Saturday, 12 August 2017

Callendar Park and House. Hallglen Tunnel. Kelpies. Falkirk Day Out.

                                                 ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN.
A day out with Alan and his dog saw us take a trip to the central belt town of Falkirk. This wide surrounding area used to be famous for its iron-works, in particular, metal street furniture like storm drain covers, manholes, electricity and gas plates, or anything else sunk into the ground covering a utility service will usually have a makers stamp with Grangemouth, Bo-ness, Larbert, Denny or other areas around Falkirk printed on it. Next time you are out and about in Scotland's streets, cities and towns- have a look at the drain covers and manhole inspection plates under your footwear. Tells a story of a time in the UK, not that long ago, when every district, town or city manufactured some item or another and were well known for that product.
Callendar House, seen above, is a large French chateau style building set in its own extensive park and woodlands. The origins of a large house in this spot can be traced back to the 12th century when the Thanes of Falkirk lived here. You can find examples of many fine old trees still thriving within these grounds.
(Sir) William Forbes bought the estate and existing house then had it transformed into its current shape and style. At that time he was immensely wealthy having made lucrative contracts with the Royal Navy to copper-bottom hulls on ships. He was a billionaire by today's values and was one of Scotland's biggest landowners by the early 1800s. This is only one of several grand estates owned by the same family but they managed to hang on to this prize possession  right up until the 1960s when it was eventually sold to Falkirk council.
The house is usually open for visitors to explore with a Georgian kitchen giving you a feel and taste of past times, furnished rooms and some craft displays. As most of it is empty and no longer lived in it's not an expensive place to visit with a large free car park beside the high flats and miles of open parkland, forest trails, a boating pond and the remains of the Antonine Wall/ditch to explore/ walk along.

Not all of this grand mansion appears in the first photograph. A distant view of the house.
Buttercups were at their height in the meadow lands when we visited around a month ago.
A distant view of Callendar Park from the Helix. The Hi- Rise flats do not detract in any way from the beauty of this place which is well signposted when travelling through Falkirk. Follow signs to Falkirk itself, then the brown notice boards, seen in photo above, to get to Callendar House and Park.
The park and a small section of the boating pond. As this green space is a major asset to the surrounding town it is popular with tourists, dog walkers and locals with various attractions like golf, summer picnics, and a children's adventure hub/ play towers and slides. Not that popular that you can't get away from people though, who, as usual, stick to within a mile of the house leaving the rest of the grounds virtually empty and unexplored. If you made a chart of people's movements around tourists spots predictable patterns will soon emerge to form a common theme as many people do seem driven by invisible guides and settings. The few who drift away from these set limits are also predictable though- as  marginal variations to the norm.
They are governed by invisible factors as well, allowing them to travel further- like not requiring nearby toilets, or amusements for young children or elderly parents- no fear of woodlands, getting lost or of finding too empty and remote pathways etc....
Everything in nature it seems has a set of controls to guide it along, whether consciously decided or not, in advance.

Next place we found ourselfs at was the Glen Village tunnel. This was reached through the park itself via secluded woodland paths then through the pleasant modern housing estate of Hallglen to reach the canal tow path  just under the Glen Village roundabout.
As luck would have it a canal boat just happened to be passing up the Union Canal and entered the tunnel as we arrived.
Getting closer.
And out the other side.
There is a bridge over the canal a short distance before the tunnel entrance. This smiling face denotes the investor who made a tidy profit building his stretch of the route to the road bridge whereas on the other side is a sad crying face as that unlucky investor, (who got the tunnel section presumably) went bankrupt.
Surprising amount of flow-stone, stalactites and uneven surfaces in this tunnel midway through where it starts to resemble a cave and is full of dripping surfaces that make it very atmospheric. One of the longest canal tunnels in Scotland.
Alan and his dog emerging into the light again.
Wild foxgloves in the park. A sure sign of summer switching into autumn.
Next and last we visited the nearby Kelpies. Two huge equine heads that denote the canal entry point where it flows out into the River Carron then out to sea near Grangemouth. This is a distance shot from Falkirk.
Kelpies, in Scottish folklore, were water spirits in the shape of a horse that lurked in waterways and rivers waiting for a chance to drown unwary people- probably a superstition brought about by the very real danger in river crossing in an age when most folk could not swim.  Appropriately placed here, as the nearby River Carron is one of the muddiest, most hazard inducing rivers I've ever seen. Even today I don't fancy my chances crossing it at lowish tide in a small boat with both banks coated in deep, evil smelling black muck, preventing an easy passage to the opposite side.
The Kelpies on the canal. Meadowsweet flowers seen here. A very fragrant wild cream coloured plant that was once used to cover the floors and bedchambers of castles as an early plentiful attempt at basic perfume skills and show of elegance to impress visitors.
The scale of the Falkirk Kelpies. Andy Scott, the Maryhill based artist's, best known work internationally.
Another view. And another very varied walk. From Callendar Park we did a circular tour through the woods and estate then the tunnel before returning on foot beside the remains of the Antonine Wall/ ditch which runs through the park grounds and can still be seen. We then drove the short distance to see the Kelpies. All three local tourist attractions together make a great day out.
Grey Heron fishing on canal.
Blue tipped damselfly.
Blue glory.
Horses feeding in the buttercup meadows.
Pink thistles.

