Sunday, 4 December 2011

Cramond.Edinburgh,s Wonderful Esplanade.

I enjoyed myself so much in the grounds of Dalmeny Estate a few weeks ago, looking across at the City of Edinburgh, that I was determined to get back there before proper winter conditions set in.This time to explore the other side of the River Almond starting from Cramond  then along the sweeping flat expanse of the Silverknowes esplanade following the cycle path past Granton and its harbour then onwards right down into the Port Of Leith.I,ve done this ride before and know Edinburgh fairly well after many explorations over the years but like any city its ever changing and new things keep springing up.
The last time I was here though it was just me springing up,straight out of the saddle and into the tarmac, hitting first the kerb then the pavement after finding a deep hidden hole in the grass.

The reason I was on the grass was I,d swerved to avoid a small dog on an extendable lead running straight into me.I missed that,congratulated myself for my twisty ability on a bike then went for a swift unexpected dive into the tarmac just as I was about to return onto the esplanade.
Notice how they always pick a pretty girl for these TV shows where they see if there are still good samaritans around willing to help  in this country? Try an old ugly man  on a bike next time.
Of course they,ll help an attractive girl even if she was feeding them spoonfuls of hospital laxative.
Despite it being busy only one family came over to check if I was all right and that was only because I wasn,t getting up after a few minutes.
"Are you OK mate?" The head of the family asked.
I didn,t say anything because I was trying not to be sick and knew something wasn,t right inside.That was the end of my cycling that day.Broken collar bone and bent nose. Limbs battered black and blue.
"We,ll just walk on slow then.Give us a shout if you need any help." They then sped off at high speed, not wanting to waste a nice day.
I drove myself back to Glasgow in disgust after a handful of painkillers.At least the dog got a pat and a cuddle.I got an x-ray and a very long month groaning and moaning around  the house.So be kind to those animals Folks.Poor little things.

The tidal walkway to Cramond.  At low tide this island is accessible on a  flat concrete path and is a popular excursion with the masses.I had thought of doing it myself but the crowds put me off this time.Better to do it midweek.As you can see it was an excellent day with the kind of horizon to horizon cloudless blue sky that the east coast experiences quite a lot and the west coast less so.  Off I set on my bike weaving between the pedestrians, numerous in line roller skaters,dogs and prams.This walkway is like something out of the Victorian era when people used to take a Sunday stroll along the seafront as much to be seen by others in their best clothes  as for any health benefit involved.There still is a little bit of that going on here.Well,it is Edinburgh after all.
It,s very easy to lose the crowds though as they only stay near Cramond and their cars.I was soon gliding my way to Granton along empty wide esplanades with great views over the sparkling Firth and the east coast islands.
Granton used to be a purpose built industrial and fishing dock but its transformed over the years into a more affluent suburb with new modern  housing and small pleasure boats in the harbour.One of the great things here is to go out onto the Eastern Breakwater which stretches for a kilometre out into the Firth with views looking back towards the city. 
As its a long way  out I usually cycle it as do others on bikes but its a dangerous place to fall over the edge or weave inwards,large blocks of stone waiting to put a tender message on your fragile face and limbs.Its an amazing construction though. Herculean in scale. This is less than halfway out and its not as flat as it appears as the stones are angled downwards slightly.A brief picture history of Granton docks here.At one time it had
eighty fishing trawlers working out of here. The interactive menu shows the harbour being built in stages, section by section.
This sculpture caught my eye.Its obviously a 1950,s or 1960,s nostalgic family group heading for a day at the beach.What struck me as interesting about it is its an age that doesn,t exist any more if it ever did.Flask of tea and sandwiches,ball, toy money spent on anything..all cheerful DIY make do.No distracting gadgets around either.

