Saturday, 19 March 2016

Edinburgh. Union Canal. The Meadows. Tollcross.

                                              ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN
Inspiration for trips can appear suddenly in many different places. After watching a re-run of the Scottish episode of Great Canal Journeys a few weeks ago which set off from the heart of Edinburgh at the Quay Basin along the Union Canal I realized I'd never visited it. Years ago it was run down and unloved, like many canals, a dead end basin in a mostly industrial semi derelict area that time and new industry had passed by but in 2001 they started to improve it dramatically. Salisbury Crags in Holyrood Park above.
I decided to park my car here and cycle across this popular park past the meadows as I couldn't see an obvious parking spot any closer to the city centre district where free reliable parking in Edinburgh's heart can be difficult to find. Even in Holyrood Park, it's never that easy on a nice sunny day unless you arrive early.
Well, it was sunny in Glasgow when I left in the early morning but once past Wishaw then crossing over the hump of higher ground between the cities the mist and fog thickened into an unforeseen pea- souper that cut visibility down to around 100 yards. I was almost tempted to turn back but as the forecast that morning was for sunshine and clear skies I persevered and through in Edinburgh itself it was misty but was already showing signs it might burn off later. A photograph of a lone jogger in Holyrood Park below Arthur's Seat at that early hour. When it's quiet like this Holyrood Park is an amazing area to find in the middle of a large city. No other place in the UK (probably in all Europe) has an ancient volcano so close to its busy heart.

This wasn't where I was heading though and I soon turned off just before the hexagonal sloping pillars of Samson's Ribs. An obvious volcanic feature similar to the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland on the Antrim Coast, Fingal's Cave on Staffa, and many other places around the world.
From here my objective was to reach 'The Meadows' area by negotiating the maze of streets that makes up the district of Dumbiedykes. I try to avoid cycling in heavy traffic but you can usually find quiet streets in a city to cycle down and this was no different.
The Meadows. A popular grass covered oasis in the heart of a busy inner city ward. Just like sister city Glasgow the multi coloured fingernails of Persephone were bursting out from winter's underworld here. My favourite sign of spring and her re-emergence again.
Mind you compared to less affluent Glasgow where the crocus cover even in the posh west end discreetly covers mere edges and park borders in small tasteful displays, Edinburgh at The Meadows must have taken poor Tinkerbell by the heels and shaken the **** out of her over a mile long ribbon. Maybe that's why this little fairy had only a tiny portion of magic dust left on her person by the time she made it over to Glasgow. Naughty Edinburgh!
The Meadows is a delightful area and I enjoyed cycling through it but I couldn't help comparing the flower displays in both cities and finding my own larger city the poor relation in many ways. "Trainspotting" director Danny Boyle commented recently on the gentrification of Edinburgh over the last couple of decades, a trend I've noticed occurring in  my own city but it's even more pronounced here.
Although at first I really enjoyed the long avenues of carpet thick crocus in splendid lush profusion running as far into the distance as my eyes could discern after a while it felt like they were just taking the piss out of my poor home city. Rubbing our collective Glasgow nose in it so to speak.  A Crocodile Dundee " You call that a knife? This is a knife!" moment for me as a proud Glaswegian. "Hah.You call that a crocus carpet you west coast dole huggers? Nope. This is a crocus carpet."

It was a magnificent display though and The Meadows make a lovely spring walk or cycle. I also noticed some very obvious glass and steel new build apartments that have sprouted up recently and do not really blend in that well with the older buildings around the nearby University of Edinburgh... to my tastes anyway.
A closer view. It turns out they are new luxury apartments, either for very rich students, professional types or top gangsters presumably. It's only my own observation and opinion of course but I have noticed over the past 40 years that whenever a Conservative government gets into power in the UK for any length of time the gap between rich and poor appears to widen dramatically year on year through deliberate political agenda as seen in the latest budget under the timeworn disguise of reducing the deficit. I also noted on Great Canal Journeys when they travelled along the edge of Regents Park in London past a line of White House sized villas and mansions overlooking the canal that looked like Edwardian splendor at its finest that many had actually been built in the 1980s during another so called recession and high unemployment austerity era. A photo link here to the new Meadows apartments at Quartermile. Only £1,920,000 for the penthouse apartment and a lovely view over Edinburgh.

