Friday, 10 October 2014

Inverclyde. Loch Thom.Greenock. Port Glasgow. Epic Bike Tour. The new Guide Book

Loch Thom Wilderness.
This was going to be the last post on the Skye trip but my camera expired during the Storr walk and I had to use Alex's spare camera for our last hill day. As I don't have the photos from him yet I thought I would post this outing instead. Throughout the spring and summer I have been engaged in my new project which is a guide book detailing popular but also lesser known walks and cycles in my local area. 
I was intending to write the follow up to Autohighography as I did have elaborate plans to expand some of the darker complexities, hinted at throughout the first book, which would take it well beyond any hillwalking memoir into a completely different realm entirely, which was always my intention, but the general lack of interest for this deceptively simple to read novel ( I've earned £5 so far after it being on sale on kindle for six months:o) and my reluctance to spend another two years of my life locked in a room every night typing on a computer persuaded me to ditch that in the meantime for a book people might actually want to buy for a couple of quid.. even for the photos alone if they don't actually live in the area.
I am in good company however as most writers fail to make any money from writing no matter how interesting the book. Herman Melville (author of sea faring classic Moby Dick and a book often quoted as one of the greatest American novels of all time) gave up writing for a regular 9 to 5 job with steady cash flow, and 95% of other well known authors, artists and entertainers struggle to make a living from their work. In some respects you almost need to have a private income to be able to afford the luxury to write books for a living as I've already spent 100 times more than I've earned so far from my first one.
Port Glasgow from The Cycle Track.
As I soon discovered writing my guide book, it is not enough to know the routes yourself. Many of these trips had to be done again as my knowledge of them was out of date for detailed route descriptions even if I had only discovered them myself a few years ago. ( New roads, new estates, closed lanes or detours etc since then.) 
B788 into Greenock.
Many of these walks and cycles I have therefore revisited and have enjoyed doing them all over again this past year. One of the finest was this trip to Greenock and an epic tour (Well, for me anyway) covering what felt like most of the hills in North Inverclyde. For this run I had company in the form of Alan, who unlike Alex, doesn't mind steep hills and town and country cycle rides. We both agreed this was a fantastic tour of a great area.
THE ROUTE: Start at Cornalees Bridge Centre beside Loch Thom (see first photo) GR NS 247722. Firth of Clyde Map. Sheet 63. Park car here and cycle on glorious, mainly traffic free, single track minor road around Loch Thom then take the rough track to Dkyefoot along the south side of the Gryfe Reservoir. A mountain or hybrid bike is required as this track and the loop running back over from "The Cut" is fairly rough going and probably too much for a road bike though smooth tarmac alternatives are available down into Greenock.  The minor road (yellow on map) is then followed past High Mathernock to reach the Route 75 cycle track leading north to skirt the upper edge of Port Glasgow. (See second photo)
A cracking balcony trail is then followed along the cycle track as it passes high above the Inverclyde towns of Port Glasgow, Greenock and Gourock.
Greenock's Titan crane from the cycle track.
Half submerged sugar boat and small yachts in the Firth of Clyde. The sugar boat was on its run to the Tate and Lyle sugar factory when it came to grief in the Clyde, which is pretty shallow at this point.
It sank in 1974 after a severe storm which saw it hit another boat and sustain damage causing the captain to ground it on this sandbank when he realised he couldn't reach a safe haven in time. It's a surprisingly large boat up close and the aquatic life and seabirds love it.
The full story and better pictures of it here.
THE ROUTE; The cycle track continues along the edge of the houses before winding down into Greenock but we headed instead for the minor road past West Dougliehill which would bring us out on the B788. We already knew this would provide further balcony trail views over the River Clyde estuary then a brilliant long freewheel down into Greenock.(see third photo and this one below)
At this point you can stay high and head in the direction of  Drumfrochar train station and Overtoun to reach "The Cut" A rough but cycle friendly track takes you over the hill back to Cornalees and the car. 26 kilometres approx. 3 to 4 hours. Trains are available for those without a car.

As we felt fresh however and the day was still young I thought I would combine everything I knew about Greenock and Gourock, walking wise, into one mammoth bike tour.( I realise this is not a long day by keen cyclists standards ,being only around 40 km and climbing sub 200 metre hills, but there are a lot of them to climb and I'm approaching my dotage fast so it was an epic for yours truly.)
Victoria Tower. Greenock.
Although Alan had travelled through Greenock before, like a lot of folk he had never explored it properly and there are many hidden surprises for visitors. One of the reasons for the guide book is to pass on 40 years worth of knowledge before I kick the bucket and the book describes many walks and interesting cycle trips in areas many folk might dismiss as not being worthwhile. Greenock is a case in point as I've always loved the place since I explored here in my teens and met the two girls who would influence and change my life in a new direction. The music of the Velvet Underground and the first realisation that you could actually move people into different areas of development through mere suggestion, like pieces on a chess board, became my twin obsessions here as we launched ourselves between buildings and across rooftops in an early rudimentary version of Parkour. Both of them provided me with a lot of input and fresh ideas as regards " The Great Game" which was to become my life choice.

