Saturday, 3 August 2013

Darnley Country Park.Barrhead Dams. Duncarnock.

This is part two of my epic post on Pollok, Nitshill and the wild romantic lands beyond the wall.(See previous post.) In reality I grew up within a large forest which just happened to contain a scattered collection of fairly tough housing schemes. In part one I highlighted the negative aspects of living there. This is the other side of the coin. It was an upbringing of extremes. On the one hand you had gangs, occasional stabbings, graffiti, drink and crime but to balance that out you also had this...
South Nitshill in 2013. As you can see it is mainly trees in this view. During my youth and teenage years all the houses in front of the four story new build tenements on the middle right didn't exist. Corncrakes, water rails, badgers, hedgehogs, roe deer, linnets, yellowhammers, ring ouzels and water voles did though and could be found not far away. Many of these once common creatures are now gone from here. Huge flocks of starlings used to roost in the trees around the Darnley Hospital at the bottom of the hill.
This recent photo of the Mearns area is more in keeping what it used to look like then. It was all cows and pasturelands stretching upwards to the horizon, a patchwork landscape dotted with hedgerows and yet more woods of deciduous mature trees. In neat straight lines several rows of three and four story tenements starting from where the present tenements stand today in the first photograph ran in an unbroken wall from right to left. This was and is Parkhouse Road where as a child of six or seven I played beside the overgrown tramlines,  metal rails still visible and gleaming before they lifted them up as unwanted relics of the recent past, running up past the still operational local Fire Station at the bottom of this road. In the large back garden the firemen would grow rhubarb and strawberries and seemed to spend as much time guarding these irresistible treats from us as they did fighting fires. Remember Trumpton? It was that kind of fire station. Mind you, for cartoon fireman they sure could run fast out that building in pursuit of rhubarb thieves.
I also remember a primary school outing in the early 1960's to visit it and getting shown the large safety pins which the firemen always carried to pin the tongue onto the cheek of unconscious victims of smoke inhalation during fires to stop them choking to death while they worked on the flames.
Maybe this was real standard practice in those days or they recognised us and were just trying to scare us away from their soft fruit garden but it certainly worked for me as an impressionable child. I decided then and there never to get involved in any fires or fall unconscious. Ever! It was a finger sized safety pin and looked massive to a six year old waved two inches away from his eyeballs. Thank you fire service. The station closed down shortly after our visit. Another relic of the past.

At the other end of South Nitshill where Willowford Road joins Nitshill Road (See photograph above) a marshy pond lay in a hollow between the current steps and this sign. Just a round dank pool of fetid water and a circle of a few stunted trees. In those early days this 'Grassy hill' was not the smooth landscaped slope you see today. It was much wilder, uneven and rugged with a shallow canyon on the left halfway up the steps, some erratic boulders and visible lava flows. We found dozens of fossils here in this small canyon which we took into school to show our teachers. For a while they were on display. That primary school is gone now. They are building yet more houses for sale here where our old school once stood. Ironically although people are paying up to 300,000 pounds for a house in this district it sounds like it's gone right back to when the first tenants moved in during the initial building of Pollok. No local schools, no local shops, very few facilities in reach without a car in those early days. History does repeat itself it seems, spiralling down into tomorrow. By the way, I'd like all my fossils back now, please Sir!


If memory serves Murray Pipeworks used to store large pipes here out in the open along the bottom of this hill in the early days until local children clambering over them caused a rethink and they were then placed behind a purpose built compound on the other side of the road.( Cant find out if this was the start of Sir David Murray's metal empire, Murray international metals. As in Rangers former owner. It would have been his dad's business then surely if it was as he was born in 1951) Sir David Murray is listed as a director of Murray Pipeworks Ltd, Edinburgh Branch today. Maybe it was a buyout or a takeover then? Or a different company altogether? Anyway, a brickworks, a chemical works, several low lime hills of discarded waste, a small flooded quarry between the Nia Roo pub and the Darnley hospital (now a nursing home) completed the picture. I also seem to remember two waste coal heaps sitting on this grassy hill between Woodfoot Road and The Nia Roo pub which we used to slide down on bread boards then come in black and happy covered in coal dust. I was really young then though. They were removed pretty quick too before I got to know them better. Maybe  after the Aberfan tragedy in 1966 or even before that although they were nothing like as large or as high. Nitshill used to have extensive coal mines. (See link on last post for the Victoria Pit.) The abandoned  remains of the Darnley Lime and fireclay works lay up the Corselet Road on the left not far past the World Buffet restaurant.

