Saturday, 26 April 2014

The Crimson Petal and the White. A Tale of Two Glasgow Parks.

All photos best viewed full size for full Technicolor effect
The title I've borrowed from Dickens of course but also from an astonishing 2002 novel by Michel Faber called The Crimson Petal and the White which I was lucky enough see during its 4 part TV series.
One women pure, chaste, and radiantly unblemished- the other a notorious prostitute (suitably stained in character.. or is she?)
An excellent series and book that in turn derived its title from a Tennyson poem. Maybe it was watching films from front row seats in the cinema in my youth when lurid Technicolor was at its height and the screen in some picture halls was 50 foot across but I've always viewed the world in vivid detail. Even bland dull days, although free from rain, turn me off as I prefer bold primary colours in my outdoor landscapes. Always. I never tire of them as they are ever-changing anyway.
Except in Spring. In spring, for one short season, the world becomes drenched in colour and I've learned by years of trial and error that dull, overcast days are actually better than sunny ones for capturing the vivid intensity of this period- the most magical time of year for me. On a sunny day colours just appear washed out by overexposure.

This is a tale therefore of two Glasgow parks. As I live in the west of the city they are the ones closest to me but they are also the ones with the most vibrant of colours in "Spring" . As a connoisseur of all the city's wonderful parks I know this now. (The Botanic gardens and Victoria park run them close though.)
At first glance, on a map, Knightswood Park looks too small to be of any interest but a fine walk can be had by linking it up with the nearby Forth and Clyde Canal. It's also one of the best parks for cherry blossom avenues anywhere in Glasgow. The Knights Templar were reputed to have a stronghold here (Temple at Anniesland is named in their honour and a large castle once stood where Knightswood Cross with its twin churches stands now) although hard factual evidence of their presence here remains illusive. The "Wood of Knights" may have been a hunting estate and anyone that's seen "Excalibur " will remember that scene with the armoured knights of Camelot on horses thundering through the cherry orchards. Pity its not in HD here as it was a great scene and looked very impressive on the big screen.

If you also link in the green expanse of the nearby Great Western Road with its million bulb ribbon of Daffodils, flowering plum, cherry, and apple trees you get a walk with an infinite cascade of riches. Hence the title of this post. Inspiration should be a continuous flowing link also. Think about it -most people like music, films, architecture, paintings, etc. that have themes in common. It's why we get " if you like this- you may like these" ads. ( doesn't always work in my case)
Here's a suggested tour of Knightswood park for the potential visitor.
Find the pond in the middle of the Park. This is it. Being the most obvious landmark it seems sensible to start with this. At the side of the pond with the small hut a white path starts and heads north (seen two photos above). If you look across the road which splits the park from this hut you will see another small building next to a bus stop a stones throw away. This is also part of the park, a green ribbon which snakes along beside the golf course. You also have the playing fields and meadows to explore on the other side of the road, near the high flats, and the walk round the edge of the golf course itself. It also makes sense to explore the actual park first then come back to this point for the continuation described below.
Suddenly, you realise that  Knightswood Park is much bigger than you gave it credit for and by linking up all the elements-
                                                                        Golf course path.
golf course path green ribbon out towards Dkye Road, then Archerhill Road to join the towpath along the Forth and Clyde canal,then up Banner Drive at Tower Hill onto Trinley Brae with its Glasgow and Paisley wide panoramas you get a walk of stunning variety which can be done on either bike or foot and can be extended still further, if fairly fit, by taking the Canal towpath or Great Western Road( from Trinley Brae) all the way back to Anniesland Cross. If you do not wish to go to Anniesland a circular route can be achieved by crossing Knightswood Cross after Trinley Brae and  either cut straight down to the pond or follow Pikeman Road straight across from the two churches there which soon leads to another green slope with a high level balcony trail offering different panoramas over the entire west end. Both these green grass slopes are obvious from either hillside as they face each other across a valley. It must have been a stunning area two centuries ago as it's still nice now. Follow this down to the right hand edge of the Hi Rise flats and you are back at the park again. It's a fantastic walk or cycle and one of the best kept secrets in the city.( Note: some parts of the park network foot paths are reserved for walkers only but you can still explore these on foot easily enough or by taking quiet minor roads right beside them.) I always slow down or get off and walk near busy hotspots, children, elderly, pets etc. anyway but most times of year that's not a problem here. You will notice much more walking through the park beside the bike anyway. If arriving by car there is ample free parking on the street that cuts through the park. Archerhill Road beside the pond. It is on a bus route as well.    (all the street names here are heraldic or knight related.)