Greenock has many hidden gems. The Square around the Municipal Buildings Complex and Town Hall containing the soaring Victoria Tower is where we had lunch. This is beside the back entrance to the Oak Mall Shopping Centre and contains many of Greenock's oldest and most elaborate structures when the town had real money to make lasting statements in bricks and mortar. Unfortunately, many of them are now in a sad state of affairs as Greenock has seen its population shrink by half since that happy heyday and money is in short supply to rescue these old buildings. See them while they are still around.
A view of WellPark Mid Kirk and old Greenock streets.
A Greenock female resplendent in rich autumn colours.
The rolling beauty of urban Inverclyde (most of which we traversed on a bike)

Directly above Victoria Tower (75metres, 245 feet tall) and Wellpark Mid Kirk, a set of steep stairs (hard work on a bike immediately after a cold Cornish pasty :o) climbs in Aztec temple fashion up to Well Park itself. This little postage stamp flat oasis is one of the unsung jewels of Greenock. Small but packed with interesting features like the unique white war memorial seen here. Views are panoramic from this outlook. (you can avoid the stairs by entering from the main gates on Regent Street thus turning it into a flat option if you just want to visit the park by car.
A detail on the anchor chain.
Don't see many Viking influenced galleys on your average war memorial. The ancient well that gives the park its name is here as well.
Half of Well Park is in this photo. Not big but on a sunny autumn day like this one it feels tropical and rainforest lush. Victoria Tower doubling for Angkor Wat in the background only without the humidity and the inevitable tourist crowds.
From here we cut down towards the Esplanade then cycled along this for three thankfully flat kilometres into Battery Park and then Gourock.

As Alan had never been up Lyle Hill (seen here from Battery Park) to visit the Free French Memorial and was still keen we snaked our way uphill again towards it via Coves Reservoir (another little known jewel of the area.)
A walk/ bike trail also leads from here to Tower Hill in Gourock. This is signposted. The Lyle Hill/ Bow Farm area came next and was a further climb uphill! WAH!!!!!  I was starting to get wabbit oot by this point. The old legs really feel it after the mid 50s pass and you have to force yourself on. Easy stuff for enthusiastic keen young cyclists though. Mid afternoon by this point.
A view across the Clyde from the Esplanade.
Lyle Hill was eventually reached and we had another brief stop here before tackling the remaining climb back over the hillside by the land rover track past The Cut to Cornalees Bridge Centre. Being a nice day numerous local teenagers were skinny dipping at the small reservoirs but being made of sterner stuff we pressed on over the rough track back to the car. A run up Dunrod Hill 298 metres, without the bikes, followed for the view of this surprisingly wild and empty area.
Down in Greenock it had been warm and sunny but obviously a passing shower had troubled this higher realm as several rainbows appeared along with dark departing clouds. A small fishing boat seems to hold the pot of gold here. My new camera ( half price in sale) seems slightly different from the old model, despite being the same make. The pictures seem lighter somehow as dark clouds are not picked up the same way by the lens.
I darkened this second photo taken a short while earlier to highlight the obvious double rainbow and give a more accurate view of how overcast it looked in reality. I must have bought a blue sky camera that can't capture rain clouds properly. Damn my luck. :o(
 A cracking and varied trip and a full day out at 7 hours and around 40km of mainly up and down cycling. Best bike trip of the year so far though. Highly recommended.
There are around 80 selected walks and cycle rides in the book, many little known. Also included are 140 colour photographs, plus accompanying text, providing an original profile into each area. This is just one example and obviously more precise info and details are included in the guide itself which will be published on kindle soon... if I can be bothered. Roll on another fiver in the bank.

Update. My new photo heavy guidebook is now available for the grand outlay of £1:99 on kindle bookstore. Fully illustrated throughout with 146 colour photographs taken by me over several decades along the Clyde it is both a pictorial journey down the river on various craft and a descriptive guide to over 80 lesser known walks and cycles along the river, through the towns and villages that line the banks and into the often spectacular countryside beyond. Arran ,Bute, Great Cumbrae and Alsia Craig are all featured for routes and it is a book that should appeal to both armchair readers who have lived in the area and locals who want to explore the district further, from walking and cycling beginners and experienced veterans alike. This cycle ride of great scenic variety is one of the longer day rides described in the book along with a range of featured walks in the Inverclyde towns and surrounding hinterland above. A good Christmas gift perhaps?