This was a great area for exploration with several trenches of deep mud and liquid tar to jump over. Lost a few eager troops there too sadly. Short legged types mostly. Poor at jumping the distance required. It was a tricky place to grow up in the old days before everything dangerous was made safe for inquisitive children. Kids today have it lucky. No stinging lime dusted eyes for them or grey asbestos tattered boards the only material around to make a den hut with. Happy days.
 Even Lord Darnley almost came to grief here. This is reputedly the tree that Mary Queen of Scots nursed him back to health under. Old Sycamores like this one can live over 400 years. Pollok boasts a few famous folk. Miss Cranston of Cranston tearooms had a house in Househillwood, Pollok and Charles Macintosh of well known waterproof rainwear fame formed a partnership with Charles Tennant in a large house near the top end of Corselet road where they experimented with commercial bleaching of sheets and fabrics. Tennant would go on to form St Rollox, the largest chemical factory in the world near Sighthill.
http://www.gracesguide.co.uk/Charles_Tennant
Which brings us neatly to the Dams to Darnley Country park. This area of wild flower meadows and thick grasslands running along both sides of the corselet road used to be neat farmlands with fields and cattle. The World Buffet restaurant above used to be a working farm, Darnley Mill, with herds of cattle munching the grass short enough to play cricket on. This is what the landscape looks like without farm animals to do the work of a lawnmower. Good for wildlife though. Most of the damselfly post was taken here as I knew what a gem this area is for nature.
Parking is still a problem though. I parked at Rouken Glen Park's main public car park and cycled down on quiet, pedestrian free pavements and industrial estate back streets. Easy enough.
Rouken Glen itself is a smashing park with its pond, waterfalls, grasslands and gorge. Yet another place we went as children, just over an hours walk away. There was so much to do in the area we grew up in we knew we would never run out of new places to explore.
Still Rouken Glen.
Rouken Glen again.
Dams to Darnley. This cycle track/walkway is ten minutes on foot from my old doorstep. It leads into unparalleled countryside. This is the start of Renfrewshire which stretches from here all the way to the sea.
A book that made a big impression on me in my youth was Andre Norton's science fiction/fantasy classic 'Witch World'. It evolved into a series which became the Harry Potter saga of its day. In it the main figure in the book is a hunted individual who escapes into another world by using the 'Siege Perilous' the ancient stone portal of Arthurian legend which reputedly reads a person's soul then delivers them into a world they would find best suited to their talents and desires.
I was already surrounded by legends of the past and could climb the same tree that Mary, Queen of the Scots, once touched. I did not think of this book as a fantasy.
The main character finds himself propelled into a world of rival, warlike, small kingdoms, each of whom hate the other. Check.
I had Priesthill, Lower Nitshill, Darnley, Carnwadric, Pollok central, Dormanside and Arden to contend with. All of these areas had to be passed through with caution and held many dangers for the unwary traveller. Yet it was a beautiful rural land with woods, fields, meadows and lakes.
Check.
My own personal waterworld. The Barrhead Dams. No other area around Glasgow has this on the doorstep. Just one small part of the unique tapestry of varied landscapes here.
The fantasy world, in the book, also had traces of previous civilisations within it, many centuries old.
Check.
Duncarnock. 204 metres high. Two hours cycle ride uphill from my house and a commanding presence above the Barrhead Dams. This volcanic plug was once a main fort of the Damnonii tribe, a second Century Celtic people who seemingly co existed with the Romans during their occupation of Britain in return for quelling other unruly tribes. They were the dominant local force in Southern Scotland at that time and worth getting on your side. Similar to the Gurkhas and British Army of today I suppose. Each had something to gain from the other.
Another view of it with the beautiful Glanderston Dam below. This is an amazing viewpoint and one I treasured as a child.
The view north towards Glasgow.
 North west towards Paisley and the Kilpatricks.
West towards the Gleniffer Braes above Paisley. Another of our destinations for adventure.
The view inland. The rolling, rugged mini hills of Renfrewshire. The fairest of a thousand parishes indeed. By the time I acquainted myself with the Lord of the Rings in my early teens I was already living that world in my own pages. A new adventure every weekend. If I wanted danger, orcs and goblins I stayed within the various housing schemes. Plenty of dark forbidding towers there. Priesthill doubled for Mordor as anyone who visited it then will testify. I miss that huge water tower, so much a landmark in my memory and dreams and the catalogue of grim deeds that happened underneath it of an evening.

