Saturday, 27 August 2016

Rouken Glen Park. Barrhead Dams. Newton Mearns. A Photographic Gallery.

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A solo bike trip to Rouken Glen park and a photographic gallery of an area I know well in South West Glasgow. Growing up in Nitshill- Pollok, this was the nearest large (and more importantly,  interesting) park to my house and was just within walking distance once I passed the age of ten... a bus ran here as well, which was an occasional treat if my parents paid the fare but usually reached on foot.
Purple Loosestrife, seen here, is a common feature of practically every park pond in Glasgow nowadays, probably UK wide, as fashion trends in gardening, like everything else, tend to be an inclusive, ubiquitous movement. When I first observed the re-wilding project of park ponds a few years ago  I thought this plant was amazing but it tends to loose its shine a little when you start seeing it everywhere. Still nice for photography though and good for wildlife.
Built at the height of Edwardian splendour Rouken Glen used to be and still is one of  most prestigious parks in Glasgow. Formally looked after by Glasgow City Council it now lies within Eastwood and has been under the care of East Renfrewshire Council for decades. Like many city parks of yesteryear the pond used to have small boats on it which you could hire then go off exploring the islands in the middle. As you can see it was a perfect day for walking or cycling and the park was mobbed but luckily I arrived fairly early to get a parking place. It does have ample parking but everywhere is busy now on a sunny weekend and you have to arrive reasonably early to get a space. The large duck is plastic with a warning not to feed the birds bread products as many shallow park ponds these days have a real problem in summer with algae and fast spreading blanket weed and uneaten bread soon tends to contribute to an unbalanced pond situation.

 It was looking pretty good this time with only a few patches of dense weed cover obscuring the surface but someone informed me the entire pond had been drained and cleaned recently as I've seen it far worse in previous years. Usual collection of ducks, geese and other pond life on show. I think this might be a young moorhen going by the beak.
Although the park was my starting out point it was not my intention to stay here, hence the bike. I don't mind crowds normally but it felt good to reach the quieter areas of the park, cycling along the track that runs down the boundary of the nearby golf course. Cloudscapes were amazing the entire day with great examples of wispy feather-like clouds similar to the start of spinning threads of candy floss in the old rotating machines at funfairs.
Beautiful light for photography. As usual I noticed changes every time I come here and the old clubhouse has been replaced by a David Lloyd Centre. Likewise more new houses being built along Stewarton Road but this means you can cycle uphill on empty pavements with a bike as everyone normally has cars in these upmarket cul de sac developments and you rarely see anyone walking about.
Kennishead flats from Rouken Glen with one getting demolished. Glasgow can be a very green place, especially on this side of the city.

I was delighted to find a small new park/ landscaped recreation area just below Patterton and had a go on the zip wire running down a slight slope as that was empty as well. We are all children again when there's no one else around to see and I couldn't resist a shot :o) It was good fun.
A view of the city of Glasgow in the distance as this route climbs steadily uphill from the park towards Newton Mearns and then takes the back road through the Barrhead Dams. The upmarket enclave of Newton Mearns has been gradually expanding as long as I can remember since childhood and they are still building new developments here 50 years later.
Greenlaw village shopping centre is just a few years old and they are still adding new developments around the edges. A large Waitrose sits in the middle of this project like a statement of its aspirations (or a crown, given its royal seal of approval) along with this horse's head sculpture which looks like Andy Scott's work, probably a display model built to carry around and promote the much larger, full size structures at Falkirk built on the canal there.
Although interesting enough to visit in passing I was soon cycling away from Newton Mearns and down quieter back roads to reach the Barrhead Dams. This is really the true land of my childhood memories and I spent a great deal of my free time here for the first 25 years of my life. Balgray Reservoir is the largest of five separate bodies of water in this area. We just knew it as the 'big one' and it still lives up to its name. Unlike Rouken Glen with its adjacent parking and crowds of visitors this area is much quieter and still exceptionally beautiful- mainly thanks to a lack of parking places and a more unsafe reputation as it used to be surrounded by fairly rough estates. I lived in one of them but it was no hardship at all staying there with this incredible water world on the doorstep. In truth, I grew up in Heaven on Earth.
Birdlife here was and is more exotic than any city park. A Great Crested Grebe with what looks like a fish or eel. The largest grebe in Europe and noted for its stylish and elaborate courtship displays. Several young could be heard out on the water and a minute later they appeared, rushing to be fed by the adult birds.
This is it handing over its prize to the hungry young. The reservoirs were built at great expense to supply Glasgow with fresh drinking water after several heath epidemics in the city caused widespread death due to polluted water. Before these catchment areas were built the city's water supply came from the River Clyde near Dalmarnock. Not surprisingly, given that location so near the city centre, water supplies drawn off there were not always of the highest quality.
History and Dams to Darnley Country Park info here. Rifle Ranges. POW Camp and Darnley Bleach fields show a surprising international history inside this link.
http://www.damstodarnley.org/barrhead-dams.htm

