Sunday, 26 February 2012
On a beautiful sunny day walking along the Leven here downstream is a delight for the eyes.These little boats take a hammering during bad storms though as the Leven is one of Scotland,s fastest flowing rivers.It,s the only exit river draining mighty Loch Lomond into the sea so it carries huge volumes of water down its short length in wet weather.The Vikings managed to drag their long boats up it though and pillaged Loch Lomond,s communities and Islands gaining them access to a chunk of Scotland,s interior that had thought itself safe from sea raiders..Very determined boys the old Vikings when it came to bagging and bedding new lands and women.
large mature trees and open meadows.Usual story throughout the Central belt this year though with loads of mature trees here snapped in half or blown over.I hope such severe storms aren,t a sign of things to come each winter or wind turbines and man made trees might be the only structures left sticking up in the landscape.When you leave the car park the best route is to walk straight down beside the River getting good views of Dumbarton Castle and the great volcanic plug its built around. From the 5th Century onwards this was the power base of the ancient Kingdom of Strathclyde. The feared Alt Clut .Rock of the Clyde, known in later Gaelic as Dun Breatann."Fortress of the Britons" from which Dumbarton gets is name.As I,ve said before It has possible links to King Arthur and Merlin and there are a few folk who have explored this in some detail,Welsh surprisingly having been a language spoken here at that time in a sprawling kingdom that reached down that far. Its not impossible that he was a real person based in this area and later became the legendary figure adopted throughout Britain.Several regions lay claim to them both without much actual proof of existence.There is certainly no factual record of a "King" Arthur anywhere,be it here,Cornwall or Wales.But this detailed theory does suggest a possible ruler that fits the bill.Well worth a mouse click.
Another link to the remarkable and stunning blog by someone who really knows this stuff well enough to comment on it.For anyone who couldn,t give a toss about King Arthur and Merlin though and is only interested in a quick history of the castle this is also here below :)
Also took my sisters all Australian grandson up here when he was over on holiday a few years ago and he loved it too although as a teenager who has seen both The Lord of the Rings and 300 it was the imagined fighting, biting,stabbing and battles that inspired him with blood and bodies spurting and tumbling across the cliffs no doubt. Its around £5 pounds each adult to get in,£3 for kids and concessions and well worth while if you haven,t been and can explore it fully on foot.It is steep in places but the paths have guide wires on the hardest, most exposed sections.I used to rock climb occasionally here at Dumbarton Rock years ago on the gloomy and seriously intimidating north facing cliffs and could never get off the ground it was so desperate with a friction free natural polish.Some of the hardest rock climbs in Britain are here on these vertical and overhanging black walls.Its considered very bad form to belay off the cannons at the summit though no matter how tempting or how much trouble you are in.:)
I never got up that high but luckily there are some great traverse lines around the rock lower down and the famous giant boulders full of classic problem test routes to grunt and struggle your way up.
From the western end of Levengrove Park I limped off the path and straight onto the beach.There was a new housing development getting built beside the walkway and I didn't fancy walking beside reversing dumper trucks and guys hammering on the roofs anyway.
The tide was almost out and I walked across the wet mud straight towards the edge of the deep water channel I could just see in the distance in the middle of the Clyde.At first glance this walk looks as if it would be impossible to do.It doesn,t look like sand here. It looks like thick brown mud and as I know from my recent adventure on the opposite bank near here"The lower River Clyde" posted a few weeks ago that,s exactly what it is on that side.Deep, stinking and sticky.
Still ,God loves an ever willing heart and a bold approach to life.I limped off cautiously expecting to sink without trace at any moment. Near the shoreline you do tend to sink in a couple of inches,maybe too much for trainers to cope with but boots or wellies if you have kids with you should be fine.Further out what still looks like mud is actually firm sand underfoot with the mud just a very thin film on top.Not even reaching a quarter of an inch deep anywhere.The further out you go the better the actual sand gets.
According to Chris Packham on Winterwatch recently British Mud is some of the world,s best for the amount of tiny creatures living in it, feeding vast numbers of migrating birds who come to these Islands for an annual winter feast.
