Friday, 18 May 2012

Knapps Loch.Glen Moss.Knockmountain.Kilmacolm.

Maps to any outdoor person should be a window into the landscape around you. I,ve been fascinated by  OS Maps since primary school.When you know how to read features and information on maps its like flying above the ground sitting in a house.No broomstick required.Mountain ranges,cliffs,gorges,sandbars,moors,gravel,mud and sand dunes. .....Its all there.
Normally you can tell how good area  is for walking just by looking at a map.Its how I find most of mine.
Some areas however lie under the map radar and this is one of them.Its a rural gem.A lush oasis in an area only locals normally frequent but it has some of the best scenery for photographers anywhere in the Central belt.Its also a fantastic walk with stunning views yet I only discovered it a year ago after driving past it in the car for decades.I,ve been back four times since then in every season.Says it all really.
The photo above is Knapps Loch and its low semi wooded escarpment behind.There are a couple of lay bys beside this on the A761 just south of Kilmacolm,an upmarket country town in Inverclyde that is one of the most sought after locations in the country for folk with a few million to spend on a property.
You can tell a town is upmarket when most of it is hidden under its own forest.Large spacious gardens full of mature trees and the occasional  tennis court.It would also boast many swimming pools in gardens if only  the weather in Scotland would allow that.Very few days when its warm enough for swimming outdoors in any comfort though.
Spotted this pair of Greylags as soon as I got out the car.There is something almost fairytale about this area.Vast mansions,many hidden down lanes,obscured by trees of every variety,height and shape.
What a way to start a walk.
The Walk itself.
Park in one of the two laybys.Knapps loch has a fishing hut,three small rowing boats on it,several wooded islands and is popular with local dog walkers.Most of them just go round the loch which is why I,ve always
passed by it in the car considering it too short for a decent walk in the past.I have parked here to start a cycle ride though.(The first layby right beside the loch is also beside a fast road so watch when driving out and keep animals and children safe)
How wrong can you be?   Its actually a fantastic and varied walk of several hours duration if you link the low escarpment, nearby Glen moss,and Knockmountain together.A stunning tour de force combination.
Bridge of Weir and the Renfrewshire ridges from the Knapps escarpment.
I already know what a joy is is to cycle across this landscape,each ridge a real prize on a bike,as big a buzz to reach the top as any mountain summit.Now I,ve also found a walk to do this remarkable landscape justice.A cornucopia of different habitats,terrain and creatures in a surprisingly wild upland area.

The walk starts from the car park layby,seen here, travels clockwise(north side) round Knapps loch but on this higher balcony trail at the top of these sloping fields to reach the north end of the escarpment.Stay high for the best views.
It  then takes this left hand skyline ridge up through the trees and follows a faint path along this rocky crest. Few dog walkers reach this far.(Dogs I dont mind.People shouting at their dogs for doing what dogs simply do best(eating dead stuff,Rolling on shit,Sniffing balls and bums,chasing loads of  things,fighting or humping other dogs etc) can be irritating after a spell.If you want to shout a lot outdoors and not get arrested for it get a dog :)
I find dogs and people very funny normally but I much prefer them Lowry sized in the landscape,like bagpipes.Happily seen and admired from afar rather than played right in my ear. Good for photos too.

