning your soul in every way has always been the name of the game. Putting you into debt is also desirable for some companies and bosses as it gives you less choice to walk away from them. We nod wisely at the tales of workers in mines in the old days who had no choice but to buy at the local company owned shop, at inflated prices, putting them in debt to the company until they died- insuring a loyal work force. So much better now than then...... or is the eternal game played with humans just better, more sophisticated, cold- hearted complex, and highly secretive today?
This recent BBC 2 programme is really worth watching  and shows how the movers and shakers (billionaires) are stealing our entire world from under our feet then smiling and patting us on the head, telling us its for our own good... and there's nothing we can do about it... as society as a collective unit is intrinsically stupid and will go along with anything. Very easy to sway or manipulate the masses with a few well picked slogans or ideas. Nothing too complex as that will lose them altogether.... just spoon fed baby mush will do. Forget the EU, forget Brexit, (a predictable disaster) forget stopping immigration or European control of the UK-as it will not change the bigger picture... they are just the sideshows of distraction to keep us busy in the meantime. This is our future... to always be conned...every time..every year...if we let it happen. .P.S. Recessions can sometimes be great for big business as you can often bring in sweeping changes or austerity measures under the radar saying its good for the country. Are recessions created deliberately as a game changing catalyst? That would not surprise me at all.

Anyway, after cycling through Springburn we had to find a way to get down to Glasgow Green in the first post through a very busy congested part of the city. Luckily we again found an enjoyable network of quiet back streets, purpose built cycle tracks and open spaces just by following our instincts.
The most exiting part was this elevated walkway/cycle track across- under-and around, the motorway/ interchange/ spaghetti junction complex of roads between  Sighthill and the Royal Infirmary. Most of this route was new to us both and we enjoyed it. Alan well ahead at this point as I stopped for photos. You can see him at the gantry sign.
Looking back at a maze of hi speed roads which we weaved over or under on little used cycle lanes. A real surprise.Some broken glass in places like underpasses so we walked where appropriate to save our wheels.
Royal Infirmary. Ironically this is one of the oldest hospitals in Glasgow, serving the east end, yet still fully functioning. Don't know if there is any plan to shut this place down although its the oldest hospital.
Alan miles in front by now. You can just see him cycling past the hospital in white T shirt. A common occurrence. A keen photographer has to work twice as hard on any journey with friends on bike or foot. Finally caught him up again around a mile later... only to take more photos and fall behind again :o)
As the rest of our bike trip around Glasgow Green is captured in part one, see last post, here's the rest of the West End walking day out- also partly captured in part one.
I'd arranged to meet Alan to visit the Tall Ship Glenlee and The Riverside Museum as well as the Hunterian Museum. Alan came over from Govan to Partick and I got the bus down to Partick to meet him. One thing I hadn't noticed before was how far away the Riverside Museum and Tall Ship is from any public transport. It was a fifteen minute walk from Partick to see these tourist attractions. That might not seem like much but we are fast walkers and fit. There is a medium sized car park at the Riverside Museum but it would be pretty full during peak periods and I can't think of any other major Glasgow attraction that's so far from public transport. I usually arrive here by bike so it's not something I thought about before. When I mentioned this casually to the girl on the reception desk inside she said "fill out a complaint in the visitor book then. I know it's a bit away from the bus routes, especially if its bad weather as there's not much shelter on the way down.A party just came in half an hour ago that got a real soaking." as if she's asked this question all the time by new arrivals. I could tell the way she said it that it was a common complaint she was well used to getting and that she suspected herself visitor numbers might be affected by the distance. Where it was before was the Kelvin Hall- now lying empty but right beside several main bus routes. That's progress I suppose- not always forwards- just relentless. On the bus down from my house there was a heavy localized summer downpour. Not unusual at this time of year.

 Luckily it didn't rain during our hike.Walking towards the Riverside Museum. Much faster and easier to reach by bike.
When you do eventually get there it's worth the effort. The Tall Ship is right next to the Riverside Museum. This used to be called the Transport Museum which gives you a better clue to what's inside.
Transport through the ages.
It is very nice inside. Old trams, buses, cars, trains, bikes, a vintage street with period shops but as Alan pointed out many of the lesser exhibits are hung high above your head on wires so many of the articles are too high to see properly. It's a great building but it does seem rather cramped in this new location compared to the old one. Still very popular though with visitors.
Really nice design and location beside the River Clyde.
Plenty of interest in this classic photo. One of my favourite snaps.
The green and leafy front view with the 'big furniture' proving popular. This cycle track is my usual way to visit it but not everyone can reach it by bike. Maybe the museum will eventually shift into the ship itself then get smaller and smaller for each new generation of visitors as decades of austerity cuts bite deeper until its all nano designed into a matchbox that you explore with a virtual headset :o)
We then entered the Tall Ship- A late 1800s three masted barque which was lying derelict and mostly forgotten in Seville until it was brought back and restored to the river of its birth. (built in Port Glasgow) One of only four sailing ships left built around the Clyde and all are now restored tourist attractions in various cities worldwide. This used to be a paid entry attraction but is now free. So is the Riverside Museum.
It started pouring with rain again so we ducked below decks to keep dry. Crew quarters.
It's surprisingly large below decks with  several levels. You can see how they could pack a lot in. The HGV or container ships of that era. The Tall Ship is also available for corporate events, special day's out, parties, etc...
Ship's cat (stuffed) popular with children and adults.
Down another level via steep stairs. Ships interiors are the original Tardis and usually surprise visitors by being very spacious compared to an outside view.
The view outside where the River Kelvin meets the River Clyde.
Ship's kitchen and turtle eggs. Interesting and colourful but I know from reading various books concerning the days of sailing ships entire islands could be stripped bare of their native bird and animal life in a couple of visits and mass extinctions occurred in places that had often taken thousands of years to built up into a paradise of remarkable complexity in far flung places. For hungry crew, far from land, stripping island's bare of life in several days was a necessity and the notion of conservation didn't exist then. Makes you wonder just how many unknown species were wiped out before they even reached the pages of any history books or records to describe them. The Passenger Pigeon, the Thylacine and the Dodo are only the ones we know about.
Two good day's out.

A lovely acoustic version here of the Chris Isaak classic by Irish singer/ songwriter Gemma Hayes and her friend. The words seem very appropriate for part of this post somehow. It occurred to me to think of it as a mission statement of intent by big business or a protest song to progress as well as a conventional love song. Guess what? It works all three ways very well. ( I always start off promising myself to write straightforward non- confrontational/ uplifting, happy, posts then the Devil descends on my shoulder, whispering in my ear. He waits patiently for this moment at the keyboard each week so it seems rude to ignore him altogether :o)
Really nice version though.