Saturday, 14 May 2016

"Fairest of a Thousand Shires." Knapps Loch. Kilmacolm. Glen Moss. Quarriers Village.

                                               ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN.
Renfrewshire is special because, like Glasgow, it is covered in drumlins. These are low hills of glacial enhanced construction left over from the last ice age that create a rolling landscape of open meadows, sheltered wooded valleys, small kettle lochs and rugged small escarpments on gentle ridges. I've been coming here since I could travel on my own four paws and I never grow tired of it. The first time I set eyes on the sea was from a hill around here and that thrill has never left me. It is completely unique and there is nowhere else like it in Scotland- probably Britain. Summed up perfectly in the line "A shire like no other, neither highland nor lowland but placed somewhere in-between - resembling the rolling waves of a mighty ocean calming down slowly after a day of storm." 
A Scottish glimpse of Arcadia or far off Byzantium perhaps, where the drumlins roll freely, uncluttered by housing, ridge after exquisite ridge merging into a blue distant horizon where all dreams are possible and just within reach of wildly straining fingers. A mere eight hundred years ago Glasgow must have looked very similar to this with a small ecclesiastical village straddling an open hillside around a tiny High Street and modest church perched below a higher Drumlin. The birth and beginning of the mighty Drumlin City of the future which would eventually come to dominate sea borne trade, ship building, and locomotive production across the globe from the 1700s on-wards swelled by refugees from the highland clearances, which gradually transformed that area into a Victorian theme park, game reserve and sheep farm, a situation that still continues to this day, more or less. The unfashionable but prolific workhorse of the British Empire had its numbers swelled further with refugees coming over from Ireland looking for work as an alternative to starving on the streets there during the famine years of the mid 1800s.
As it's under 30 minutes drive from my house and not on most peoples radar for visiting I keep returning to it as any trip here in good weather is sheer pleasure. Recently I was out with Alex up one of his remaining remote Corbetts up north and I was almost dreading the trip beforehand as I knew it would be a long tough day and so it proved. I had to take painkillers coming off the hill due to knackered knees and a relentless steep decent of almost 3000 feet and although I enjoyed it in retrospect I could hardly walk without pain for 3 days afterwards.
By way of contrast Renfrewshire is easy, delicious and delightful like a really nice fruit sundae with
three flavours of ice cream, cherries, strawberries, sliced bananas, seedless sweet grapes then topped with sprinkled crushed chocolate flake, nuts and  raspberry drizzle on a hot summers day. It is that good.
Kilmacolm village seen above.
Alex has always been an out and out bagger of hills, and I've had many great adventures up high in various clubs, with him and others over the years but sometimes sitting in a deck chair out in the garden, beside a pond filled with tadpoles, frogs and dragonflies, reading a good book surrounded by bees, butterflies, sunshine and shade is nice as well and this resembles that pleasure.
 In short it's relaxing and enjoyable, just like exploration cycling and can even be euphoric at times.( head down, full throttle racing cycling is a different game entirely and not for me)
 Knapps Loch above.
It's always a puzzle to me why people like Alex don't seem to enjoy coming here and can only get their kicks by punishing/ torturing  themselves on long hikes, climbing up steep gradients every weekend but everyone has different tastes and on the plus side Renfrewshire is still quiet and unhurried with only locals exploring it. Cycle rides or walks here on empty minor roads (many routes described and illustrated in my visual guidebooks online) contain  a huge variety of landscapes in a small area without much effort involved. My not so guilty pleasure. Look at the contrast in these two photos a few miles apart.
I did ask him if he wanted to come, but as usual, with decades of refusals and excuses as a past benchmark, he wasn't interested. Fifteen minutes in the car from Kilmacolm takes you to the edge of the sea  at Dumbarton Rock and Castle, seen here, where the River Clyde opens out to become the massive Firth of Clyde Estuary, the largest enclosed body of coastal water in the British Isles. The photo above shows a large ship passing this ancient stronghold of the Britons, seat of the Kingdom of Alclud and one of the oldest almost continuously inhabited fortified structures anywhere. This commanding volcanic plug was a natural, easily defended fortress before Queen Cleopatra was born in 69 BC; it probably predates the iron age as a defensive inhabited power base in northern Britain; it was certainly known and feared by the Romans, whose relentless march through Britain stopped just short of the rock at Old Kilpatrick and they never progressed any further up the west coast, preferring the flatter eastern seaboard to get as far as Fife or Aberdeen before being defeated by hostile resistance and troubles brewing nearer Rome.
If 'King' Arthur did exist as a real person he might well have visited here before he died as many southern Celtic tribes were forced into the extremities of Britain by successive waves of overseas intruders. It's no coincidence that Cornwall, Devon, Scotland, Cumbria, Wales and Ireland all have shared Celtic roots as these remote, often mountainous, places provided a refuge for displaced tribes fleeing persecution. An early form of Welsh, (Brythonic) was spoken in this area then and Merlin gets a mention visiting here in an ancient account of the period. Arthur, Merlin, and even Camelon crop up as old place names through the Borders and Central Belt regions although its impossible at the moment to attach any value to them unless new evidence is found, which is not likely to happen. The "Fort of the Britons" is still impressive today and a visit to the castle is a memorable experience for those able to ascend its steep walkways to reach both summits. A low level path runs around the base of the rock to the overhanging north facing cliff that contains some of the hardest rock climbs in Scotland.
For Camelon see link below.