This was not the case however and even half crippled me was fast enough to make it.For this reason I would say this is a perfectly safe stunning walk even for children as long as the adults with them made sure they were not getting cut off from behind.The tide does not come in very fast here and if you use basic common sense and are always aware of an easy escape route back towards dry land you can have three or four amazing hours out here alone.Honest its easy.Would I lie to you ?
I ended the longest limp yet by continuing along to Cardross Station and getting the train back to Dalreoch and my car.One of the most unexpected and delightful walks I,ve done. I Still can,t quite believe its possible to walk so far out here yet its so easy.Forget those hard to reach beaches up north folks.I,ve been to desolate Sandwood bay and been disappointed by the number of cars trying to drive in along the worn and rutted access track then loads of summer tourists queueing up to see one of Scotland,s so called remotest beaches.Even in winter it has groups of visitors on it most weekends.Wilderness is all around us.
There was not another soul out here all day apart from bird life and cute little mud men.Probably because no one else was daft enough to think of exploring out here.God bless full strength codeine tablets and the power of positive thinking.Some locals must have been out here though...its just too good to miss.
"where a lone gull can walk on a sand bar a fearless human may follow."
Pillar Bank....Its out there man! Its also marked on the OS map sheet 63 Firth of Clyde.
Me too in a manner of speaking :) Alex is a driven man these days with his intended Corbett bagging quota for this year already worked out.Can,t blame him if he wants to finish them ahead of the coffin sneaking up behind him.
I, ll probably go along for the more exciting ones Like Rum,the West Coast and any other islands if I,m (hopefully) invited but I,m not as keen as him if its foul weather or a really dull lump somewhere just so it can be bagged on a list.Maybe those days when he,s out in the rain and wind I,ll try to finish my second round of Munro,s off or wander along the floor of the oceans instead.
"Where a starfish can shuffle a human may follow". These really are the most excellent tablets!
So much to do so little time.....
Saturday, 18 February 2012
Here the temperature can be ten degrees colder than on the surrounding land as supercooled air from the heights drops down to lie deep in the valleys.In the distant past hard lessons were learned when in some places entire flocks perished, trapped in these Devil,s dimples. Some modern farmers new to the area sometimes change centuries old traditions and field structures then find out there,s a reason for that weird escape route after all upwards to higher ground for the beasts.
In milder winters they bounce back though with a bigger clutch of eggs.Such fast and hard tiny life's. No Tinkerbell had a heart beating so pure or strong within her breast.
Saturday, 11 February 2012
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Saturday, 4 February 2012
Seeing as how I've already taken the photographs and walked the rest of this post I thought I'd keep all of Glasgow's attractions together for any visitors coming to the city to look up. I was asked yesterday by my sister to look up the best Edinburgh attractions for some Australian friends she has who are visiting soon for a few days in the Capital and was struck by the difference between the two cities. Don't get me wrong, I love Edinburgh and I'm through that way all the time. Arthur's Seat, The Hermitage and Blackford Hill, the history and the landscape are world class and free .I've done quite a few posts out that way already. Surprisingly, this is the first collection about Glasgow city centre and its attractions for the tourist.
The main difference I was struck by was the price.
Edinburgh castle.£15 pounds to get in (adult prices).Mary Kings Close £12 pounds (worth it though)Dynamic Earth £12 pounds. Edinburgh Dungeon £16 pounds. Edinburgh Zoo £12 pounds. The list goes on.
A average family group of two adults two children could easily fork out over a £100 pounds during a days sightseeing. .Edinburgh for its size is probably richer than Glasgow these days....I can see why. Hence this timely triptych on Glasgow's mainly free assortment box of attractions.
The University of Strathclyde Is Scotland's third largest University, also one of the oldest founded in 1796 Its a right mish mash of old and new buildings though. Some very old and regal but a lot like here typical late 1950,s 1960s bold slabs of concrete and glass. I must admit I quite like the contrast. Like walking though a Thunderbird's set or a Tomorrows world idea of what our future would look like.
