Saturday, 11 February 2012

Tower Hill.Gourock.Firth Of Clyde.

After a month and  a half confined mainly to the house,garden and local park where I doggedly limped around the easy flat sections building my leg up again,surrounded  by ...well... er... dogs and their owners,I discovered two things.
One.Folk shout a lot when they have a dog or dogs.If you want to raise your voice in public a lot and get away with it then a dog will do the trick ,preferably one that does not pay any attention to you when its off the lead.After a week I got to know them all by name...the dogs that is....but the owners seemed to take great exception when you give them a hand ,shouting out at the dogs as well.  Hey! Get your own hound if you want to shout like me!     the usual dark look imparted in my direction seemed to suggest..
By day ten I was well bored and dotted with muddy paw marks (I was a pounced upon  new best friend by this stage)  but kept at it determined to get the mobility back into my body
Two.I,ve  discovered I,m not one of these people that can go to the same place every day and still enjoy it.A time share apartment in one town,no matter how nice would have me pining for fresh views after a while.
Eventually the great day arrived.I had processed sufficiently well that I thought I,d try a minor walk uphill.What better place to go than Gourock,only 30 minutes in the car from my door yet filled with uphill walking potential.One of the best short walks starts from the seafront car park below the main street.Next door is the famous open air saltwater pool,one of only two left in Scotland.Heated of course,not many willing to swim in freezing seas these days without a wet suit.
Incidentally,Henry "Birdie" Bowers (one of Captain Scott's Ill  fated Antarctic Expedition team) was a Scot  growing up in Greenock and Bute.I remember reading an article  that he did used to swim in the sea here in all seasons of the year......even  over to Helensburgh and back.In the depths of winter.They were bloody tough then though. Mind you I had a German freind who did the same thing in Loch lomond A few years back.Both ways,also in winter and not at the narrow part either.I prefer a boat myself.
My objective was slightly less adventurous alas but I was still doubtful of  full completion.If I didn,t make it to the top I could always cut it short without a problem getting back,one of the reasons I,d picked here.
Tower hill is the far away green area behind the white Hi Rise in the first picture above.I don,t  throw these photos in just for the hell of it you know:)  Oh No. Every picture tells a story as Rod Stewart use to say.
Anyway, from the car park, walk up to the main road and turn right in the direction of the Western ferries (red in colour) slipway.You soon pass a row of tenements on the right.On the other side of the road here,watch out for a steep narrow path  leading straight up between the buildings.This takes you  past gardens,some of which need a ladder and rope to maintain them which brings you out onto a higher street.Already the settings are stunning,the Firth of Clyde opening up with views across to the mountains,more often than not at this time of year,early February,covered in snow.
Interesting things may be seen in these waters.I think this might be a Trident nuclear submarine heading home to its sea loch base.Two small rapid assault craft as an escort anyway with what looked like heavy weapon machine guns attached to them.Very old looking though for a nuclear submarine.
I was delighted to see this,just struck it lucky with the timing I guess.As If on cue the sun came out and the air temperature increased a couple of degrees to just above freezing.
Once on this upper but level road a broad street lies straight in front of you, also level,heading inland.follow this til you come shortly to the  big blue sign for Tower hill on the right.Follow this spiral path through park like surroundings up and up til you reach the top.This is a fantastic viewpoint.A small tower  on the summit gives the hill its name.(If you want to find The GKS  then turn left on this initial first street past the bowling club and the church spire til you see the sign)
It was a busy old Firth of Clyde.This is a wind turbine ship near Dunoon.Shows the size of these things when this is just one turbine by the looks of it.At the moment Scotland has only half the intended amount of Turbines Installed so this is a common sight here these days.
Just a few days  after seeing this sail by I watched a recent TV programme "The cost of going green" which made some very interesting points.Seems its yet another way for the rich of this country to make even more money at the expense of people who have less ( What,s new about that then I hear you ask.) Lucky Landowners and householders who can  afford to splash out £15,000 to £20 thousand pounds to get solar panels installed on their roofs or wind turbines erected  on their land not only get cheap power and subsidies for the next 20 odd years but we (the average taxpayer) then have to pay them money every time they generate too much that the grid cannot use because its at full capacity.
Some of the time they don,t turn at all.... then when they******** do******** turn  and its too much the rest of us ******** pay them! You couldn't make It up! The future of Scotland.Clearly as usual its only a recession for some.  But Hey we are all born equal and its a level playing field and all that other guff we used to get taught at school.
I remember as a street postman during the Thatcher era delivering big share envelopes to large houses during the great sell off with the names of household cats and dogs on them,even a budgie once.If you had money to invest in shares then it was also a golden time to print your fortune while a large chunk of Scotland,s infrastructure crumbled around you.
Obviously happy days are back again.( I don,t normally have a rant on here but some things deserve real ******** anger)           Maybe limping for miles over hills makes me less easy going.
Anyway I made it to the top of  Tower hill then descended again in the direction of the park.Up here there was still a lot of evidence of  severe storm damage from a few weeks ago,Roofers, Slater's,Builders and Joiners working flat out as some poor ********s  didn,t even have a roof left to put anything on ,never mind ********solar panels( I don,t  really blame the ones that put these on by the way,its human nature to work the system as best you can for your family if you have the resources available its the poxy institutional  blatant unfairness of it all under the convenient banner of  so called "saving the planet". Hit the average punter in the pocket yet again to pay for a rich man,s solar toys.     **** the ******** planet!  Let the******** billionaires ********save it as they are  the ones who always get the most out of it anyway!  Self serving greedy   ***** !    Manipulative tight fisted   ****     ***** ********     ******************************!!!!!            And  biggest bunch of ********""""""**********::::::::********!!!" in the universe!   ****!   ****s