                                                    Kilpatrick Hills from Trinley Brae.

Marsh marigolds all along the Forth and Clyde Canal. This is beside Banner Road which leads onto Trinley Brae itself via a short lane next to Tower hill flats ( Four storey high mini multi complex)
                                                       Magpie in Knightswood Park.
                                                            Another one sleeping.

Kelvingrove Park now, much closer to the beating heart of Glasgow City Centre. Glasgow University and Glasgow Art Gallery and Museum are situated here.
 It's a much older park( 1852) than Knightswood  park and world famous in its own right for its history,statues, and surrounding buildings many of which have a Glasgow university or Indian subcontinent theme.
The Pond, where I spotted a red eared terrapin last summer.
I like any park which gives great views and climbs a hill within it. Kelvingrove ticks all the boxes.
The grounds of Glasgow university sit on the crest of a hill as well and even well behaved old scruffs like me are welcome to explore its passageways, cloisters and flowerbeds. Guided tours of the University interior are also given if requested. Thousands of graduates get their passing out photos taken here.
I don't normally take photos of strangers but this avenue of white blossoms was crying out for a loving couple walking along it.( I hope their partners don't see this though :o) Cynical me!
One of the quiet colourful lanes behind the main building.
Same lane different angle. This leads down to Byres road and Ashton lane with its trendy bars and bohemian student haunts. ( My wallet never sees daylight down there :o)
Another one of the cherry tree avenue. With dark threatening clouds overhead it looked like a rainstorm was due and the park emptied of people as they scurried home. Personally, I've always enjoyed that feeling of civilization galloping over the horizon and being the only one left to face the deluge alone- I must have "Apocalypse Envy" or something!
Just me and nature together. You see more things around you with all the people gone. A goldfinch.
Wellington Church Glasgow. Built in 1884. Defiantly old school in its design- even for that date.
                                     Pigeons. You'll never walk alone in the arms of nature
The only way I can end this post is with a further rainbow of colour. To the disgust of my friends I've liked Katy Perry's videos since California Gurls- and I'm not ashamed to admit it! Why? Simple. The best ones are on an epic scale, they are filled with colour, magpie like snippets from history and iconic films updated to a modern age, and she also scrubs up well. Compared to some of the other acts around she's old style glamour and often mirrors the golden age of Hollywood while still being contemporary and that's not easy to pull off. She also seems to have a sense of humour and is not afraid to poke fun at herself while most modern acts take themselves far too seriously.You can imagine Elizabeth Taylor wanting to star in this if she'd been around in the MTV age. Cecil B De Mille, MGM and Busby Berkeley would probably approve as well. For a mere "pop video" the attention to detail, set designs and layouts are amazing.

Finally, if you liked all that then you might like this. My book- plug plug....soon to be racing up the bestsellers charts. You can look at the first few chapters for free here and the actual book of fun filled adventures around Scotland is only £1.85 or $3.00 dollars on kindle. I might as well blow my own trumpet as no one else will- even though at my age I get a sore neck.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Pentlands. The Empty Quarter. Mendick Hill. Spring Lambs. The First Religion.

All photographs click full size.
Like all creatures on earth I wait for the beauty and radiance of  "Spring" each year, looking for the first signs that she's stirring- a signal to show she's finally leaving her winter bedroom and rising up to enjoy the sun's rays coming closer to earth once again. Like every women getting ready to go out however, sometimes you can have a false start and you think she's getting prepared, but it's only a quick appearance -a toilet dash perhaps- then she shivers and dives under the covers again and the snow falls once more. Sweet Persephone. The First Religion on Planet Earth.
I am a follower of Kore.  Eostre -(Who gave her name to Easter)- The Dawn Goddess. Call her what you like. Without her and her mother Demeter there would be No Life. No Nature. Why do you think the Resurrection of Jesus takes place at the start of "Spring." Each new religion superimposes itself on the bones of the past- The pagan growth and harvest festivals that have existed since the birth of crops. Yet P will never die. Long after the dominant species has destroyed itself once again- P will simply evolve into other forms and go on. Even Snowball Earth couldn't kill her off completely. A worthwhile short video in here from a time when the planet could easily have remained sealed in a ball of solid ice a kilometre thick for all eternity.