I'd been placed unknowingly, by lucky chance, on my very own 'Siege Perilous' at birth and I'd dropped straight into 'The Shire'. My Shire. Sorting hat perhaps. Similar thing?
I cannot think of anywhere else in the world I would have enjoyed more as a child. It still has so much to offer locals living near it today.
Wonderland. Arcadia.100 acre wood. Sin City,The Magic Kingdom. It's all here.
I wasn't aware of it at the time but I realise now, looking back, I grew up in Heaven yet had access to Hell. Acquainted with both worlds, side by side, for many years. One visited during free weekends, the other lived in through the week and at night.
The things I have seen. Some beyond belief.
I have walked this earth with devils and angels beside me. Sunlight and Obsidian unleashed in all their radiant glory. My soul has been dipped in both honey and quick lime. I've discovered dead, lifeless bodies of humans and animals in gardens and rooms over the years, felt sad, then played with vibrant insects that gave birth to fairies. A life less ordinary indeed. Cant wish for more than that.
A link to my comedy novel Autohighography Bob Law. £1:14 pence Digital on Kindle or £9:39 paperback. 500 plus pages and photographs. First three chapters free to read by clicking here. First chapter on Nitshill, Pollok and Glasgow. 
http://www.amazon.com/Autohighography-Summits-Sinners-Bob-Law-ebook/dp/B00JNAIGAO/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1429011364&sr=1-1&keywords=Autohighography.+Bob+Law

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Very evocative, I too grew up around here and fished the Barrhead dams for perch, climbed the Craigie and Ballageich and swam in the Brother loch. Such a pity the area has now been desecrated by windfarm development.

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Anon,
It's actually not too bad still as the wind farms cant be seen from most of this area. Even from the summit of Duncarnock they are not that intrusive. Just a few scattered poles in the distance. The Brother loch is a different matter being much closer to them.
Glad you enjoyed it as that was my main aim, posting it for anyone who grew up there or had an interest in the area.

Neil said...

A brilliant couple of posts Bob. You certainly know your Glasgow and how to tell a story. I can see myself seeking out some of these places when the weather is too bad to go on a hill. Some areas I will avoid though.........

blueskyscotland said...

Spoken like a bagger Neil. This area is far too beautiful to see in bad weather. A day when the hills are covered in cloud perhaps but fine at lower levels.
Places to park are Rouken Glen main car park. Neilston Pad car park or Gleniffer braes car park.
Walk or cycle. Bike is best as you can cover more ground that way but it's still good on foot.
Summer at it's finest.

Carol said...

Trouble is Bob, although it's probably mostly still there today and very available for adventurous children - there aren't any any more! Or at least, if they are, they're stopped from enjoying themselves by over-cautious parents. I can't believe that nowadays there are 'soft play areas' - that really boggles my mind!

You have some really beautiful countryside around there anyway - especially liked Duncarnock!
Carol.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Carol,
You're right.Although assorted children of all ages play outside my house in a safe off road cul de sac every day they don't seem to travel far from that location.
I got as far as Kilmarnock twice on my own before I was captured and returned to my parents aged eleven or twelve by the police.
I liked exploring new places then as well. There are more people around now mind you who would either ignore lost children or prey on them. Most men these days will avoid any interaction with strange children just in case they become a suspect themselves so society has created a stranger danger paranoia that is self fulfilling in a way as the only unknown strangers liable to talk to children nowadays will mean them harm. It's a funny old world at times.

alexander rowat said...

like(luv)the page lads gets me going as im nitshill born arden till 6 bk 2 nitsie bred.love the words to was a tough place to grow up but we were the same .outside of the house was a dive but inside different and the morals n manners etc too.anyway my name is alex rowat(boab) n cheers 4 the trip down memory lane any more about the scheme darvel st wud b good.

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Alex R,
Glad you liked it.Just gathering together some new photos now for Arden, Nitshill Greater Pollok and Darnley areas. Should be posting that one in the next few weeks.

Alex Burnett said...