Where was I ? Ah yes. Gourock and indeed Greenock can be surprisingly leafy,peaceful and tranquil places.From Tower Hill I limped down  past a couple of streets lined with 1960,s style tenements to reach the top end of Gourock Park.This is not large but wonderful as it used to be the grounds of a large posh mansion, Gourock House,.Before that stood  the imposing Gourock Castle in the 1700,s.both long since demolished. Some of the lesser features from that time can still be found however hiding in the woods nearby.From the flat red pitches of sport and tennis courts the park descends gently through ornamental shrubs and monkey puzzle trees.A damp lush glen on the left is a tumbling delight.At the bottom it levels out again to a back wall lined with small bird and animal enclosures.
A while ago,eyeing the noisy squawking parrots I asked a guy whose job it was to clean these out."Do you have any problems with the inhabitants then? Is it messy when you finish.? "
"I always get  space on the bus" He replied dryly. I noticed then that several of his fingers and one ear had plasters on them. Nothing,s ever the easy stress free job you think it is.
At this point I,m going to deviate into summer.Being my first real outing I was content to limp downhill here and stay within  Icy Gourock itself. For those wishing to see a continuation of this green oddessy though this is Coves reservoir , Inverclyde hospital and its waste burning stack then Hunterston Power Station Chimney acting like a weird mirror image.You can link these lush ribbons of green throughout Greenock and Gourock to make an interesting roller coaster walk that would tax the fittest of hill walkers ending up on Lyle Hill under the Cross Of Lorraine .Greenock after all is  supposedly derived from The Gaelic for sunny place.Another line of thought says its a version of "Green Oak" .Hence the name of the local shopping centre.

