Sunday, 24 November 2013

Upper Clyde Valley. Crossford. Rosebank. The warm,sheltered Kingdom.

On an early October morning of bitter, freezing winds on the heights I was in no rush to gallop towards winter with autumn still to savour ahead. The trees were just beginning to change colour yet snow was predicted to fall briefly on the highest mountain tops in Scotland over the weekend.
Bugger that I thought. Let's run to the sun instead and visit the warm valley.
I like to look for the magic and beauty in everyday life around me.  Can you see the happy penguin yet? No? Click on the bloody picture then :)

This is the garden valley. An area of wooded slopes and fertile meadows carved out by the mighty River Clyde in its upper reaches where its waters in the distant past have been broad and fierce enough to bite deep into the surrounding landscape creating a sheltered, warm, oasis. A deep winding, trench running for many miles through the soft geology of this part of Lanarkshire.

 Monks were the first to realise the potential of this area, growing apples, plums, soft fruits and berries on the warm, usually frost free banks during the short Scottish summer. Orchards were planted and thrived. Later arrivals grew strawberries and tomatoes here on a large commercial scale, and it earned several new names. The 'Glass Gorge', the 'Fruit Basket of the Central Belt, The Garden Valley. A good link here with a brief history of the produce and new blood continuing the tradition.

One of the most remarkable facts about this fruit growing trench is that it lies at the same latitude as Hudson Bay in Canada and is further north than Newfoundland, and the frozen Lake Baikal in Siberia. In summer it can get hot and humid down here with lush vegetation, including bizarre meadows of  wild course rhubarb coating the riverbanks and in winter the gulf stream ensures its temperate climate.
Taking the M74 out of Glasgow, then the scenic A70 as it follows the river along the floor of the trench I soon arrived and parked the car in the village of Crossford, where there is a medium sized car park, public toilets and a handy information board/map of walking paths in the area.
The Clyde walkway runs through here and follows the far (left )bank of the River back towards Motherwell and Glasgow, though they both seem very distant from here. From the car park walk up the main street until you can cross the bridge seen above ( B7056 Braidwood Road ) From here a pleasant walk takes you along the flat embankment in a north westerly direction then climbs gently to offer superb views over the district.
Higher still the surrounding mountains are glimpsed, looking cold, bare and bleak yet it remains sunny and lush down here with a distinct otherworldly feel in places.
This beautiful meadow dotted with different coloured trees wouldn't look out of place in 'Teletubbie land' or the magical confection that is 'In the night garden'
In the hard world of adulthood anyone who still holds onto a flicker of that inner child when they grow up is lucky indeed as the world will always seem a wonderful, unexpected place viewed through their eyes.
'In a hole in the ground there lived a.....
What! Expecting a hobbit? If a hobbit arrived outside this hole it would be quickly skinned, eaten, stored for later and used as a cushion. Stoats and weasels line their underground apartments with the soft fur of their victims, including, rabbits, voles, mice, even occasional rats, shrews, and moles. For their size the weasel family contain some of the fiercest predators on the planet and this one didn't show any fear of me when I was kneeling down beside it. Going by its size and the fact that its brown pelt appears to be turning white I think this is a stoat but it wouldn't be tempted out far enough to see its black tail and I certainly wasn't going to put my fingers near it to find out. Who says you cant talk to the animals? Have you ever tried apart from dogs, cats and caged birds? All wild creatures respond to soft persuasion. Hug a honey badger. See what happens next :)
After walking along beside the river for a while I decided to  cut uphill on a minor signposted track near Overton farm heading for the birthplace and memorial to General Roy. A quiet and surprisingly out of the way spot for this map maker extraordinaire and father of the Ordnance Survey.
No doubt growing up on the edge of this deep trench with a birds eye view of the sliced landscape below him cut by the river and its numerous tributaries running off the surrounding uplands inspired him to take an interest in geology and the formation of natural features from an early age.
After visiting his marker and having lunch beside it on a sheltered bench in the sun I continued past Carluke, sitting high on its 1000 foot pedestal of land. ( one of the highest market towns anywhere in the country)   and famous for its jam. Great tale in here under another notable resident Thomas Weir, the Warlock of West Bow, reputed to be one of the inspirations for Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde after his self confessed spectacular fall from grace.
Even here I was still climbing until I didn't feel that far off the level of Tinto, viewed in the distance.
With a zoom the distinctive tower blocks in Motherwell could be picked out along with Ben Lomond in the distance. What a view. What a bloody cold wind through! I soon decided to take the Lanark Road past a few remaining glasshouses then cut down onto the twisting B7056 past Braidwood which has a great position high up on its shelf of earth overlooking the high ridges around Lesmahagow.
This road incidentally, although commanding great views, is not for the fainthearted as it can be busy with cars and vans using it as a fast short cut at certain times of day. Below Braidwood it has no pavements, high hedges adorn each side, it is twisty and narrow and you have to really squeeze in against the bank to avoid any vehicles passing. I would suggest it isn't a road to walk down with children or dogs at a busy time of day if you want to see them again. There are a few zig zag paths marked on the OS map going through woods and subsidiary dells off road in the vicinity but they looked longer and harder to discover for a casual outsider to link up. I was getting tired by this stage and just wanted a straightforward descent back to the car. I met a real hard guy at this point, cycling up this steep tortuous ribbon of tarmac on his bike, upright, determined and panting visibly with the effort. Keen cyclists need to be really committed to pedal up and down the walls of this green canyon if they live locally. A good training ground for the Tour de France.
Wondrous things in the sheltered woods below. A tiny fairy forest of silver mushrooms growing from a crack in a tree a metre long. A world within a world. A sheltered spot within a sheltered spot. New life springing from death. Mycelium sisters, as usual, working hard behind the scenes to convert dead wood back into something useful. The real recyclers. We are only playing at it for the present time compared to nature's super efficient system of waste conversion.
Passing by the village of Rosebank  and the quaintly named Popinjay Hotel on the way home. I could have channelled my inner diva here at the wedding Fayre by trying on a wedding dress but decided to imitate sleeping beauty back at the house instead as I was completely knackered after this walk. As tough as any mountain Munro day.