As a child I wasn't aware of any of that I just knew it was a fantastic place to grow up and grabbed every opportunity going to explore this magnificent playground on my doorstep. The largest reservoir was the furthest away from my house, much nearer the town of Barrhead, but the rest were within walking distance of our estate/scheme. Although not as magnificent and unspoiled as it once was, with numerous housing developments constantly nibbling away at the edges  it's still a lovely place to visit and I still enjoy coming here. Ironically, on this latest visit, a large fresh water pipe was being sunk across the surrounding countryside which involved carving a wide muddy trench over numerous fields and through woodlands but in a few years time you will hardly see the scars as luckily nature is great at hiding man-made disturbance. It might even be a water supply for new developments in Newton Mearns- but not sure of that as yet.
Luckily, it avoids the best sections of the country park but it represents a microcosm of what's happening around the world today. If they did built excellent parking facilities here and family friendly walking opportunities that might spoil it as well  as part of the reason I like it here is that it is still quiet and undisturbed in the main.
Grey Wagtail sitting in an overflow channel.
Duncarnock 204 metres high, and the Victorian Railway viaduct from the dams.
Glasgow to Neilston train passing. A scenic line and another way to visit the Barrhead Dams as, if you are energetic, you can walk from Neilston train station along minor back roads to climb Duncarnock then down through the Dams to Nitshill train station or bus home. Around 14km total distance and an adventurous full day outing of around 5 to 6 hours easy pace unless you are really fit and hate stopping for views. Arriving at Nitshill or Darnley by bus is probably the nearest public way to reach here for a few hours easy walking, exploring this area.
A juvenile great crested grebe. Different body markings from parents until it grows up. The mottled look makes it far harder for predators to spot it in the reeds.
Natural rafts of vegetation on the reservoirs. Unlike the park pond examples which smother oxygen supplies these are very beneficial for wildlife and one of the reasons the grebes like coming here.
Buzzards are also found in this area of water, scattered woods and farms. As a child I used to think a buzzard circling in the sky directly above me, calling out in its plaintive tones, was a friendly greeting but it's probably just bird speak for "**** off humans! Go away!"  It certainly is in this case.
Great views over the city from certain selected spots here. Buzzard surveying its kingdom. It was at this moment I noticed I'd accidentally parked my bike on top of a wasps nest in the woods as I returned to find the frame and saddle covered in angry stinging wasps. A great delight to see them thriving.. and so energetic!!!!
As was I for the next five minutes, retrieving my transport then beating a hasty retreat from vast numbers pouring out an unnoticed hole in the ground. Isn't nature wonderful?
Looking towards Moss Heights and Dumgoyne in the Campsies.
Late evening shot to end. A great trip, mostly on minor roads, through countryside, parks and on empty pavements to avoid any traffic. Allow 4 to 5 hours to explore fully at an easy pace. Half that time if speedy. Very enjoyable on a scorching hot day like it turned out.