All I know is that I like the three towns..Love them even. As I knew a few folk I used to come here as a teenager at weekends,escaping from the always in your face encounters of Glasgow.Before the age of computer games and  multi media information overload, vivid and esoteric shocks to the senses were simple and  few and far between. For that reason bold new ideas,sounds and images meant a lot more then. I was a huge fan  of the Velvet Underground.A new york experimental band powered by a raging wall of sound and Lou reed,s dark poetic lyrics of  lurid street life in Central Park and Manhattan and John Cale,s Avant Garde musical  Innovation. Even today no band  has matched that combination of insightful intelligent writing and ferocious driving power. Now generally acknowledged as the second most influential band in rock music history after the Beatles according to the music press. Whatever .At that time though the only people I knew that liked them all lived in Greenock  Compared to what was going on in the schemes of Glasgow  it seemed a preferable, suitably exotic location to capture a young boys imagination.  Hi Linda and Susan.
I had just engaged on a five year apprenticeship however and could not fly off to New York ,as I didn,t have the necessary green stuff to obtain a ticket.I was on the then princely sum of £8 pounds a week. Besides...that would be to follow someone else,s dreams and experiences of growing up..and that's always going to be a disappointment.I,d be a fish out of water.Lost and Jobless wandering down the Avenue of the Americas or living rough in the South Bronx.
For some mad reason I picked the three Inverclyde towns to be my personal New York to discover instead.Maybe its the way they climbed the hillsides behind them,The numerous spires soaring upwards with the  great dome of Victoria Tower coming close to 300 feet in height,The then wild and unknown housing estates, clinging to the sheer drops of the escarpment like limpets.Who knows.
Anyway it was a lucky choice and I had many happy times and adventures in these vertical canyons when exploring new areas,climbing everything in sight and  jumping between  buildings was just called having a laugh instead of "Parkour".With my bold and gymnastic sweet sisters I explored this new and thrilling kingdom.More Importantly,when I was with them I didn,t get my head kicked in by rival gangs :)
.Whatever, I was hooked and more importantly it removed me from South Glasgow at a difficult time when teenagers get most peer pressure heaped upon them and decisions are made that can change the rest of your life.
For an insight into this world I can recommend Peter Mullan,s excellent recent film Neds,an accurate and fairly graphic account of growing up in one of the large Glasgow estates in the 1970,s.In this case Pollok,the largest and oldest of the big four city schemes with an original population of 50,000 souls living on top of each other in cottage type houses and  three and four story tenements that looked in some cases as though they had been built by the Romans on an off day.(Most have now gone which is why it was shot elsewhere)
Instead of paint or tiles some of these  entrance closes had  plain, unadorned bare brick walls At night it was pitch black going up them  apart from a few dim bulbs placed far apart and,most of these had been removed.It was like entering caves.An unnerving experience even if you knew the area and the tribe that may be lurking within.
.No expense spared.I remember just entering  these closes as a young apprentice at night made a big impression on me,like my first sight of family homes within with no real  furniture or carpets.Just pallets or a battered sofa to sit on ,a couple of tea chests for tables ,beds, one small electric fire, light  bulbs in only three rooms and bare boards ten years after they moved in.And folk today think they have it hard.That was fairly normal back then.( I,ve been in houses like this recently come to think of it .)
Peter Mullan also directed the equally intense but heartfelt The Magdalene Sisters in 2002.
There,s been many films and plays set in Greenock as well over the years. My favourite film set in Greenock however is the wonderful,quirky and gentle Dear Frankie starring Emily Mortimer and Jack Mc Elhone.Its a delightful  mum and  young son story that deserves far greater acclaim.In my opinion  its right up there with Gregory,s girl and Local Hero for its charm and  use of its backdrop location and streets ahead of the overrated and dull in places The Full Monty.
Greenock Cemetery Is worth  a visit if In the area.You can park in the street by the entrance then walk up into an unexpected land of riches.More Monkey puzzle trees grow here than anywhere else I,ve visited in Scotland.A range of interesting and rewarding paths lead up through yet another of the areas wooded  hillsides, a cornucopia of historical tombs ,family crypts and headstones catching the eye in all directions.
Greenock was once a  very wealthy area,with its shipbuilding ,Tate and Lyle sugar refineries and  busy port.You can see that by the number of large Gothic mansions that still line the  streets to this day.
Like the notation on this headstone though.Wonder if it was true! On the highest slope of this leafy ,ancient and very beautiful oasis stands arguably the two most famous characters attached to the town.
 James Watt,a local man whose  inspired modification of the then puny steam engine into a thing of reliable power and efficiency kick started the  Industrial Revolution which went on to sweep the world... and Robert Burns   Highland Mary (Mary Campbell) A girl from Dunoon he might have spent his life with had she lived.They both rest here a short distance from each other ,the king and queen of  this  oldest and prettiest part of the cemetery.It covers a surprisingly large area and has good views.
Meanwhile I was on a Limping quest of my own.Still in Gourock I was looking for one of the oldest objects in the town.                                       The Granny Kempoch Stone.
Found half way up the hill above the Railway station This sign suggests its like a cross between Walt Disney and Peter Pan we are looking for.This Bronze age standing stone was formed from the restless ground millions of years ago. Erected, feared and revered as various ages and civilisations grew up, peaked then passed from memory before her, legends and rituals evolved both on and around this  humble stone , good and bad. The mysterious Druids just a distant page from history now.Blood from offerings long washed off. Now she sits forlorn and mainly forgotten,except to curious children and the older generation passing by to secretly pat her as the centuries drift over her cold heart like  falling leaves in a pond,each a fleeting  brief memory when measured against the static time frame of her lifeless existence.

