Monday, 10 October 2011

Bo,ness Station.Kinneil Reserve.Grangemouth.

Its been a great summer in the UK to be an apple apparently.Me I,m just glad I can find pleasure in the lower hills,pastoral scenes and contrasting landscapes as that,s where the better weather normally lies.
I,m a bagger too.I just have my own lists to tick. Visiting different parts of Scotland of Interest (to me anyway) is one of the rewards.

I,ve been to Bo,ness Railway Station a few times over the years.You can take a steam train from here in summer a couple of stations up the line to Birkhill Clay Mine.Departing at Birkhill,also done up as a Victorian Station the energetic could then descend with a guide down a long flight of stairs into the wooded Avon Gorge where the same guide unlocks the massive steel door and takes you on a tour of the underground clay mines.Fireclay was dug out and hauled  from here to be made into durable bricks for industrial furnaces.Unlike most other open to the public Scottish mines I,ve been to which are fairly constricted places you can stroll through this one hands in pockets, the ceiling out of reach, or even drive a mini bus along it if it was allowed.It twists along at a gentle gradient for almost a mile and was one of the lesser known wonders of this area.For families, kids and the more adventure minded tourists it was a unique day out.There was even talk of boat trips through the deeper network of flooded tunnels though that was always just a pipe dream with today's health and safety laws.
I mention this because Birkhill Clay Mine is now closed at present.There is support to save it so hopefully it will not be too late..A rather convenient rock fall has meant it has had to be reviewed.It costs £50,000 a year to run I believe and employs 8 staff.Not sure if their wages are included in that bill (I hope not for their sake).probably just lighting,running costs.maintenance etc.With implemented cut backs about to bite in every region,Its future is in  doubt.To be honest with the level of mounting power bills to cope with and visitor numbers down after a  very poor summer I can see where they are coming from.Hopefully funding will be found however and it will be saved.Part of the problem I think is not enough people outside of the local area know about its existence or want to walk for an hour deep under the ground.Its not an experience you can capture on a computer...or maybe you can? Having just watched a programme which highlighted the fact that wildlife and countryside TV Programmes are at an all time high yet most of the viewers will not be regular explorers of areas outside of their own immediate.neighbourhood maybe that's the problem.People like the idea of  having countryside but in reality its always getting squeezed,changed ,moulded or lost altogether.Unfortunately once these places are gone they are  usually gone for good due to  rising water seepage in mines.Make a good landfill site though as we are running out of them. The mine is not owned by the Steam railway company which remains open..You can still take the return train ride on a steam train and  then visit the adjoining Scottish railway museum and harbour area which is interesting in itself but a truly unique experience with the mine journey included may be yet another memory of the past.It will not be the only thing to expire.Expect other examples to follow soon as everyone now gets patted on the back finding new ways to save money.I,m not normally political. I find most things to do with politics boring in the extreme.But.... (a but  included here just for Ken :)
Think the old cigarette sign at the top is out of date with its message? Don't believe the words? A more modern one  might read.
"The bankers and the Politicians will share the  hardship of these cuts just like the rest of us". Aye right.
Its a real shame if it closes because there is nothing else like it in Scotland.
Mc Cowans Highland Toffee factory  in nearby Stenhousemuir seem to have made the last bar of jaw jammer as well,victim of changing tastes and times.However the proclaimers can send an Email to America now instead of a letter.Time always marches on sweeping anything that cant keep up into the gutter.
Wham bars,pan drops and Bon bons also bite the dust when its closed.
They were making an Advert or Film  in this train station when I visited.A production crew busy screwing up modern hoardings with what looked like designer clad models on them. Remakes of the Railway Children and The 39 Steps have been made here but I don't think this was a period piece somehow.I got short shrift from the female in charge of the crew when I asked what they were going to be filming and were there any spare models kicking  around or stars arriving  in person that wanted a free tour.Well,  it never hurts to ask.
Bo,ness itself is a funny town.It has a lot of old interesting buildings and a few picturesque old alleyways.It has had and is still getting a makeover with several restoration projects going on.It,s got potential. It could rival Linlithgow as a place for tourists to visit if it had just a few more streets of ancient houses and they were clustered together more.It has fine buildings but they are scattered or in a line along an upper hillside which a lot of less able visitors don't like.It has free car parks though and an interesting nature reserve nearby which is where I was heading now. Its main tourist drawback though will become evident by the end of this post.It is in sight of something.Something large and overpowering.Something dark.

