This is a companion post to the Kilpatrick hills post just past. There are a number of good bike rides from my house that run along the Forth and Clyde canal in both directions. Two of the best explore the banks of the lower River Clyde. The first goes via Anniesland out past Clydebank and here at Bowling Harbour, through the Vale of Leven to Loch Lomond side. From there a network of Minor roads in the rolling country north east of Jamestown (Balloch) lead you round past Croftamie and Blanefeild back to Glasgow. A fairly long day but highly enjoyable.
This is Bowling harbour. It used to be a major stop off point for the many steamers going up and down the Clyde, a shipbuilders yard and a busy working harbour After a long decline its now a smashing little place full of quirky interest and has regained something of its former glory. Dumbarton is another place that is often overlooked but it has a great park (Levengrove) a very dramatic Castle and a scenic walkway/cycle track leading along the Firth of Clyde from this park towards Cardross and the Havoc Grasslands.
The second bike run veers south and crosses the Erskine Bridge then runs along the other side of the Clyde via Erskine all the way out over the hills and moors to reach Inverclyde. This was a run I did in the late Autumn just passed. From high up on the bridge the Kilpatrick hills look almost flat here. After such a poor wet summer I was determined to make the most of any good weekends and chase the sun wherever it landed. Today was a perfect example. Going by the forecast It was a gloomy,wet cloudy day anywhere over the mountain regions within a two hour drive away but in Glasgow and the lower Clyde area the sun was out all day. The city with its heat and concrete often punches a hole through the murk and I had just the ride to take advantage of this. Despite its proximity to where I live I had never fully explored the Marshlands of the Lower River Clyde before. It should be good for wildlife, photography and make an interesting outing I thought.
In places, as here near Newshot Island The River is at its widest, looking more like the Nile or the Amazon than the tame city River further inland. Here it meets the White and Black Cart Waters flowing out of Paisley which help to swell its volume considerably It actually narrows again after this point, squeezed tighter by the landscape and the great northern wall of the Kilpatricks looming above. This was after five days of heavy rain and storms and entire mature trees were floating past out to sea, eroded from the crumbling banks upstream. It didn't feel like the usual urban river. While researching this post I came across this link to a site showing what the Clyde looked like in its heyday. Many of the photos in here are stunning. Its another world. When I was a child being taken around Glasgow in the late 1950s early 1960s I Just caught a last glimpse of this powerhouse age before its final demise. For anyone too young to remember it this is an eye-opener compared to the empty scene now.http://www.glasgowhistory.com/sailing-down-the-clyde-%E2%80%9Cdoon-the-watter%E2%80%9D.html Well worth a look and a lot of work to collect so much lost history and images.
A fine easy bike/walking trail leads through the grounds of Erskine Hospital past the new Golf course and sandy beaches with fantastic views of well known places across the river but now seen from a different angle entirely. On the OS Map of Glasgow however it looked possible to go from here all the way along to Longhaugh point and the M8 leading to Greenock. I didn't know anyone who had been along here and had never seen it in any guide. That was enough for me. Sometimes I don't need to go into the true wilds for fun and adventure. You can find wilderness nearby in the unlikeliest places imaginable. I also found where some of the floating trees ended up.
Only a few miles away over the higher mountain ranges rain and murk prevailed. In the words of Austin Powers..."That's not my bag baby!" If I have a choice I prefer a walk in day long sunshine. Which is just as well as it turned out to be one of the hardest, most desperate walks I have attempted anywhere. There is a very good reason its not in any guide.
Dumbarton Rock seen from the marshlands. It was around this point I had to ditch the bike hiding it in the reeds on the edge of the marsh. Walking was becoming difficult by now. Unseen holes, some of them three feet deep and filled with stagnant river water lurked every second step underfoot. What solid ground there was to step on was of the spongy tussock variety or deep sticky mud. It was worse than any hill I'd thrown myself up, even darkest, deepest Galloway which has some of the biggest tussocks and holes off the main walking paths anywhere. There and back It was under six kilometres of white unmarked ground. A blank on the map. It was up to me to fill in that blank on the map for curiosity sake alone. I rose to the challenge ..or rather sank, swam and crawled.
It did have some interesting Highlights though. This is the monument between Milton and Bowling. It's an area that has intrigued me as its off limits to the general public with a manned guardhouse and no way in except for those with the right password. On the Map there is a lot of potential interest though with the remains of the ancient Dunglass Castle marked, built in 1380, this monument, several piers and an offshore island (Milton island).An interesting boat trip methinks. Its off limits because its the site of the old Esso Bowling facility and fuel storage reserve but if it was decommissioned and opened to the public it would give Bowling another much needed tourist asset to complement the harbour. A nice walking/bike trail could be landscaped here linked to the harbour area. It would certainly be better than the side I was on.
Muddy and soaked beyond belief I crawled and jumped my way across this hideous swampy void then returned to my bike. Due to the terrain it had taken a lot longer than expected. By now it was getting dark and very cold. A magnificent full moon was out above Clydebank as I zoomed along the canal, still dripping mud, intent on getting back home before I froze to death from hypothermia. It is not a walk I feel I can fully recommend therefore unless you are keen to do battle with several thousand, hidden jaggy edged freezing mud baths. Waders and birdlife seem to love it though. Come to think of it waders would be just the right equipment for this place. Boots were sadly no match for the sucking ferocity of this overlooked wildlife gem and came up short in more ways than one. Never have the backstreets of Glasgow looked so beautiful to my eyes on my return.
Everyone needs a cosy cave to come home to. It's what makes us human. I certainly realised this point after falling, splashing and crawling on all four limbs for hours. Who would have believed such wild adventure could be found so close at hand. What an epic. What a great find. The Scottish equivalent of a mangrove swamp.