                                                                Sun or Flower or both?
Although Alan Turing is best known for his code-breaking performance during the war what he was working on before he died is exceptional as well and is only now gaining ground to explain precise yet complex  patterns throughout nature and the universe as a whole. Religious folk will no doubt take comfort from the fact  that the hand of God, or Allah, seems to be everywhere in the world we live in and the more we learn about the hidden details of stars, swirling galaxies and individual planets the more everything around us seems to be not just random variations by chance but instead appears to have been carefully engineered like a vast organic machine of moving parts with tiny unseen cogs and secret wheels turning out billions of creations daily. Plants, animals, us... all by design. A.T's work is only now gaining acceptance partly because of progress made in other fields   such as open world graphics and the like where we are so close to imitating real life in microscopic fine detail that you can almost taste victory. In this other world/ reality we can now build entire lifelike landscapes, planets, star systems and lifeforms of a complex nature by using a series of codes and mathematical equations then pack it all on a handy CD. A universe on a thin slice of material you can place in one hand. Leading some folk to speculate ...  are we already living in some future world perhaps... a specially created one...with totally convincing graphics... for some as yet unknown purpose/outcome.
Too heavy for me that one but I am beginning to see details at a higher magnification level personally ( i.e close up examination of certain flowers and objects under a microscope is providing a new interest) that show precise complex patterns are everywhere down to a minute level and they do seem to be as a result of some design or celestial blueprint on a vast scale which fits remarkably well into the latest number crunching explanations and theories. And that's good enough for me for now.



Linda said...

I feel as though I took this walk myself! What spectacular views! Gorgeous photos.

Anabel Marsh said...

We've been to Callander House and the Kelpies (and the Wheel) but never done a loop walk like this, precisely for the reasons you suggest (family outings with less able walkers). We're actaullay off to Falkirk this afternoon for a performance in the Falkirk Tunnel put on by Scottish Canals. Not quite sure what to expect - I should be interesting!

blueskyscotland said...

Thank you Linda.

blueskyscotland said...

Unusual. Went to an aliens/Star Wars themed event in the old fireclay mines near Bo- ness. Absolutely gutted when they were closed down a few years ago (usual H and S issues presumably)as they were miles deep with flooded passageways you could have boated along. This idea for boats to be used was planned but in the end nothing came of it. Really unique underground venue/walk though and it gave the nearby steam railway a proper destination and spectacular finale where the line ends.
Hope you enjoy your own trip underground.

Ian Johnston said...

Ah, the Kelpies are really stunning - a favourite piece of public art. Not heard of that tunnel though, one more place to explore!

Kind Regards

Linda W. said...

Another interesting post about your country. I really need to come visit someday. The hard part would be deciding what to see - so many great places!

Rosemary said...

When you see those magnificent canal tunnels it makes you realise just how industrious and hard working our Victorian ancestors were - they should never have been allowed to be neglected. The canal near us is being restored and is costing a small fortune.
The Kelpies are a great piece of public art.

Carol said...

Our local ironworks was Varley's - not sure if it's co-incidence or not but that's also the name for the local gypsies! All now long gone though unfortunately.

I just looked at your sidebar and didn't realise you've published so many books now. Are you making any money? I still fancy doing a mountain coward book of some sort but I think, like your original 'Autohighography', I'd want to do a paper form of it and not just e-books. I still don't have a Kindle anyway.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Linda W,
Visiting Edinburgh would be a big tick, along with maybe a couple of our more spectacular West Coast Munros like Ben Lomond, The Cobbler area or Glencoe. For a first time visitor they would be real highlights. Good exchange rate at the moment with the value of the pound dropping like a stone week by week.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Rosemary,
England has many more canals than Scotland of course and longer tunnels. The Forth and Clyde Canal plus the Union Canal here have been restored at vast expense but apart from the small hubs at Bowling, Port Dundas, Auchenstarry Basin and the Kelpies-Falkirk Wheel area etc not many boats do the full trip from coast to coast. One reason for that could be the lack of decent weather, rain practically every second day this summer, but also a lack of good facilities along its length and loads of city locks stacked together meaning an overnight berth in an urban setting sometimes. They are well used by cyclists and dog walkers but not many boats away from these scenic hubs.( this is based on observations living near the canal over a 20 year period.)

I'm an art snob myself so my heart will always belong to Cumbernauld's less praised and secluded Arria rather than the tourist infested Kelpies that everyone raves about :o)

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Ian,
Missed the running order of reply. Sorry.
I see there is now a coast to coast canal trail being promoted from Bowling to the Kelpies across the Central Belt canal system. Tame stuff compared to your own west coast sea kayaking exploits though but good for beginners to practice on. One Glasgow club used to practice Eskimo rolls in the local canal every week... hazards being over aggressive swans and submerged shopping trolleys.

blueskyscotland said...

Evening Carol,
That's one thing I've noticed doing the blog is that every town, district or city visited was notable for making products, often exported internationally, in the not too distant past. Although life may have been tough then most folk had purposeful jobs which also gave them a sense of purpose and respect. Nearby Paisley- 'the town that thread built' is a prime example of many similar sized settlements where they could afford to build important public buildings and improve people's conditions. Now its all cuts, low wages and austerity and many of these once proud towns throughout the UK are a shadow of their former glory. Can't turn the clock back though- I only wish we could.
I am not making any money at all from my books and I've given up writing them but don't let that put you off doing yours.

Anonymous said...

Its only been recently that I've realised just what an interesting area Falkirk is (my only visit was to a Sawmills in Bo'ness as part of my first job in the 80's. I knew about the wheel and I've seen the Kelpies from the M9, but the canal tunnel and Callendar Park are new to me

blueskyscotland said...

It's interesting if you are in the area for a day but not in a UK sense apart from the Kelpies.