A brilliant video to go with it from a fellow enthusiast of the area that traces some of my bike route. I know every inch of it on foot but I've never seen it from the air before. Fascinating. Best watched full screen. Looks like they are extending the car park here or its for water pipe purposes as that's where I spotted it going in. Shot in winter so a nice contrast to the photos.










19 comments:

The Greenockian said...

Haven't been to Rouken Glen for ages! Great to see blue skies.

Sue Hayton said...

Used to go there by tram with my grandmother!!

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Greenockian,
It's still much the same with good parking and pretty safe as there are always people around no matter the season. Can't say the same for the Barrhead Dams as it can feel very isolated at times there which puts families off going.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Sue,
I remember as a kid playing on the tramlines that ran past my house into Barrhead. Maybe around early 1960s although by that time they were obsolete in favour of buses. Red SMT buses number eight and ten if I remember. Quite a few old photos online of Rouken Glen from that period including one of the shop that used to stand beside the Jenny Lind Scheme (named incidentally after a popular Swedish opera singer of the 1800s) The river gorge in Rouken Glen from the waterfall down was really special then. Paths look a bit shabby now in the gorge but the rest of park is much the same. There used to be loads of crab apples for making jam in the lane that ran behind Jenny Lind which you could follow onto the Corselet Road. Loads of different fruit trees planted by old farm cottages dotted around... none left now. Main thing that's missing in Barrhead Dams Country Park these days are cattle to keep the grass short and working farms. The fields there used to be full of cows and you could walk in your bare feet over the landscape everywhere. They even had fields of corn and barley and a haystack harvest. Hard to imagine that now. That would have been in the 1960s but fading out by the 1970s.

Linda said...

Lovely video and your photos are gorgeous! Thank you so much for sharing.

blueskyscotland said...

Thank you Linda.

Douglas Wilcox said...

Great stuff Bob, my home turf. Next time you visit look out for the new off road cycle/walk way from the Barrhead Road to Eastwood HS which follows the Capelrig Burn. Although very leafy now there used to be water mills, dye works and even a gas works where the burn goes under Crookfur Road. :o)

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Douglas,
I've marked that cycle route in to do on my map as I didn't know about that one. Thank you as I'm always on the hunt for new trails and I'm just as happy exploring leafy urban city-scapes as remote mountains. When I first started visiting Newtom Mearns as a young teenager it was mostly all farms and green fields...except for a ribbon development of older houses along Ayr Road, part of Crookfur at the cottage homes area, and the Broom Estate... now it's almost the same size as Cumbernauld and still expanding. Makes you think.
The drone video guy was pretty brave flying his craft over a large body of water as some models cost £300 to £600 to replace. Advances in technology can often have unexpected results though as I don't think the 'Arab Spring' would have been so effective without internet coordination across countries and the mass migration of people today has been greatly increased and facilitated due to smart phone use and subsequent awareness of what's out there and how to achieve it, even in remote villages. Interesting times we live in. The 'Robot Age' will be next and it's not that far away. Can't say I'm looking forward to that much :o)

Anabel Marsh said...

I don't know the South Side all that well, though I take my mum to Rouken Glen sometimes (she's nearly 90 so we don't make it much beyond the garden centre coffee shop!) Recently, John and I walked round the Dams to Darnley reservoirs - I'd never been there before. It eas a pleasant Sunday afternoon stroll.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Anabel,
apart from the West End the South Side of Glasgow from Linn Park through to Paisley will always be my favourite as it has more cycling and walking opportunities in varied green areas than the rest of the city and I've been in every area and district. The main difference nowadays in the Dams to Darnley Country Park is the lack of working farms, cattle, horses, and waterworks maintenance. It's like a well tended garden full of flowers and short grass everywhere in the 1960s compared to the same garden left wild and overgrown for ten years surrounding an empty house. Still nice but nothing like years ago when the maintenance teams cut all the verges and kept the place looking immaculate.
Just watched a beautiful film on TV tonight called 'Moonrise Kingdom' about a 1960s childhood in New England and it now joins 'Juno' 'The Secret Life of Bees', The Spiderwick Chronicles' 'The Last Mimzy' 'The Golden Compass' and 'Holes' in my favourites collection. Well worth seeing. A real classic.

