Sunday, 8 September 2013

Tollcross Park Walk. Glasgow's East End Green Oasis.

I'm not often in the east end of Glasgow these days although I used to work in every district and housing estate throughout the city years ago. People from these areas might disagree but I think it's fair to say from my own experience the lands  around Dalmarnock, Bridgeton, Parkhead and Shettleston are not noted for green spaces and fields, being mainly built up traditional tenements and flats, industrial estates, and brownfield sites. Like the east end suburbs of any large industrial city this was where most of the heavy industry, steel works,chimney stacks and manufacturing factories were built. The prevailing winds in northern Europe tend to be west to east so it made sense for any smoke, noise and gases to be sited here, downwind of the more upmarket west end. Even today these districts can seem a bit grim and grey to the outsider, similar to London's east end of old.
Barlinnie Prison. Scotland's largest free bed and breakfast with a good view of the Campsie Fells.
As I was over in Carntyne getting a repair done on my car in one such trading estate and had four hours to wait I took myself off to the nearby Tollcross Park.
Excluding Glasgow Green, which is a park much closer to the city centre beside the River Clyde, this urban jungle of trees and meadows is a much needed and loved green oasis for the locals, sitting as it does in the heart of a built up, densely packed residential area. You have to make an effort with some form of transport to reach the countryside from these areas so this large park at around 90 acres is a real treasure to escape into. A wild tranquil place easily reached on foot.

For young children living in the area it's also a rainbow of colours and sights as it has a children's zoo stocked with a small aviary, pens holding domestic animals, rabbits and ponies.
Zebra finches at play.
Pony munching hay.
During my time here numerous families passed by along with walkers out with their dogs, joggers, kite flyers, and cyclists.
It's a large enough park to lose yourself in and has meadows, a shallow glen area and a large slope covered in roses which is a spectacular sight during the summer months.
 A view of the International Rose Garden.  War of the roses in here.
The park was constructed and opened in Victorian times  around the late 1890s and this link gives a  fascinating glimpse into what it looked like then. Some of the old coloured postcards in here are magical and give a real idea of how much this park means and has meant to generations of locals and visitors alike. A work of art and well worth a peak inside this kaleidoscope.
A substantial amount of money has been pouring into the east end recently due to the Commonwealth Games 2014  in the shape of the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome  and the Athletes Village but I hope they don't forget about this green treasure when they are lavishing millions of pounds on 'sexy' modern projects.
I was sad to see the winter gardens, a long time favourite feature of the park lying neglected and locked up after being damaged during winter storms. Due to budget restrictions it doesn't appear to be getting repaired any time soon which is a real shame as the more run down it gets the greater the outlay to restore it back to its former glory.
It's just a personal opinion but I think green open spaces like this are more therapeutic and necessary to the average person in the street than fancy new designer villages that only a lucky few will get to live in so I hope they remember to create some new parks and walks in the area along with the houses. Traditionally crime has always been high in the east end of every large city but when you have places and sights like this growing up...
within walking distance of your house.
The world can seem a much brighter, happier place.
The views from the top of the park are inspirational as well. Roystonhill/Garngad seen from the grassy meadow of Shettleston Hill within the park. The tall spire is all that remains of the Little Sisters of the Poor. St Josephs; an old peoples nursing home run by nuns that felt really Dickensian and old world grim in the 1970s. It was a large ancient building and my heart used to sink whenever I was called to work in there or in Foresthall Hospital in nearby Springburn which was once Glasgow's Victorian Poorhouse and another massive building sitting in its own grounds. Still functioning but creaking institutions like these could be found throughout the city then, a reminder of the way things used to be.