I remember a while ago seeing a University of Strathclyde white van with its black lettering proudly initialled on its sides.It was parked just off Byres road, An enemy stronghold popular with nearby University of Glasgow students.
Underneath someone had added a wry comment with a finger on the winter dust that coats vehicles in the space of a day's driving here." Bollocks! Yer still just a jumped up Poly!" ( Short for poly technical college I presume) Hopefully done by a student and not a U of G rival professor. I must admit it made me laugh.
They also used to call all the Strathclyde guys and gals "The techies" in dismissive fashion but now that there is a third city centre rival in the nearby Caledonian University that phrase is dying out.(Where are all these brainy people coming from, I cant keep up! What are they feeding them these days!)
I must admit, never having walked along here before, the little white signs..." this way to campus village" conjured up images of Scottish versions of Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield and Keira Knightley sitting beside rose covered terraces happily chatting on the lawn about pop bands and fit teachers.
It was a warm autumnal day and I'd recently watched the excellent and heart-breaking film that is .. Never let me go.
(a five hankie job ladies... even stone hearted me had to brush a bit of man grit from my eyes at the end )
Anyway.. warm sunshine... blue skies....rows of student live in apartments....not a soul around. Zilch. Not even a Carry oot Hooligan or Vera Swerveawayfromme anywhere in sight. As a guy with both eyes, a pulse and most of my own teeth I was really disappointed. Beastly bad luck once again!
Maybe that was why Glasgow Cathedral survived intact when so much else in Scotland was destroyed during the dark days of the reformation in the 1560,s when rampaging mobs were held at bay repeatedly by an armed ring of citizens intent on protecting it from harm. It's supposed to stand on the site of St Mungo's original church.
The Museum is a reconstruction built in keeping with its surroundings. A Bishop's Palace or Castle used to stand near here until the ruins were levelled to make way for the foundations of the Royal Infirmary, now looking itself like an ancient relic of the past but still serving the inhabitants of Glasgow's east end and northern Suburbs as a busy city hospital.
St Mungo's is a modern phoenix therefore, risen anew to take its place. All three are free entry, Glasgow having the donation,s box approach where before or after your visit ,if you wish ,you can place what you feel is appropriate for upkeep and maintenance.(No silver buttons or washers please no matter how shiny they be.)
All three buildings are worth a visit then its time (in daylight only if you want to keep your hair and trousers) to walk up the hill to the Necropolis, The Oldest burial Ground in the city and a shrine to the great, good, bad and famous figures of the past.
The stone spire seen in the above photograph is Nelson's Monument standing in the heart of the park. 44 metres high it was the first in Britain to be built to mark Nelson's Victories. Work started around 1806-7 funded by public subscription from Glasgow's proud citizens. At that time the city could lay claim to a lot of firsts just like oil rich Dubai today has some of the biggest, boldest and tallest buildings in the world.
Extra Addition. (While looking up a list of links to a half remembered but excellent book of Nigel Tranter's on the birth and early life of St Mungo I wandered onto this amazing site. The early history of Scotland starting from the first dark age inhabitants of Drumchapel. This is the real deal in information terms. What a joy to discover such a wonderful window into our dim and distant past. Stick your X factor and plastic celebrities where the sun don't shine! A shark that swam in a sea where Glasgow now stands, its ribs uncovered and its story told in a suburban street in modern Bearsden. Now that,s worth a mouse click. The Idea that King Arthur may have come from The stronghold of Dumbarton Rock instead of Wales or England has been proposed several times. Scotland has more links to an Arthurian legend than anywhere else in the UK in terms of ancient place names alone. Camelon, (a round tower that stood near Falkirk) and Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh. Down countless centuries history has always been changed and rewritten by the victorious nation or the side with the most influence that's altered then eroded the past. Even 19th and 20th century descriptions of Polar exploration and new discovery show the record books are not always to be trusted. The person who did the deed or discovered it first is not always the one who gets remembered.