Kay G. said...

Well, at the risk of sounding like a broken record: "So pretty, it really makes me want to visit!"

Love the rainbow photos, I think I would be so happy to get a photo of a double rainbow!

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Kay,
Scotland is a stunning country when the sun shines. I've more or less cracked it for weekend or day trips, weather wise, but anyone visiting for a longer stay it's just luck what weather you get. We do have a lot of rain annually on the west coast.

Carol said...

Do IBM still hang out at Greenock? That's about all I knew about it before your post ;-)

I used to sleep in my Cortina on the road up from Largs to Loch Thom - very nice up there :-)

Tom said...

Its a shame your book didn't sell better. I bought it and read the lot, and thats a big complement as it is very rare that i actually finish a book. Very well written i thought, although i have to admit the last chapter had me a bit puzzled!

I will look out for your guidebook, even when i know the routes well for some reason i still quite enjoy reading someone else's take on them.

The route you describe in this blog is a gem, i once did parts of it as a 2 day tour from glasgow - taking the cycle track into greenock then pushing on for the dunoon ferry. We camped on the village green in colintraive (a man sitting at the bar in the hotel said it would be fine!) before heading to bute in the morning. A quick tour round the island then ferry to wemyss bay, up past cornalees and loch thom before taking the track through the forest to regain the cycle track at kilmacolm, and back to glasgow.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Carol,
not too sure about the current situation at IBM. Some of the plant was taken over by a different electronics company then the rest was flogged to China.If there is anyone left working there now it is only a fraction of its heyday numbers as most of the electronics industry has moved overseas. Call centers are the big thing now sadly in the UK which is why its poor citizens probably get so many unwanted phone calls. Amazon also have a base in Inverclyde.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Tom
Cheers for buying the book and double cheers for liking it. I cant complain too much as I provided my close friends with free copies of the paperback and I only get around 30 pence a copy anyway to keep the price low and encourage folk to buy it. It might start selling at some point when I actively promote both books together as I haven't really done that yet.
Never thought of doing it as a two day bike trip as I,m mostly a one day cyclist in Scotland nowadays but that sounds like a good tour.
Thanks again.

Carol said...

Mind you, I prefer call centres to be based here rather than overseas where they can't tell a word I'm saying!

The Glebe Blog said...

That's a great idea Bob. In this digital age, a picture is often worth a thousand words. I remember a walk a couple of years ago where we had a really old book published around 1950. The undergrowth had changed, but the physical features in the picture were so easily identifiable. Good luck, I think you'll do well with it.
Unlike Tom, I've still to read the last chapter of 'Autohighogrpahy', it's keeping me on tenterhooks ! ha ha.
Joking apart Bob, some of your blog photographs are classic. Have a good day my friend.

The Glebe Blog said...

Autohighography without the dyslexia !

Carol said...

Bob, remind me again - how do we get paper copies of your book?

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Jim,
Onwards and upwards.I'll keep plugging away until something sells and people take notice. I've started my second guide book this evening on a completely different topic so that's three totally different books I've thought of so far. If you cant be bright be prolific :o)
The last chapter was the hardest to write in Autohighography as I wanted to hint at some fairly complex underlying themes without giving too much away. It is actually two books in one. A straightforward surface story of a mountaineering club that can be enjoyed on that level and a secondary, far more subversive work hidden beneath it in the style of my favourite painter Hieronymus Bosch with tell-tale clues and mistakes deliberately placed as signposts and if its confusing in any way then its probably my inability as a new writer that's to blame but I like to set myself a challenge so I don't get bored.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Carol,
Thank you for asking.
Type in "Kindle bookstore" into any search engine and this should take you to
Once inside type in the search box at the top Autohighography Bob Law and this will take you to my book. You can read the first three chapters for free.
Click on the Look inside cover photo then click on paperback.
£0:98 kindle copy £10:99 Paperback free delivery in the UK.

I would have given you a free copy on Ben Lui but I didn't have it in time. Being an outdoor type I think you would like it if you like the blog but its more about the comical life and loves within a club rather than purely a book on Munros and hillwalking as there are already plenty of them around and I wanted mine to be a little bit different. Think an adult Famous Five meets Para Handy as that was my template. Might as well aim high :o)

Carol said...

Okay, I've bought it - I just needed a nudge to get on with it. I also bought myself a Y&T CD I've been listening to for ages on YouTube so all's good ;-)

blueskyscotland said...

You make it sound like a unpleasant duty that has to be carried out. My book might surprise you Carol. You might actually like it :o)