Monday, 2 June 2014

Renfrewshire Ridges. Kilbarchan. The Last Life of an Emerald Kingdom.

This was a trip I made around a month ago. With a tank of fuel costing £60 pounds every time you fill up and one of the most beautiful places to see spring on my doorstep it was a no brainer to go cycling round Renfrewshire. I've been cycling to keep fit these days and thought I was about ready to tackle the full circuit of the Renfrewshire ridges. For a fat old man on a bike this is no mean task as it's been said before that travelling across Renfrewshire is like sailing across the rolling ocean waves just after a storm has subsided.
You can see why here. My plan was to park at Castle Semple Loch then tackle the Lochlands and Cuff Hill ridgeline first, which takes you up onto the high plains escarpment (seen in the photo above.) That in itself isn't too hard but my intention was to travel along this then descend again near Howwood, cross the Black Cart Water, then climb up again, past the Clochoderick Stone, to the green ridge (or wave crest) on the other side for a tour of that undulating escarpment past Marshall Moor, Hill of Barnaigh, Sandieston, Lamb hill and Glengarnock Castle using minor twisting roads.

Clochoderick: The great boulder of this shire from an age of witches and druids when these stones were often used to judge and weigh your soul and a tilt might seal your fate. Maybe these great stones walked across the land like Ents to arrive here :o) Is it any wonder this amazing landscape has always been my greatest muse and inspiration.  See bottom part of this article.
If I was surfing this terrain on a surf board over actual waves the journey would involve a fair number of peaks and troughs but I decided my emerald kingdom was worth the effort.
Castle Semple Loch and a view over towards Belltrees and my intended ridge.

 A black headed gull waves me off with his beetroot red feet and bill.

Berwick's Swans and Whooper Swans look quite similar but I think this is a Whooper. Each bird's bill is unique to that particular swan and I've seen this one before down here as it has a habit of pecking my bum while I'm putting my front wheel on after storing the bike inside the car. Just a couple of taps to inform me it wants food. I usually bring a spare roll if I know I'm coming here. Only the best for my wee buddy.
Loads of good photos so I'll keep it brief. Along ridgeline to Howwood (seen here) via the castle road then out to Kilbarchan, a lovely village that seems to reside deep within a sheltered bowl surrounded by an encircling wall of trees. "Sleepy Hollow" springs to mind, especially during a hot spring day like this one with wood pigeons softly droning in the trees. It has been the hottest spring in Scotland on record seemingly, (although that doesn't always mean the driest) and even the wood pigeons looked hot, sleepy and disinterested.
I however was on a mission and I perked up here. I've been in Kilbarchan a few times now on a bike and never really explored the place properly. It has a Weavers Cottage, which is marked on OS map 64 Glasgow but I've never been in it. No time like the present.
Unfortunately it was shut. Good village square though and nice cherry tree and Habbie Simpson Steeple. It wasn't always this quiet and picturesque and once hummed to the sound of  800  independently minded weavers and a famous piper who had poets commemorating his exploits. His statue still adorns the steeple.
Brief history here. I always look for something other than Wiki for places but have to admit they often provide the best info and concise history available.
Kilbarchan Churchyard in spring.
Back on the road again and climbing over the green "waves" of landscape once more.
In a quiet spot away from the tarmac a heron dropped in to join me for lunch.
He was after frogs, big bugs and fish though, not cheese and tomato rolls.
I also stumbled on a nest later. I think these might be Canada Goose/ geese eggs but there was no sign of the parent bird around. Eggs still warm with the back of one finger but didn't disturb them any further and retreated away in case they were nearby. Late in the season I would have thought unless it was a second clutch attempt.
The ridges on the Country Park side of the trench looking towards Queenside Muir Heights.

Bluebell Woods.
And some more.
Castle Semple Loch with the skyline ridge above Beith and Loanhead Quarry apparent in this view.
A well earned seat and a familiar line from a local poet who loves Renfrewshire as much as I do.
My Emerald Kingdom and The Fairest of a Thousand Shires. Long hard day though on a bike over many hills.
Cultivated form of bluebells in a cottage garden.
Red Campion on the cycle track.

Every place I stopped on my tour wildlife joined me. The flies were a pest but this bright damselfly was more welcome on my bench. I always like to invite fairies over for lunch. Indeed people have often commented I've been a frequent guest of theirs for years now :O)
Even though I'd been in training it was still a tough outing and I was ravenous when I returned to the house. I was too tired to cook anything and little conscripted chef goldilocks had escaped out a window with the three bears after munching all the food in the cupboards so there was only one thing for it. A Man Meal!
Four cans of Tennents Lager (apparently the only drink of choice nowadays for Katy Perry after her Glasgow Green Gig :o) a steak and kidney pie... a large tin of beans... and a garnish of tomatoes............ and a big, big spoon.
I felt I'd earned it!!!! 
Video. A favourite but very underrated singer and band. Great liquid guitar solo halfway through this by Jen Turner that Hendrix would have approved of and the versatile Mr Arthur channelling his inner Rod Stewart for this one occasion. I know everyone has different musical tastes but how this guy isn't a household name by now always amazes me. But then the Velvet Underground (who this band remind me of in some ways) were largely ignored by the chattering masses when they were around. Now I come to think of it so was everybody worth their salt in the music, art, book, or film world. ( Poor one eared Vincent never sold a single painting during his lifetime so he must be totally pissed off now at the money changing hands when no one gave a toss when he really needed it.) Story of most artists.  One of the best original songwriters of the last fifteen years and yet most folk are still unaware of him. Thank you reality TV music shows. The future of new music is safe in your capable hands.


Carol said...

Beautiful photos - especially the wood pigeon and the bluebells :-) That looks a beautiful ride but I couldn't cope with the hills - I'd be off the bike more than on!

Hope the eggs hadn't been abandoned...

The Glebe Blog said...

If that's a selfie of you on the boulder Bob, you must have more than a ten second timer or you're very quick.
Some great pictures. I might disagree with you about the swan though, I think it's a Bewick, the Whooper has a brighter yellow.
Love the meal. A few months ago I realized I'd dropped off my high fibre diet, so I get my baked beans five or six times a week
You're right about musical tastes, I'm afraid Mr Arthur doesn't do it for me. I do like the look and sound of Jen Turner though.

andamento said...

A lovely part of the world! Great photos too.

andamento said...

P.S. Meant to say, there is a resident whooper swan at Castle Semple, he's damaged his wing so can't migrate. It's likely that's the one you keep meeting...

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Carol,
Enjoyed Ben Lui day out. I didn't stay in the saddle either for all of it as it just burns out the legs faster.
Still warm but I didn't wait around in case the bird was returning from somewhere. Maybe a dog,cat or fox disturbed it.

blueskyscotland said...

I'm not into selfie's Jim and as you can probably tell by my musical tastes and dress sense I never follow any of the latest trends :o)
It was a guy I met who was bouldering at the stone with a chalk bag and rock climbing shoes.
I could happily live on tins of beans and sausage or baked beans on toast and frequently have in the past.
I had a good look at various close ups of swans on the internet before I picked a Whooper as my choice:)

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Anne,
yeah I recognised it from last summer so I guessed it must be stranded on the loch which is why I always give it some suitable grub if I spot it. Fairly friendly for a wild bird and it does alright there with a steady supply of visitors even in the winter months. Not a bad place to be stuck if you are a swan.