Just watched 'Nina Conti- A Ventriloquist's Story: Her Master's voice' on BBC4. I already knew Nina was talented with bags of sparkle as I've seen her act a few times over the years but this was a different level again. A worthy winner of best documentary as it explores the strange love/hate partnership that exists between ventriloquist and dummy/creation at a deep level. Heart warming, moving and watchable it gets better and more bizarre the longer it goes on. Well worth catching on i player  in this link or whatever medium you can see it on and should do her career no harm at all in an age when ventriloquists are not seen as 'cool or radical' enough. After this unusual insight into the realms of the psyche she could get a side job as a director. Never thought I'd have a lump in my throat over a puppet's fate. The two minute video in here with granny swimming underwater( The OAP nightdress clad dummy) should give you a taste of it. The i player repeat has now ended but the five minute video 'N.C at the Edinburgh fringe' is still there.

There's only one music video that's a perfect fit for this post. I've been a fan of Kate Bush since 1978 but my favourite song of hers is this highly personal offering which I don't think she'd write nowadays as you become more guarded in your outlook due to the intrusive nature of fame. Perfectly combined with a poignantly sweet video that should remind adults everywhere of that inner child buried deep but still alive in their soul, squashed down under the painful realities and practical struggles of everyday life. A garden( song) for a garden( film) for a garden (blog post). Perfect ending.


Neil said...

That looks a good walk Bob. Autumn has been really good this year, I don't think I've seen the colours as vibrant for many a year. I take Ben for walks in Colzium estate at Kilsyth and the colours there have been amazing. All gone now though....we're into what I think of as the dead period of the year till the first green shoots appear in about a months time. Bring it on!

Kay G. said...

How lovely.
AND I saw the happy penguin!
I have never lost my inner child. People laugh at me, but they don't know what they are missing!

blueskyscotland said...

The first three quarters is a fine walk. The last stretch down the busy B road is hazardous if you don't have your traffic head on as you have to negotiate several blind bends. A safer walk climbs from Crossford up to Craignethan Castle via a grass path on the side of a gorge then across quieter country lanes to Black Hill. Just as scenic but with less risk from cars. Much better for anyone with children and pets although the Clyde walkway itself is perfectly safe.

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Kay.
Best photo of dew drops sitting on grass I've managed yet.

Carol said...

Great photo of the dew on the leaf :-)

I often see a lot of the beautiful green English countryside (of a certain type) as 'Rupert Country' from the books we used to read. Never seen the Teletubbies though...

I'm with you on the wanting to stay in the warmer zones and delay the onslaught of winter as long as possible!

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Carol,
I'd happily hibernate for three months of the year or do what the rich do and bugger off abroad for the winter but I suppose then I wouldn't appreciate the spring as much as I do. With heating bills so high a lot of old folk are going to pop their clogs this year if its a severe one.

Carol said...

I always think it must be much cheaper to rent somewhere abroad in a warm country for the winter - think I might take to doing that when I've finally given up the hills!

blueskyscotland said...

Only problem with that is if you live in a city, like I do, you might come back to squatters or a cleared house empty of any worldly possessions.

Carol said...

Hmmm - you might be right there :-( Didn't think of that actually,

The Glebe Blog said...

Looks more like an August post than November Bob. Is that a stoat or a weasel. I thought you'd know how to tell the difference between a weasel and stoat. A weasel is weasily recognizable while a stoat is stoatally different.
Also love Kate Bush