If "Spring" doesn't gladden the heart of every living thing then nothing will. Even people who have lost someone close to them, after a natural grieving period, take some comfort from this burst of new life and activity around them. A world resurrection- even in deserts.
The modern icons of Spring in the UK. The Snowdrop. The Crocus. The Daffodil. The Tulip. Her golden gown and the gems stitched upon it. Every girl likes a new dress when the fine weather starts.
Blackthorn blooms. Flowers before any leaves appear. How can Demeter be the mother of P when "Spring" comes before "Harvest?" As always, nature explains by example.
Cherry blossom? Even an eternal goddess likes pink and a makeover after a long sleep. "Spring clean" again to greet the world and her fans. The one true celebrity none of us can survive without.
Red Currant display along the canal. She rises and we adore. She is my religion.


On a fine spring morning recently I headed over to Ron's house and we then headed for Peebles where we intended to do a walk. On the way we passed Andy Scott's equine sculptures once again at the Helix near Falkirk/Grangemouth. This well known artist in metal has built up an impressive collection of iconic sculptures over the years and I'm a big fan. A slide show of some of his amazing installations  and commissions here. He has art works all over the world now.

I like this angle as it reminds me of my first sight of giraffes at a zoo and two huge heads, long necks and even longer rough tongues coming to get me over the barrier. Sandpaper kisses. No health and safety in those happy days. They even gave you monkeys to hold dressed in woollen jumpers at the front gates with inch long canine teeth on display when they yawned. Honest! I've still got the photo. Bitten children didn't sue in those days- they just got Dettol rubbed in the wound and a telling off.
A different angle, passing in the car.
Real animals. Fallow deer in the Pentland hills.
Another angle. Without Spring- no harvest. Without a harvest- no food. Without food- no life. The first religion keeps things simple, which I like. In this modern age however we tend to take everything for granted as if it's always going to be there for us- even if we muck it up- and get bogged down in the numerous complexities we have created for ourselves instead. For humans, P's arrival each year at this time, on this month, is a privilege- not an unending, un-shifting right. We should cherish her more for what she is-  the greatest gift we will ever receive- but many have grown so accustomed to her beauty we treasure her less as a result.
Eventually, we passed Edinburgh then travelled south west along the A702 which runs along the eastern edge of the Pentland Hills. As I said, we were intending to walk near Peebles but a heavy curtain of dark clouds still clung to that region whereas it was sunny and bright around Carlops. Easy choice to make as I do treasure my eternal princess and I like to see her smiling every time I'm in her company. Stay in sunshine then and so we parked the car near the golf course at West Linton for an ascent of Mendick Hill.

Mendick hill is a beautiful, symmetrical little peak that sits to the south west of West Linton.
Many rights of way and ancient drove roads pass through this part of the Pentland Hills as they tend to be more open here, with individual peaks and valleys instead of  a continuous range. They also tend to be quieter, with less visitors, which always appeals to me, although I don't mind large crowds where I expect to find them.
Sign post information at the start of our walk. We found out a Roman road used to pass through here and other remains (a roman fort) lie buried nearby.
This stone bridge dates to 1620. That's really old. Think about it. The same date as the Mayflower.  Mendick hill in the distance. A few years ago I came here with Alex so I didn't bother asking him this time as it's crossed off his list now and he'd climbed the Peebles hill I'd fancied already as well. Congratulations to him by the way on reaching his 200th Corbett and a belter of a recent post on Madeira- See Scotland's Mountains on Blogs List.
We found a lot of squashed amphibians on the minor road, which they have to cross to reach their breeding ponds. Over a dozen unlucky hoppers crushed by cars and tractors here yet this small track is seldom used. Multiply that by the number of roads throughout the UK and it's an animal holocaust that happens every year.
(I'll do a separate post on how we can all give them some help, very cheaply, with little effort, and for our own benefit and well being, later.)