The next place I came to down the coastline highlighted this difference.Platinum Point, a high level upscale development that looks like a white cube from a distance.
I,d imagine its the sort of place like Glasgow Harbour that is aimed  mainly at young or older professionals who maybe spend their evenings and weekends having fun  in the city,leisure time at the gym ,sailing in the firth or enjoy adventure type outdoor sports.Fair enough for them.I only mention this because every landscaped green area,pond,or  purpose built salt marsh walkway around  here is fenced off for some reason denying the public any access to them.When I was here five years ago it wasn,t like that. It might be peaceful for wildlife but any children living here and there are a few because I noticed toys and bikes lying around in tiny , postage stamp sized front lawns have only hard pavements and  local streets to play around in now.No  trees or green at all except safely out of harms way behind a wire fence. Seems a shame and that sculpture family are well out of step here.Where do they go to enjoy themselves...  take a bus to Portobello perhaps? If so they are facing the wrong way. It got me thinking.Very few families seem to play on beaches anymore.Maybe we are all too aware nowadays of the risk of pollution,sewage etc,or its just lack of interest ... or decent warm weather? Despite global warming we no longer seem to get the summer heatwaves we used to enjoy at times.That summer just gone was Baltic!It was warmer in early spring. No wonder they are calling  it climate change nowadays.
Anyway... I digress... as Glasgow is slowly getting rid of its tower blocks Edinburgh,a city with a history of very few hi rises seems to be putting them up,only in a lower quirky style.
So far it had all been on traffic free cycle tracks but the next bit took me into the heart of Leith itself ,Edinburgh,s main dockland region.The Port of Leith must have been a major sea hub in its day and covers a large area,some of it is still working as an industrial port and off limits to casual visitors.In the days of sailing ships Edinburgh  on the east coast was better placed  than Glasgow for trade with the low countries, facing Holland ,Denmark France and the Baltic Sea..Red tiles from here were used as ballast in the empty holds to keep ships stable if they were sailing back without much return cargo and these are what gives the east coast its distinctive red roofs.
Glasgow faced America and traded there.Despite a mere thirty miles separating both cities they have very different characters and influences in their architecture.You can see that in Leith which was revamped from rundown derelict docklands to upmarket shops, restaurants and housing.J.K Rowling used to live in Leith, writing in a local cafe and in her flat.It wasn,t that posh then though.
Parts of it resemble Amsterdam with canal like inlets, tall but slim waterfront buildings and cobbled streets.The last time I was here it was thriving but even well off folk nowadays seem to be hanging onto thier cash as there were more than a few properties with signs to let ,for sale or just empty.Maybe with so many bars and restaurants competing here in a  tough recession  some casualties are inevitable.
Can,t get a decent cheap meal here though.No gregg,s, hot sausage rolls or bridie's :(
I had my ready packed  lunch (1950,s style) sitting down at Ocean terminal where the royal yacht Britannia is moored as a visitor attraction.That,s well worth a look....the rooms are so much smaller than you think.Even the Queen slept in a shoebox of a cabin but the royal yacht was her favourite possession apparently for the freedom it offered . I stumbled across this guy here.I knew there was a  line of these figures placed at intervals in the gurgling water of Leith by the sculptor that created them but found this one completely by accident.This is the last presumably...looking out to sea.
My intention on the way back had been to cycle along the water of Leith walkway spotting these metal men but it was so busy with pedestrians enjoying the  late Sunday sunshine I gave up after a short while,bailing out onto the Victoria park cycle track instead  then joining the main one running parallel to Ferry Road on an old sunken railway line.Nothing to see down here but its flat, swift and empty.Although in a green trench I was able to guess which parts of the city above I was passing through by certain clues left around.
Burnt out litter bins and graffiti on walls...must be going past Pilton :)
Sunset found me back at the car and a happy drive back to Glasgow.A tale of two cities.
A good laugh here as locals have fun with the water of Leith sculptures.

