Monday, 28 November 2011
Renfrewshire.Quarrier,s Village.History and Imagination.
"Fairest of Scotland,s thousand parishes
Neither highland or lowland
But undulating,like the sea in sunset after a day of storms
Thou art indeed beautiful as of old."
These are the words of Christopher North ( 1785-1854 ) a writer,poet and professor of moral philosophy at Edinburgh University. More importantly he came from Paisley and went to school in the Mearns.He knew East Renfrewshire well and in later years those memories of youthful explorations here came back to him.I don,t think anyone has managed to capture the special essence that is Renfrewshire better in so few short words .http://www.eastrenfrewshire.gov.uk/john-wilson.htm.
This is worth a look if only for the Robert Pollok link halfway down, a poet and friend of Christopher North(Christopher,s real name was John Wilson and his friend went on to write a best seller of the day inspired by Milton,s Paradise Lost.) It made him famous.
What,s so special about that I hear you ask? Well.......It was three and a half thousand verses long! And it was a best seller! Clearly they liked something to get their teeth into years back to pass those long winter nights beside the fire.
I came across this( thankfully) shorter verse months ago on the internet but the image has never left me as I too have been smitten by this magical kingdom since childhood..I,ve known it since my earliest memories yet even after 50 odd years of exploring its depths it still has the power to move and excite me.There is no other place quite like it.
Why is it so special? I,ve often wondered that myself.It has no major hills,no outstanding places of great merit,no famous landmarks or Iconic visitor attractions for the tourist.But to anyone who knows this landscape well it leaves its mark on you forever. If I die and my ashes get scattered I can,t think of a better place to lie than Renfrewshire.
My original ambition for this post had been to do one great bike ride of homage round the entire kingdom from Eaglesham to the outskirts of Port Glasgow.I may have been able to cover that distance in my youth... but not now on winter roads and short days.This therefore is two journeys blended into one.
The first tour was Barrhead past Neilston Pad along the edge of the Lochliboside hills past Uplawmoor on minor roads to Dunlop then back along the winding Harelaw dam minor road,wild and empty of cars,visiting the weird Totherick in mild calm conditions.
When the Ice age retreated glacial deposits were left all over the central bowl including Renfrewshire.
Edinburgh is a city built around the sides of ancient volcano,s and stumpy lavas , Glasgow is a city built over Drumlins,a multitude of them , mostly between fifty to a couple of hundred feet high.Its what gives both cities their different character.You only have to look at an OS map of Glasgow to see the large number of kettle lochs on it dotted on the outskirts left by stadium sized blocks of melting ice from that time. I,ve spent many happy years exploring every one.
Whatever happened it created this fantastic bumpy part of Scotland.A landscape similar in many ways to parts of inland Dorset,the South Downs,The Sussex Weald.A softer southern patchwork of gentle ridges and dips, each hollow might be filled with beech woods,waterways,fields, farms or a village.Its a land built for joyful exploration, every new view containing a multitude of hidden treasures waiting til you stumble across them.Although I grew up just over the border on the outskirts of Glasgow twenty minutes walk over the fields took me into the start of that magic land.Both feet and mind were always going to be pulled in that direction.
high, empty moors to Largs and Wemyss Bay.Although the modern boundary between Inverclyde and Renfrewshire weaves along rivers and around the edges of small towns like Kilmacolm and Quarrier,s village
I,ve always thought of it in simple terms as this...Rolling valley and pasture lands...must be Renfrewshire. Higher open moors and hills...Inverclyde or Cunninghame.This is as much a landscape of the mind and as old maps show boundary lines are always changing anyway while the basic characteristics of the countryside remain.