It wasn't long before views were opening up as we climbed our hill of choice. It was the right decision stopping here as bad weather and lingering drizzle plagued the Peebles area throughout the day. We were just on the edge of it all and enjoyed a mixture of sunshine and the occasional dull interlude but no rain. Thank you P for your smiling countenance and warm personality once again.
 A view from the summit looking south west towards Lanark. This is a part of the Pentland chain that a lot of casual hill-walkers and tourists never bother with but I've grown to enjoy it here. Big skies and wide, empty horizons to play in and stride through.
We picked a great view for our lunch stop and Ron ( who'd never walked in this part of the Pentlands
before) said he would be happy to explore this region again. He loves Meikle Bin and the Campsies as he lives in the shadow of this well known west coast range but could see the attraction of these hills too.
It's only now it's stuck me how much these two modest hill ranges resemble the cities beneath them and how lucky we all are to have them on the doorstep. It may be far fetched but looking at these pictures in detail the Pentlands are elegant and refined with graceful sweeping lines.( the heart of Edinburgh city centre with its history and grandeur) yet past Mendick hill they grow wilder, more isolated, and much more untamed ( think Wester Hailes, Pilton, and Muirhouse :o)
The Campsies as a whole are much rougher, with a covering of long tussocky grass and rough outcrops- with deep, dark, hidden gullies like Finnich Glen.( the most popular post on this blog by the way with over 3000 hits but South Nitshill -then and now, will pass it soon. Who would have predicted that.) The Campsies- in your face, more direct, yet honest in manner. Look closer though and the Campsie Fells are equally beautiful with many tranquil beauty spots round unexpected corners. Personifications of Glaswegians and Edinburgh folk perhaps?
Most of my posts have an underlying theme so this is it.
Another view from Mendick Summit and another isolated shapely hill. No doubt about it. The Pentlands have the better figure with superb curves in all the right places. Posh city - better diet?
Always like the girls on Princes Street under Edinburgh Castle. Both are pricy attractions though!
Even the lambs are sexy here!
Mind you I soon put them through their paces. Young 6-66 here looked a bit flabby and I like my lamb chops without any fat on them. Fresh asparagus, lamb chops, and slow stewed apples are one spring luxury I do splash out on but I like my meat to be in prime shape when I buy it.
"Hit the deck solider! Give me 40 press ups at the double!"
 As you can see, the meat complied. I have a way with animals :o) Yum yum. Come to Daddy. Ah, yes, spring is a wonderful time.

Staying with the themes of beauty, grace, and the quest for unobtainable goals here's a suitable video.
European females on sun kissed golden beaches or perched on roof tops but done in the best possible taste, of course. (I  would not try jumping off though with those wings.).No wonder we go on holiday abroad and leave rain lashed Saltcoats, Ayr, Musselburgh and Portobello behind!

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Cowal Peninsula Weekend.Clach Bheinn. Lochgoilhead. My New Novel.

About a month ago I was invited along on an old pals outing when someone had the idea of a trip into a Cowal bothy which is situated in an isolated area of the Argyll Forest Park . I'm not going to name it on here as the internet has largely stripped away the mystery and allure of these often remote unlocked mountain huts. In the old days of my youth it was hard to find these places as their locations seem to operate on a "need to know" basis and we obviously weren't in the loop starting out so didn't need to know. Now most of the MBA ones are published on the internet which makes them far easier to find but takes a little of the sense of discovery away. Mark my words. Those who know where this is keep it to yourselves :o)
As John's car could only hold three bikes on its rack Alex ,myself and driver John headed up to Arrochar then continued on to the road end into deepest Argyll for the cycle in. This is Alex just disappearing round a corner. Every time I stopped for a photograph these two buggers belted ahead which meant I was left well behind all the way into the bothy. Being an action photographer is hard work on a bike as the action keeps going whenever you stop, hence the one bike photo as I never caught them again to capture any more. It's a good track for cycling though as it is not too up and down with good freewheels on occasion and great views over the forest to the Luss Hills.
This is Doune hill and Cruach an t- Sidhein, I think, which we climbed and posted a few weeks ago on the blog. It was looking down from here into Argyll that gave Alex the idea for this trip. Gavin and Scott also decided to join us on this adventure, coming up separately in another car, but at the last minute they chose to walk in as Gavin is not that keen on cycling.

The bothy with bikes outside. We travelled in on Saturday afternoon and this was a bothy we'd never been to before. This peninsula sticks out into Loch long and Loch Goil and is surrounded by pine forest at low levels but has an interior spine of rocky uplands with Beinn Reithe, 663 metres, The Brack, 787metres, and Beinn Donich, 847, being the highest peaks on the triangle. The weather was mixed with sunny periods and occasional heavy showers of sleet and snow but in the main we were lucky with the weather.