This is the world war two submarine boom at Cramond built to stop them slipping past between the island and the mainland.At high tide it can be almost underwater which gives you an idea of the rise and flow here.
Thought this was a cute sculpture with tiny figures all around this sandstone tower.Very inspired.Loved by children who are at eye level with them.
Incidentally,For those thinking of  visiting Edinburgh, Mary Kings Close, halfway up and underneath the  famous Royal Mile near the castle is a gem.Its a network of  very old streets under the city from a time when  death, dead bodies and back room abattoirs were commonplace.Some of the earliest skyscrapers in the world were here.Narrow lanes with houses either side rising  nine or even ten wooden stories high. A tour guide in traditional costume of the day leads you through its history.This one was about 25 years of age and had been doing it for a while judging by her accomplished performance.She was a local girl and had an outgoing personality.
When I was there she was just getting into her stride in full actress mode  surrounded by mainly overseas tourists,waiting for late comers at the start of the first dark tunnel with her guide torch.
" I come from an old part of Edinburgh that is high, dark and scary. "she intoned,creeping about, setting the scene nicely.
I,d paid my money for the tour and was enjoying the show.She was very good.Normally I,m a quiet, well behaved customer but it was too easy an opening to resist.
"You must live in Wester Hailes then?" I inquired innocently.(a large, tall and somewhat notorious scheme on the  outskirts that I,ve cycled happily though many times dodging obstructions and thrown projectiles)
She gave me a withering  look.....Insulted and put off her stride just for a second. " No! .I,m from Corstorphine............................................... actually!"
That,s Edinburgh folk for you.No sense of humour . Beautiful city though but a bit cool and distant once out of the sunshine.....and so was she after me anyway.
I,ve always had that effect on any women I meet........What can I say........It,s a gift :)


The Glebe Blog said...

Nicely done Bob.Platinum Point was still not quite finished when I was last over there, but I thought at the time they'd be targeting what we used to call 'Yuppies'.
To buy a two bedroom flat in Platinum Point will set you back anything from £135,000 to £285,000.
If we have to go back to basics when the bubble bursts I can see places like this resembling the tenements of the 1930's.Who these days can afford to get on the housing ladder.

Anonymous said...

Fascinating trip through Edinburgh. Seems to be the vogue to "do up" these run-doiwn areas with lots of concrete and glass. Cardiff Bay is pretty much the same. Enjoyed your wee wind up of the tour guide :)

Anonymous said...

What a chat up line Bob!

Great wee trip yet again on the Costa Granton. I was surprised when we drove past that way last year how much it had changed. I remember it as...a dump.

That's one cycle route stored away for next year.

Anonymous said...

When I had a day in Edinburgh in October I took the bus out to the docks at Ocean Terminal, Leith. I walked part of the way back to the city along the Water of Leith Walkway looking for geocaches. I saw 3 of the sculptures (easier to spot that the caches!), then gave up on the walkway as the path was diverted so often around building works. I'm not sure what the major work is, but it looked like flood defences. Maybe they have to provide extra protection now the old warehouses, etc are being converted into upmarket property.

blueskyscotland said...

Can,t see myself or Alex buying one anytime soon Jim.

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Andy.
Yeah, all these new waterfront and harbour areas in the UK look much the same nowadays.

blueskyscotland said...

It was pretty grim when I first visited Granton in the 1980,s.
The Esplanade is a belter now though Ken and Cramond Isle is worth a visit mid week between tides.

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Sheila.
Seemingly they are built to tilt flat in severe flood conditions and should last 1000 years.The metal men that is.
I tilt flat under certain severe liquid conditions and may last til lunchtime.

hunter said...

Another nice trip Bob. I am a regular to Cramond Island and you can see a lot of wildlife times - saw a fox crossing over at low tide a few months ago! Enjoyed your windup of the snooty typical of Edinburgh! Could have been worse though,,could have been a Morningside Matron!

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Hunter.
I intend going back to Crammond midweek sometime when its quieter.It looks interesting over there.Never been.

Hunter said...

Definitely worth a visit Bob with all the old military buildings and also the social history of the island - used to be a farm\holiday homes there. Add to that the views and the wildlife(NOT illegal ravers!) you can see it all adds up to an enjoyable walk.
PS - you didn't see Charles talking to plants at Lochnagar, did you?!