This is the Kinneil Foreshore Reserve just outside the town.Its really beautiful.It has a large car park and is well used.A great asset to the town and the reason I was here.I had my bike with me and set off....a cunning plan in mind.You can travel much further on a bike.
I was here once in the mid 1980.s when it looked pretty bleak and barren though the insects still enjoyed it.Up until 1983 this was the site of the former Kinneil Colliery then it was landscaped with waste materials,a large tidal island created and trees planted that would thrive on such poor soil.It just shows you how an area can be transformed.Now its lush and verdant with some wildlife and a nice place for a  few hours walk.
Many humans walking dogs seem to enjoy it and why not? It has extensive views over the Forth.The reason for the bike however was to visit a sleeping monster just in sight in the distance.One of the great dragons of our age,without which the entire country couldn't, function but which is usually shunned or ignored by the eye of the beholder.I ,ve always been fascinated by this particular monster and with the bike I could cycle out past the reserve and right into the belly of the beast,getting up close and personnel as it were to within touching distance of its hot foul breath....Grangemouth.
I was close enough here to almost feel the heat off the gas flares.There is a grassy track that leads out the reserve and heads west along the estuary right into the heart of swampy marshlands surrounded by a myriad of cooling towers,pipe racks and storage tanks.Its an extreme head trip as birds and animals actually seem to enjoy being here within touching distance,under the  dark shadow cast by this vast Petrochemical and oil refinery complex.The only one of its kind in Scotland.
Nature will always surprise you.Thousands of birds were here,feeding in the not too clean looking marshes.Vast flocks of waders,gulls,crows,finches and smaller assorted others.This in turn attracted predators like foxes, hawks,stoats and weasels.The place was bouncing with life.Far more than on the scenic nature reserve.It brings into question the nature of beauty as its such a  hard thing to define.Even four people in a room may have different views on what it is.To a proportion of wildlife it  just seems to be a place far away from human activity.To our eyes you might think they would prefer pristine uplands or  rural farmlands or the nearby nature reserve but this place has several things going for it.Few people ever come here....It has food, water and shelter....Its tidal....and I bet in winter time its hotter than the surrounding landscape.
I will not lie to you though.It,s very far from paradise here.Its pretty scabby to most peoples eyes. Right up close to the complex and downwind there was a strong and acrid flavour to the air,metalic almost and  little bits of ash fell down on me on occasion.If I had to work here every day I,m not sure
 I,d like it much but a job is a job and the pay is probably good for many with all those volatile substances around on site stretching for miles.
 As a one off visit though...Wow ... its right up there!
I carried on half expecting to be stopped by a security vehicle until I arrived at the natural barrier of the River Avon felt like being in a sprawling industrial kitchen, one belonging to an entity that looked on humans with little favour or regard.
This is where my trip ended in this direction.I had lunch here sitting on an estuary wall,sharing my almond slices with  two bare tailed , not so little, companions moving around on the muddy shoreline below me.I was careful not to place my hands anywhere they might have been for obvious reasons but I didn't mind giving them a few leftovers.They looked at me with fearless curiosity while eating. A dark garden of Eden.
Beauty is variable depending on what you need in Life.A peaceful home.A place to feed.Somewhere to feel safe.... to breed,thrive and survive.For eyes other than ours this is obviously a great place to be.

An unusual and interesting place.


The Glebe Blog said...

A great post Bob, brought back my visit with The Sons of the Desert back in April.As well as the railway museum,the Hippodrome was amazing.

I might have mentioned this before,but when I was an apprentice weighing machine fitter at Auchtermuchty(never finished it and went after the big money in the limestone mines),I went with the Journeyman to service a docks weighing machine.
After the service the foreman said to my boss "would you like to take a bottle", Stan of course replied in the affirmative.
Anyway,the foreman couldn't find any spare bottles,so the next thing is he's got a jemmy in his hand cracking open a wooden bonded case of Dimple Haig.After handing the bottle to Stan, he said "We've still got plenty for the cargo"
I watched a programme about containerization recently,and pre it's inception, whisky companies exporting were expected to lose somewhere between 25 and 30 percent of their cargo before reaching their destination.

blueskyscotland said...

That,s a hell of a big Angel,s share Jim.I,m surprised any was left at all when it reached its destination.
I used to pass a storage bond all the time and the trees around the complex were always darker than the rest.A lot of it evaporates into the surroundings.Suck those trees!

fatdogwalks said...

It was our section that suggested they close the mine, Bob. I wasn't down and can't remember what the problem was.

I did however clamber over the barriers and head down to the mine to check the bridges only 6 months ago. Well worth doing - the gorge in which the mine sits is quite impressive. Probably spent longer than I needed to down there (lol).

They're certainly costing up how much it will be to re-open but there's a fair bit of money needing spent on infrastructure so I wouldn't be too confident.

fatdogwalks said...

PS - The "but..." - nice one Bob (lol).

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Ken.
Yeah, not enough people visited that mine to really make a profit anyway.It does leave the steam railway without a real end of line highlight though.Been out near your way again recently and had a fantastic day.Can,t get enough of your sunny east coast! I could probably see your house from where I was.... looking down from the grassy heights of The Witchcraig. Fantastic place I,ve only just discovered:)
Have you looked at a site called Undiscovered Scotland.Its got all sorts of info on lesser known places all over Scotland.

fatdogwalks said...

Came across the site in searches Bob but never gave it much thought at the time as I was looking for something else. Will now go back for a look. Thanks for that :)

Well done on the sunshine for some reason I keep missing it! (lol)

blueskyscotland said...

That,s because you used to go up the mountains Ken:)I know you love the greater ranges but a warm welcome anyway to you and Fat Dog to a land of endless sunshine(if you want it:)and lush walking on Coastal walks,off shore Islands, smaller hill ranges, strange new places and jam packed history.I,ve been on the net for three hours tonight(Saterday night telly just drives me mental and I,m too old,ugly and skint to go clubbing) just learning about a small, half forgotten but very interesting village out near you.Probably only use about 5% of what I,ve discovered for the post though its all facinating stuff to me.(I,m an empty sponge though.Thank God I learned nothing interesting or useful at school!)
Can you guess what and where it is yet and win a free teddy bear?

fatdogwalks said...

Dunmore? How many guesses do I get? (lol) Airth has a bit of history to it as well. Carron has an industrial and port past as well as Carron Works. Easy when you start :) .

blueskyscotland said...

Nope.Not even close Ken.You Will Have to wait a week though to find out.Picos de Springburn First:)