Hi Boab n Al thanks for the wee trip down memory lane whit a great place tae grow up a think am a wee bit alder than you's loved camping up the dams overnight fishing for perch, we used tae catch trout Guddling in the burn and there was Nesting tae, I'm sure I started the first daily record paper run up the scheme got ma papers fae nitshill station aroon 5am kept it gawn for 5 years n had tae take a drop in money tae start an apprenticeship a remember in the woods up towards the dams we discovered an auld collapsed mineshaft and as weans we'd plunge doon exploring it ha ha I think I'd have a heart attack thinking ma weans were getting up tae half the fun we did. Cheers Lads. Alex Burnett. 5 Woodfoot Quad.

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Alex B,
It was a great place to grow up and any free time I had was spent over the fields and up the Barrhead Dams. You can read a further free chapter on South Nitshill by clicking the Autohighography link at the bottom of this post. I started on £8 a week as an apprentice, now that's liable to be the hourly rate of pay... if your are lucky.
There are other posts on Pollok scattered around the blog and several on Barrhead the dams and Renfrewshire. I'll stick a cycling post on Neilston Pad and Barrhead up soon.
Cheers again.

Mark Cranston said...

Hello Folks. I hope all is well. I was interested in your post regarding the mention of the Darnley Fireclay Works. I have a project on the go whereby I am trying to recover as many different Scottish bricks as possible. Please see my website at www.scottishbrickhistory.co.uk.
I search for bricks all over Scotland - there are still many to find. I will be in the Glasgow area hunting on Saturday 30th May and was wondering if there is still much to see at the old Darnley Works eg buildings - I have never seen a brick marked Darnley but I suspect they only mined the clay there and did not make refractory bricks - I could be wrong and indeed I hope I am! From your description and old maps I think that on google maps the old works are on the other side of the Waterworks Cottage on Corselet Road? many thanks and regards Mark. ps...if you know of other good rubble strewn areas for a search then please let me know! markcranston1962@gmail.com

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Mark,
It was over 50 years ago so that area has not really changed much but is overgrown and the buildings are gone. From the Darnley Tree at the junction of Corselet Road go up Corselet road for a short distance until you reach a turn off on the left, signposted Dams to Darnley Country Park. This flat area used to be covered in bricks from the old works. Several Old Bridges cross the Aurs/brock burn here running down to what used to be Darnley Mill Farm but is now a restaurant last time I was there with a wigwam pointed roof at the start of Corselet Road. Used to be loads of bricks in that general area running up to Arden. As you probably know there was a local Nitshill brick, an example can be seen on "Pollok kist Museum" community site.
Two places with bricks still in the open are Helensburgh at low tide all along the shoreline to Craigendoran Pier where loads of different bricks are easily found and Dumbarton around Dumbarton Castle and the River Leven. My post from a few weeks ago River Leven and the Leven Swamp highlights the number of old factories all along the Leven
and old bricks can still be found from them on the river walkway between Renton and Alexandria. I'd check out Helensburgh and Dumbarton Castle area first beside the Leven as many old factories stood here and also Clydebank around the Titan Crane as the bricks are in the open for easy inspection.
Hope this helps.

Mark Cranston said...

Many thanks for the reply. I have added these areas to my list although Dumbarton was due for a visit next week. Hopefully the vegetation will not be too high at Darnley - I take it the bricks are basically between the road and the burn - if you can still see them? regards Mark

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Mark,
Yes, in the large flat area up Corselet Road and the first open old stone bridge and path across the stream. There used to be old works there but it's a long time since I noticed them lying around. Another area which used to have bricks everywhere is the waste ground just across from Arden where the retail park is,Sainsbury and Homebase or B and Q DIY place, anyway at junction 3 just east and behind Southpark Village. It's still waste ground and not that overgrown and it used to be covered in bricks, rubble and tangled wires sticking up out the ground. Think they did a lot of dumping there years ago. Not being a collector I don't wander around looking for unusual bricks but I do remember an abundance of them in all the areas mentioned. Sometimes kids toss them into streams so there might be easily collected ones in shallow water.

Mark Cranston said...

Many thanks again - I think I have pinpointed your last suggestion - it might be a bit grassy just now to see the bricks and if so I will add it to the list for a winter search!

thank you

ps if you come up with any other areas please feel free to email me at

markcranston1962@gmail.com