Anyway, where I was heading was Tollcross district and Edinburgh Quay. Above is a carving denoting the entrance gates to the city Meat Market, now long gone. During the canal age,building stone, presumably grain or hops for the nearby Fountain Brewery, now closed, goods and other materials could be floated in almost to the heart of Edinburgh. It's not easy to find this urban basin and start of the Union Canal but eventually I was directed into it not far from the meat market arch.
Edinburgh Basin and the start of the Union Canal. The swans are not real. This area has seen a lot of redevelopment but as I've been visiting similar waterfront districts in the last year they start to look very similar in architectural design. Cardiff, Manchester, Birmingham, London, Belfast Newcastle, Liverpool, and most other UK redeveloped waterfronts look much the same to a well travelled eye.
A typical glass and steel structure of its kind. Apparently, Edinburgh is increasing in population at around 100 new citizens a week but some of the modern apartments built in the last 15 years (not this one) around Port of Leith, Granton and Ocean Terminal have not grown on me with time. Edinburgh is a very elegant city but some of its modern tall apartments fail to reach its own high standards, I think its fair to say.
Anyway, I did enjoy touring round here and seeing the mix of old and new. As usual various upmarket deli's and ubiquitous coffee shops have sprouted up in this vicinity to cater for the discerning visitor. Therefore, my next novel will be titled  "Bondage, Buggery, Anal Sex and Coffee Shops." Being old I'm out the loop but this appears to be four modern pastimes that seem to be increasingly trendy and popular now, although not all at the same time. It's sure to be a best seller going by the latest train station book racks as women seem to like that sort of thing these days and they are the ones that buy then recommend new books to their friends. It's all about judging the market and I think "Bondage, Buggery, Anal Sex and Coffee Shops" will be a winner this year.
Another view of Edinburgh Quay Basin. From here I cycled out along the busy towpath in the direction of Merchiston and solved a long standing mystery. In the film "Young Adam" which was set in the days of Scottish, still working, canals there was a scene in the movie of a curving canal with high tenements on one side I couldn't place as anywhere I'd been before.
A puzzle solved. The Union Canal near Temple Park Crescent in Merchiston.
Looking back towards Edinburgh Quay. A lot of new build construction is still ongoing in this area so it is liable to change further in the next couple of years as more glass and steel apartments get erected along this prime waterfront real estate zone. A nice weekend walk can be had sightseeing along this canal. Slightly more problematic on a busy fine day as cyclists and large numbers of walkers on a sometimes narrow tow path don't always mix well for full enjoyment.
More new buildings along the canal.
This is near Slateford Bridge which is where I cycled to from Wester Hailes along the Union Canal from Edinburgh's outskirts. I bailed out here a few years ago as I was probably parked down at Cramond on the coast and going any further along the canal tow path then would entail busy city centre streets and rush hour traffic to get back to the car. This time I bailed out here again as I'd completed the Union Canal through the city fully over two trips and wanted to do a circular tour of other parts of Edinburgh.
This second half will be in Part Two....
A last look at old Edinburgh from The Meadows district.


Linda W. said...

I enjoyed coming along with you on your latest tour!

Carol said...

you can't have 'anal sex' and buggery in your book title - same thing isn't it? (or am I more innocent than I thought?)

Love the swan sculptures!

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Linda,
Edinburgh is probably the best Scottish city for history and hills combined for tourists as it has everything close to the city centre.

blueskyscotland said...

Tee hee Carol,
You fell into my little trap. By legal definition "Buggery" is not just anal sex with humans in a court of law. Look it up :o)
I'm still baffled by the continuing trend for 50 Shades of Grey type S and M stuff in bookshops. Mind you I'm still baffled by women in general and probably always will be.

Carol said...

you need to call it "Bondage, Bestiality, Anal Sex & Coffee Shops" perhaps? (not sure if I'll get sacked from work for typing all that on their computer now!)

blueskyscotland said...

Nah, I think I'll leave it as it is. It's my book so its authors privilege to name it. Feel free to write your own rival version though. On a different note, while cycling, I found myself wondering about Dumbiedykes (the Edinburgh district) and Dumbledore. It looks like Dumbledykes on many maps including the one I have unless you can spot the i clearly and is right next to the University of Edinburgh. J.K Rowling gives a different explanation for her professors name so maybe it's just coincidence in an age when people still used paper dictionaries to look up words and Dumbledore would be next to it alphabetically arranged. Probably wrong but just a thought. I like to speculate. I'm full of idle speculation when I'm panting hard up a steep hill as it seems to free the mind :o)

The Glebe Blog said...

Hi Bob, been off the radar for this and that reason. There's no slackening up on your blog posts, they're still a great read.
Me and the 'Sheila' had a week in Edinburgh last month. Managed to get up Arthurs Seat again.
The Meadows were a bit sparse looking then, not a bud in sight.
We also managed to watch Tim and Pru doing the Union Canal. That was great 'cause after a week up the Highlands we visited the Kelpies and took in the 'Wheel' the following day. Wisne working of course,
Thought of you're blog when visiting the Cairngorm Ski resort. I last visited Aviemore 50 years ago on an army recce and stayed around three hours. It's changed some since then oh my !
Might get blogging again if it gets too hot in Townsville.
I'll keep popping in

Kay G. said...

Ha ha, I love comparing "you call that a knife" to a cities vying for the best fields of, not sure the plural for that flower!! Anyway, that's funny and I totally get what you meant, which is what the purpose of language is for, am I right?

blueskyscotland said...

Hello Jim, Glad to see you are still both getting around and enjoying yourselves in two different hemispheres. Not many folk can pull off that trick. I've always wanted to know a globetrotter :o)
Best wishes to you and Sheila and thanks for dropping in. My sister in OZ says it is still unseasonably warm over in her area when the temperatures should really be slackening off a little by now.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Kay,
That is the correct plural but I try and avoid using it as I don't really care for Croci or Crocuses much as words. I'm funny that way about certain words I'm not keen on and just pretend they don't exist. Edinburgh wins hands down in the colourful bulbs competition and the nearly two million pound elevated glass penthouse rising above them.