Ian Johnston said...

Another area of the supposed "blanket" concrete jungle of the Central Belt which turns out to have some brilliant green spaces to be enjoyed - great stuff Bob

Kind Regards

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Ian,
one thing I've noticed over the last 10 years is that the Central Belt outside of the towns, cities and popular parks is actually far quieter year round than wilderness areas like Knoydart, Skye or any other Munro destination. Ironically, the Bathgate Uplands, Fife, Renfrewshire or rural Ayrshire is far emptier of people than the traditional wilderness regions. Over 200 tourists in Inverie, Knoydart when we visited a couple of years ago, twice that going up to the Quiraing and trashed muddy tracks and lay-bys there due to numbers of people and vehicles. We tend to forget that as most of the places we go these days are empty, many without any paths or tracks at all, so it's always a real shock to see how busy the west coast has become. You are probably the same on the water or in the north east away from the Munros. Can't beat the lesser hills for true solitude. Maybe just as well as parking places are usually limited to a few cars.

Carol said...

I think I'd have had to leave my bike if it was covered in wasps - I'm amazed you didn't get stung!

That looks a lovely trip - there's certainly some scenery around your city!

Didn't know about the algae link to not feeding ducks bread - I just thought it was purely for the health of the ducks as that nasty, white-sliced stuff is claggy and sticks in their throats when wet and can choke them. It also has nil food value so they fill up but get no nutrition. In addition to all that, it also contains bleach! :-o

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Carol,
No way was I leaving my bike behind. Signs were up around the pond asking folk to feed the water birds things like fresh peas(not tinned) veg, bird seed etc as it was better for them as you say. Most folk have left over bread though, sometimes blue mouldy, and people always go for the easiest option but it not always good for the wildlife. I've noticed some ponds in popular areas thick with uneaten slices of bread lying around which just attracts rats.

Carol said...

I had a completely green loaf once when we were staying at Ullapool in a holiday cottage. On our leaving day, I cast it onto the gravel beach in the harbor there and, within probably about 10 seconds, the seagulls had scoffed the lot. There weren't any seagulls when I started throwing it but they soon appeared. It was a wholesome wholemeal loaf though :-)

blueskyscotland said...

Evening Carol,
Herring gulls and certain others are different internally as they can eat waste products that are rancid or foodstuffs well past their sell by date that would kill other birds or make them sick. One of the reasons they like rubbish dumps for food and probably a by product of scavenging on shorelines naturally. If you have ever swallowed seafood that's off in any way you will know how bad that can be but that's just normal dinner to a gull. Even with a cast iron constitution they have had a 50 percent drop in numbers in the UK over the last 30 years.

Tom said...

The water pipes are i believe part of a project to link ayrshire and Newton Mearns into the glasgow supply network. All part of a move to close down all the various small reservoirs and treatment works that are still dotted around.
Neilston was connected via a similar project a few years back, this is the next stage.

Its very true what you say about how quite the countryside can be so close to the cities. One of my favourite walks in this area is neilston pad - its an easy 200ft climb from a car park, 15 mins max, and has spectacular views right over Glasgow to the highlands, the galloway hills and arran in the south. I must have been on the summit over 50 times in the past couple of years, and only met someone else once or twice, and once it was the farmer checking his sheep.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Tom,
Cheers for that info. That would make sense as I was back out that way today on the bike following the pipeline over the hills in the direction of Mearns Cross although I didn't go all the way as I wanted to reach Barrhead and Neiston by the country roads. I've been up Neilston Pad myself a few times. Great views from the summit and it's a flat topped hill that stands out well from most areas of Glasgow.

Revo Residential said...

Hi - please could you contact us about your amazing photograph of Rouken Glen Park.

Thank you