A sleet shower passing by travelling up Loch Long, Faslane in the distance. Alex of course was here to bag Clach Bheinn, the hill at the very end of the peninsula surrounded by pine forest but boasting fantastic views in all directions This is Alex enjoying the storm which passed by quickly over the Luss Hills but missed us.
Sunshine and blue skies followed but, as ever, the higher Munros were the last to clear of clag. A view over to Beinn Bhuidhe 948metres and a well known much loved Munro.

 Incidentally, after two long but enjoyable years hard graft writing a book about my hasty youth and  many intrepid adventures across Scotland and Europe the fruits of my labours are now complete and available on E-book Amazon kindle book shelf. Although it is an autobiography of sorts I didn't want to burden people with a dull read so it is very different from the normal type... part autobiography- part novel- part traveller's tale- part unusual love story.... and 100% original. It's a tongue in cheek comedy set in Scotland about a "fictional" hillwalking/ other sports club packed with (hopefully) interesting characters, funny stories, superb photographs, which illustrate each chapter and is similar to the style of this blog but totally different too as it's on a far bigger scale. All the chapters will be new to Blue Sky Scotland  readers- some may shock you- some may surprise you- some may offend you- but it will not be a dull read- Well...hopefully. Fingers crossed.

You can read the first couple of chapters for free and see how you like it although the really good stuff is further in as the characters and plot develop. If you enjoy it please give it a review- if not don't bother. If you hate it- please don't comment :o) Putting a book out must be like sending your child off to school on the first day, wondering if it will be embraced, loved, and taken care of or if will come back with teeth and hair and ears missing having been enticed to "play" with the bad kids beyond the CCTV camera range. Creative writing must also be one of the slim list of professions where you can work 4 to 7 hour days, every night and weekends, and not know if you are going to earn a single penny at the end of it. Two years, 1000 hours, and over 20 rewrites has gone into this book along with my heart, soul, sanity, and burnt out eyeballs, compared to a day ( 4 to 6 hours usually) for each blog post, so it should be good.  It's only £1.85 (UK pounds) or $2.99 (US dollars) anyway for 500+ action packed pages ( only 350 pages on Microsoft word) so well worth a punt. Cheaper than a scratch card although hopefully it will not go in the bin afterwards! You will not win any money but you may have a laugh. If you want to know what I got up to when I wasn't a decrepit old fart shuffling over pimples and was 100 times more adventurous and completely bonkers this is the book for you. Link Here.

Click "view inside" on kindle  link photo for the free chapters preview. I will get around to a proper link afterwards on the blog and print on demand paper copies hopefully- if it sells!
PS. there is not a mention of politics in it as I was more interested in Munros then although chapters on kayaking, rock-climbing, caving, island hopping, skiing and backpacking across Scotland and Europe form a backdrop for various relationships, love affairs, desperate measures, unrequited hope,occasional back stabbing obsession, loads of stupidity and intrigue within the club.

I've known this particular group of characters above for decades so they should not be surprised by the contents as they feature in some of the later chapters and they already know I'm mad as a hatter anyway- though it's meant to be "fictional" of course.
Scott, Gavin, John and Alex enjoying a swally or two in the bothy.
 Hundreds of nights over the years have been spent in places like this. "The rest I've just squandered." to quote George Best.
Highland cattle enjoying the soft 'moist' highland landscape. "Is this summer now mummy?" The little calf asks ,up to its tail in mud.
 " Yes, the rains slightly warmer." she replies "It must be summertime on the Scottish West Coast."
Traversing back from Clach Bheinn. The snow in places was thigh deep, yet melted completely in other areas under a strong spring sun.
View over Faslane.
View down towards Lochgoilhead area.
Wider view of the district from Clach Bheinn.
Portincaple from above

Gavin and Scott walking back out to the car.
Tearoom to end the day.The Green Kettle where we had a refreshing "cup of tea" (or other beverages on offer.) Cracking bothy and the first for ages. In the old days we used to collect them like Munros and we would travel all over Scotland to bag them. We even went on far north bothy tours for several winters at New Year and had multi day epics wading through deep snow or over wild empty moors just to stay in a series of bare little cottages deep in the wilderness. Strange the weird things you get addicted to in life.