Anyway, I arranged to meet Alan and his faithful hound at Kilmacolm to start this walk.  In total it's only around 10 km distance and very easy but also provides a highly enjoyable outing of 3 to 5 hours as you do not want to rush this landscape. You can easily shorten or lengthen it to your tastes by missing out sections or adding extra miles by including the scenically attractive minor road network which has only occasional cars.( marked in yellow on OS maps)
 Especially in late spring/ early summer, with the sweet spicy infusion of richly scented gorse all around and shimmering heat of 26c degrees (not that common in May for chilly old Scotland) every special kaleidoscopic inch of ground should be savoured to the full. Well, you don't gulp down ice cream and assorted fruit pieces, do you?...or jump around frantically in a deck chair. It's that sort of day here. A gentle, slow, lascivious and luscious pace, taking it all in, soaking up the heat in this sheltered magical hollow.
At the far end of Knapps Loch we stopped for lunch on a small knobbly summit and took in the view. Superb! Three of Mr Kipling's deep filled jam tarts for greedy old me soon followed. An apricot, raspberry and blackcurrant taste sensation of the highest order occurred next along with a bottle of original flavour tangy lucozade to wash them down. The small inexpensive pleasures in life should be relished. Sublime decadence.
Winnie the Pooh could not have been happier with his hairy head stuck in a honey jar than fat old Bobby on that modest summit taking in the panorama below.... teeth deep in a succulent red berried tart. Every vampires dream.
Alan came across a cow skeleton on the edge of a small bog picked clean by predators, like foxes and badgers, and as he's a sculptor, metal worker, and artist he soon knocked up a lifelike alien in the middle of the field where he found it lying.
His dog was not so impressed however and didn't know what to make of it at all, circling around it nervously. It's a good wee animal and despite appearances and a young age still shows no sign of being interested in cattle or sheep other than natural curiosity although he goes on a lead when travelling through livestock, just in case.

Although a circular walk exists around this small loch we headed downhill to pick up a farm track leading up between a golf course and green fields to bring us out at Lawfield Farm , a minor road and the nearby Lawfield Dam fishery pond which was busy with anglers dipping their rods in the water.
From here we walked along this quiet tarmac ribbon for a short distance past the golf course then took a signposted right of way through it to bring us out at Glen Moss, a local nature reserve of ancient bog and watery swamp.
Two swans in perfect harmony.
Wild Flowers. Bog and moorland variety.

After visiting Glen Moss we entered the scenic village/town of Kilmacolm (Locals still call it "the village" and it certainly has a well defined small central core but it seems a bit big on the outskirts for that title now.
Here we walked along the cycle track for a short distance then cut down to the right on a grass covered path to pick up the old green-way track, which is not as busy with cyclists and brings you out past North Denniston fishery and the B788. We then regained the cycle track following it down into Quarriers Village. A very special place indeed.
Quarriers was set up by William Quarrier, a Glasgow philanthropist who became distressed by the appalling conditions of local children without parents to look after them as that was his own background as well in childhood. He set up this village in the late 1800s to look after orphans and to try to give them a better life and sound values. The village is divided up into separate units of around 30 large cottages, a fire station, a magnificent children's cathedral, (Mount Zion Church) and a school. Over 1000 orphans lived here and many of the cottages have religious messages carved above each doorway, like this one in the photo. I can't comment on what it was like to grow up here at that time but if you dropped me into Wonderland tomorrow it wouldn't match this. I did experience a Renfrewshire childhood myself, growing up close to the Brownside Braes and Barrhead Dams but it's the individuals personal home life situation that determines happiness as well as surrounding scenery.
Each of the doorways has a different message above it and they were probably more like "named houses" to the children. Very grand for "cottages" with multiple spacious rooms inside. Think Harry Potter separate dorm names or like my own school where we were originally grouped into clusters, (say Maxwell House which is the only one I remember) although in my own case I never stayed where I was put and liked to move around as soon as they stopped noticing my absence or counting heads each morning.
Mount Zion Church and Alan. William Quarrier is buried nearby in the church graveyard and many of the houses now have been converted into private homes although the magnificent exteriors and general feel of the place has been maintained. There is still a social care charity based here helping a wide range of vulnerable people and their families. As you can see it's usually quiet, peaceful and beautiful here and I hope it stays that way for a long time.
Another view of Mount Zion- The Children's Cathedral.
Peaceful lawns in the village with a few of the cottages. A small tea room is open at certain hours here for a cup of sustenance and home baking. With little parking available in the village itself for outsiders however it should retain its quiet appeal as most folk walk or cycle to reach here.
The Roman Army on the nearby cycle track.