4 comments:

andamento said...

I "enjoyed" your rant. I was just thinking, while passing through Johnstone on the bus the other day, how run down things are looking now but with seemingly little hope of improvement or investment. Depressing. Just as well good old Mother Nature is more generous and Greenock/Gourock/Port Glasgow are indeed blessed with wonderful views. Despite having worked in Greenock for over 13 years I still know relatively little of the area other than the views from the office windows. I'll need to go back and explore soon though I'll wait for slightly warmer weather first...

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Anne
I don,t think Johnstone and Linwood have fully recovered yet from the closure of the large car factory there.A lot of men laid off then nearing 50 would find it hard getting other jobs.Its difficult to adapt to office work at that age if you,ve never been used to it.Once a family starts living on benefits it becomes a soul destroying habit that,s hard to change.
I was also watching a news item very recently where suicide rates in Scotland soared as England,s dropped.No doubt they,ll throw money at a study to see why.
In the 1980,s....A few years after a certain
M thatcher closed all the pits and heavy industry in Scotland and Northen England.It would take a few years to really bite hard and the savings to run out.That,s why I,m willing to bet people of a certain generation in Scotland and the North of England will not be watching the film The Iron lady any time soon.My own father went through a hard time for years after getting laid off from there.His generation really did feel it was like being tossed on the scrapheap as he,d always worked since leaving school.He was still wide awake by seven o,clock every morning even though he had nowhere to go.

On a lighter note The Greenock Cut Is also a suberb flat panoramic walk from cornalees bridge car park to Overton.
I wouldn,t go up any of the hills within Greenock and Gourock on my own though as they are both wooded,secluded and surrounded by an urban jungle below.
The occasional urban Zombie sometimes staggers up this far :)
Take a freind.
Great veiws though.

Jim Deans said...

A very enjoyable post Bob.
You'll not be getting a four legged friend soon then ? Sorry that was horse and not a dog wasn't it.(Roy Rogers, maybe a bit before your time)

The sub looks like a Vanguard Class
We get to see them entering the Clyde from down here occasionally though they're usually too far away to get a clear photograph.Yours is a beauty.
Down here in Galloway there's hardly a farm that hasn't got either wind turbines or banks of solar panels, and every week there's applications for dozens more. I'm not against alternative energy but I'm against saturation of the one kind of alternative energy.It's now gone beyond a ******* joke.
Your account of Pollock put me in mind of Alexander McArthur and H. Kingsley Long - No Mean City: A Story of the Glasgow Slums (1935)
Not a lot of change there then.
I first read it as a sixteen year old then 50 years later I found a copy in Wigtown.Amazing !

I've a great respect for the acting ability of Meryl Streep, she really gets into the characters she portrays, however the pull of my working class roots would never allow me to go and pay to see this.
We should have known what was coming when she callously took away the milk from the mouths of babes.(Or should I say snatched)
I too have enjoyed your rant Bob, when exiled down south I'd get it off my chest via the local media.
Maybe it's that time again.
Live long and prosper.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Jim.
I do remember Roy Rogers and his horse...and the Lone Ranger and Tonto and Casey Jones and his steam train all watched on a tiny flickering black and white telly the size of DVD case.Couldn,t tell you what any of them were about though as the static and picture was always so bad.Ah,the good old days!
Thanks for the vanguard info.I took a few good ones that day as it was pretty close to shore.
I grew up in South Pollok and the wildest parts of it then were very much like those depicted in the film Neds.If anything that was a toned down version.
No mean city is a cracking book of its era.A more recent example of the Glasgow underworld is Reg Mc Kay,s The Last Godfather which gives both social history of the city from the 1930,s onwards and an insight into
the dark underworld most people know nothing about.The best of its type I,ve read and very enjoyable...from a distance.
Just watched a Panorama programme tonight
"Poor America" about the recession over there where there is no safety net if you lose your job.
Families are living in storm drains and tents cities on the outskirts of towns.Kids are going without eating til they get hand outs of food at school from the teachers yet the far right want to get tougher with yet more cuts saying there are no real poor.
As we usually follow the USA in everything else I expect our "we,re all in this together"
PM to follow suit.
If no-one has any money to spend how is that going to help our economy recover?
Meanwhile a select few are stacking gold bars in the vaults.
Right. I,ve done ranting...the end!