Similar in look to the Royal Infirmary seen here. Huge black structures with a maze of corridors, stairs and scattered outbuildings.As a service provider they had the feel of a real life gothic horror novel about them. Inside might have been fine but the cellars underneath these buildings were sprawling catacombs and that was where I usually had to go; a maze of dark crawl tunnels and unexpected dead ends. Even hardened plumbers got the heebie jeebies crawling around down there in the dark looking for leaks. The rats were bold and fearless and the other creatures scuttling around in the dust of ages were even more repellent. Cockroaches, spiders and silverfish of prodigious size, probably due to the heat of the kitchens, stoves, and communal ovens above which were always on during the day to feed the residents..Mind you most of Glasgow still felt very Dickensian during the 70s and 80s, even above ground. A grey,bleak world compared to the explosions of colour and softness around today. The 1960s and the Carnaby street psychedelic flower power era never really happened outside of London and the West Coast of America. Everyone still wore dull or muted colours of clothing to school or work; clean face and hands meant you had a 'still the minority occupation' office job when most folk worked in heavy industry and expected to get dirty each day: the buildings and warehouses were grubby and dark from decades of grime and chimney dust as were the people and the more unenlightened school teachers would throw heavy wooden blackboard erasers at your head if they desired your full attention in class. I was black as a coalman most days from crawling under floors and rarely saw the sun during working hours. I preferred it to office work though. Some new adventure happened every day out on the streets or in the housing estates. It was never dull there.
The highest flats in Glasgow. Whitevale and Bluevale tower blocks rising above the glass pyramids of the Forge Shopping Centre. Built in the early 1960s they are the highest residential flats in Scotland and, at 31 stories, 91 metres, they were the tallest in Europe until fairly recently. The nearby Red Road Flats are a metre lower but look higher because they are much broader. Both sets of flats are scheduled for demolition soon. As they have not been stone cleaned this was the colour of most of Glasgow's buildings in the 1970s and 1980s. Older buildings were coated black and it was a shock to see some of them emerge as handsome red sandstone after cleaning . Hard to imagine now what the air quality must have been like in the city before the Clean Air Act was passed. You can see from the photo the towers seem to have been grey/white underneath the staining and would have looked more impressive when new.
A modern east end school. An on-going regeneration programme is having an effect and the area today is slowly transforming itself into a different creature with growing pockets of good, high quality, housing and state of the art modern facilities.
Ironic then that due to the expensive computer equipment and materials in newly built schools and the worlds thirst for metal they have to be surrounded by high security fencing and CCTV cameras everywhere. Don't know about you but this looks very similar to a modern prison to me. The price we pay in present day society for safety and protection I suppose. Every age has its good and bad compromises. It's probably very nice inside and I'm willing to bet the children don't get thumped with dusters or have their hands thoughtfully warmed with hard leather on cold frosty mornings.
Wonder if the village will stay the vision of utopia it is in this link ten years down the line? The only predictable thing about the future is that it's never how you think it's going to be :)


Neil said...

Another amazing piece of Glasgow history Bob. You've certainly opened my eyes to what lies around me! I suppose that it's one of the drawbacks of having moved home a number of times during my life that you never get to know a place in depth.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Neil,
I learn a lot myself finding out about new areas. The past always interests me. That Parkhead history site is amazing which is why I linked to it. Never realised Caroline Street was named after a nearby pit that used to be there.

Robert Craig said...

Great shot of the Royal Infirmary. No coincidence that Alastair Grey wrote Lanark in 70s & 80s Glasgow.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Craig,
Yeah I wonder what colour that building is under all the grime? Built in the early 1900s to replace one constructed in the 1790s

The Glebe Blog said...

I've said it before Bob, but you should be on commission from at least Glasgow City Council.

The Parkhead history site has some amazing images. The folks building up the history have put a lot of work into it in the two years it's been up and running.

One of these years I'll get my bus pass in action and get exploring the empires second city.

Carol said...

"Barlinnie Prison. Scotland's largest free bed and breakfast "

LOL! Great comment ;-)

Our teachers used to throw blackboard rubbers too - to be honest, if I had today's kids with their total lack of attention, I'd do it now too!

I'm sure the industry was situated on the east of the city so you could send your pollution off to those posh burgers in Edinburgh! ;-)

And as for designer villages - or designer anything - yuck! Can't stand things like that and don't understand folks who like them.