With such a colourful post it requires a suitable video to match it. I've been a fan of Kate Bush since  her first album came out in the late 1970s but I prefer to discover new music and bands that I haven't heard rather than stuff I know well. A few years ago I stumbled on these fan made videos appearing on You Tube and immediately thought they were excellent. If the guy that puts them together (the highly talented Mr Marrs) doesn't work in the visual arts field already someone should snap him up as they are better than the artist's official videos put out with large bags of cash behind them.
Fascinating images spliced together to perfectly match the lyrics of the song, sumptuous beauty, sparkle and elegance as a given, seem to be his trademark.
A real joy to watch even if you don't like her music and a poem prologue courtesy of Alfred Lord Tennyson, (The Coming of Arthur) one of the inspirations  for the Ninth Wave segment about a passenger swept overboard then struggling to stay conscious and afloat in a vast empty ocean.
Best watched full screen from the start. Now this is 'Art' as I understand it and better than 90 per cent of  modern conceptual art , highly priced head scratchers, or pretentious gobbledygook, hanging in galleries today. If you only watch one video on this blog in your lifetime let it be this one, viewed full screen.


Carol said...

I hope 'he shall judge the rich' as well!

That does look very nice indeed - I'd have come with you. My Mum & Dad used to just call by on a morning when I was still wanting to stay in bed and ask if I wanted to go somewhere with them. Wherever it was, I used to jump out of bed and go with them - nowt like a lift somewhere and not knowing where it was going to be until you got there!

I'm also getting to like walking the small lanes more and more nowadays too. I suppose with my deteriorating joints, it's just as well really...

And, if you're going to have an ice-cream sundae, you HAVE to have cream on top of it or it ain't a sundae! ;-)

Linda said...

Such a great post and your photos are so lovely. Thank you so much for sharing.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Carol,
According to a recent programme about tax havens I watched with interest the ultra rich get to judge themselves by using their "moral compass" as to how much tax they should pay- ranging from a small amount to none at all, depending on their conscience, provided they have one of course.
As I had apple pie and single cream before writing the post and overindulged slightly
pouring it out adding cream on top of ice cream and fruit was the last thing on my mind.

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Linda,
I try my best to make each post special.

Linda W. said...

Another great walk! I love the lush green countryside in your photos. And I appreciate the bit of history you include too.

Carol said...

By the way, I wouldn't have been touching that dead cow if I was your mate - you don't know what it died of!

Rosemary said...

Some lovely images here to enjoy - when I was first married we lived in Glasgow, and eventually moved out to Milngavie. Our house was in a road called Drumlin Drive, but it was many years later, after we had left Scotland, that I realised the significance of the name.

The Greenockian said...

Great photos - the wee dog looks terrified! Quite enjoy a jaunt to Kilmacolm occasionally.

blueskyscotland said...

Thank You Linda W,
I learn a lot myself putting together these posts. For instance. I never knew the Queen still owned a sixth of the World.

blueskyscotland said...

How true Carol but it's probably safer than some of the late night takeaways I've eaten in the past.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Rosemary,
I know Milngavie well. I tend to like cities anywhere that have a rolling, hilly aspect and it's probably due to growing up in Glasgow with similar terrain I feel comfortable with. How else do you explain many Scandinavian's settling in the coldest, snow covered states in the USA because they feel happy in that environment.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Liz,
yes it's not far from you and even a wander around the back streets and local shops there can be interesting when the gardens are looking at their best in summer.

Kay G. said...

I love this post! The older I get the steeper the hill becomes. I would want to climb the steep slopes with Alex but I would also like to be beside the pond with you too,this is what I'm like! Love the story abou Mr. Quarry I will look him up. Great photos as always!

Kay G. said...

William Quarrier
Sorry, I constantly get the name wrong.

blueskyscotland said...

Hello Kay,
You might change your mind on that when you see the hill Alex and I both struggled on recently which will be the next post on here in a few days time. It certainly put me off doing another round of the Munros as I don't have the legs, the tenacity, or the time left to finish them twice.