Although Just over 100 metres( 300feet) above sea level this escarpment and the open moor behind it boast panoramic views over  the Heights of Inverclyde and Muirshiel Regional Park.
Views across to Glasgow and Paisley.City views from hilltops I never tire of but this is a completely new angle for me.Shows you how close the city is to such dramatic landscape on its doorstep.
Looking the other way towards the rising hill farms above the Green Water in Inverclyde.This photograph really highlights the difference a few hundred feet of height can make between lush  pasture lands and more exposed,emptier hill slopes.Sunshine or shadow.The difference between life and death for lambs this season as this May has been the coldest and wettest anyone can remember up here.
Once the escarpment has been traversed the path runs down along the south side of Knapps loch.From the fishing hut go back across the dam then cross open meadows to reach Kilmacolm itself.There is a walkers access gate near the first houses  beside the Kilmacolm signs on the A761.This keeps you off the road.
From here going along the main road  into town take the 2nd street on the right (Houston Road) a quiet serene gem with wood pigeons cooing in the garden canopy above.Glimpses into a different world of opulent luxury on a grand scale.I love the trees and shrubs here.Many rare types from all around the world.On a sunny day this walk is so close to heaven you can sometimes hear the angels sing in these woods over the sound of lawnmowers and strimmers.
This particular sweet angel stopped signing and asked me if I,d come to fix the drains but I replied no and passed through her world like a visiting ghost. Great houses often require great money and maintainance alas. She was also a visitor.A singing Nanny.A  young,very attractive Mary Poppins.Told you this was a land of fairytales.
The road continues up towards a golf course.Once past the houses keep your eyes peeled for a signposted path on the left which takes you across this golf course protected by a screen of silver birch trees on both sides.You then come to a deep, dark fir wood with orange dots on tree trucks highlighting the way (Hansel and Gretel anyone) down to Glen Moss.A nature reserve and one of the few places left in central Scotland that has true elephant swallowing bog.

Its a traquil oasis in a sheltered bowl much loved by dragonflies,flittermice,rainbow pond skimmers, furry
floating reed munchers and  other fairy folk.There are duckboards and several paths around the reserve though you can,t complete a full circle of this body of water.Not without wet feet and good slithering ability anyway.
After exploring follow the duck boards back to a lane with several grand houses scattered around. (tiny car space for wildlife enthusiasts here) Its a dead end cul de sac but you take a rough rustic track that leads down a wooded semi gorge with railings past two sets of open golden gates. ( It is a fairy tale after all.Can,t not have golden gates in it,can we?) This takes you out near the town centre where you can still get a good impression  of the old  country village of Kilmacolm before the serious money moved in around it.
Knapps loch is man made along with the golf courses.Glen Moss ,a sunken relic of the last ice age used to be drained and managed every winter as a curling pond in years gone by but now its been left to revert to its wild state.
Like a little chunk of Louisiana swampland  only without any Alligators.

Around this sheltered bowl is an abundance of wild land.Perfect, near empty cycling roads as you weave between the glorious border separating Inverclyde from Renfrewshire.Most folk will find this walk enough and will head back to the car.((I recommend Glencairn road rather than the main street as a return as its quiet and rather special)
For those with energy left however there is a path marked on the map that leads up over Knockmountain towards Langbank with views over the Firth Of Clyde.


The summit of Knockmountain is only 191 metres(  626 feet) but worth it for the views.Its also possible to do this as a solo walk in itself,continuing down to Langbank for lunch beside the Clyde(hotel pub,carvery, shop) then walking up through the Finlaystone Estate(beautiful mature woods and gardens) then  up past the Auchendores Reservoir road(path across fields marked on map here) back to Kilmacolm.A long and varied walk through different landscapes with sea views.


A  pretty Pandora's box of  visual treasures few outside the local area know about.If this was a blog that thousands looked at I would never post this on here as its not an area that can take too many people. .But I know only a handful reading this will ever  bother to visit.
To those that do though.... Keep it secret.Keep it safe.I know you will.There are wonders here on the very edge of imagination.A landscape of the mind.
A sudden Spring hailstone shower batters Glasgow seen from the Knapps Escarpment.I know its hailstones as I had the pleasure of their company up here first.The size of marrowfat peas they be!
To die for.....My wonderful Magic Kingdom.My Real Life land of Oz.

2 comments:

The Glebe Blog said...

My kind of walk Bob. Love the scenery.
Heading down to Grassington for a weeks walking.

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Jim.Hope you enjoy your trip. Weather for next week is warmer and better than its been so far in May.