Monday, 23 April 2018

The Spectacular Firth of Clyde. Art of Darkness.A Night Gallery. Final Act.

                                               ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN.
After a wee wander around the main shopping street in Saltcoats and a takeaway lunch eaten in the car we timed it just right to arrive back in Gourock as dusk was falling. The three Inverclyde towns of Greenock, population around 42,000,  Port Glasgow, 14,000, and Gourock, 10,000 or thereabouts run into and merge with each other along a coastal strip- comprising roughly 65,000 residents in total. The first two are mainly working class, post industrial settlements, with decades long falling numbers presumably due to a lack of jobs and other opportunities in the area although they still have a surprising variety of upmarket Victorian streets and grand houses, especially Greenock, built at a time when both towns had a number of flourishing shipyards- and other local businesses, thriving as a legacy of being a sizable sea port community taking full advantage of the Industrial Revolution.

Gourock, with just as long a history of providing a quieter residential suburb to live in, yet still a popular seaside resort is much the same as it always was back when I was a teenager. Like Glasgow and its often notorious schemes/ estates, Greenock and Port Glasgow used to have some fairly colourful deprived areas but on the surface at least they look much better than of old with most of that 1930s to 1960s dilapidated, run down council housing stock either renovated or more often cleared away. As with Glasgow and other west coast post- industrial urban areas these estates, often containing thousands of people, are usually replaced with far fewer properties, many of them housing association or private developers, so mainly for sale, rather than council stock. Not a criticism- just an interested observation on cycling trips around the urban west trying to make sense of it all and wondering where all the displaced people go. Obviously, if less housing exists you get less residents living there but what arrived first? The missing people in an area leaving of their own accord or a lack of affordable houses to live in- the chicken or the egg scenario as this is and always has been a scenically beautiful area....but you probably need a cushion of money or a steady source of income to live here nowadays and enjoy the experience. Gourock in above photo seen from Greenock.
Gourock seafront promenade. As Anne and Belinda traditionally arrived here in summer for day trips over the years but always left again well before nightfall which occurs around 9:00pm or 10:00pm then it would be a new experience for them in winter to stay on after dark. For me however it was very familiar territory, my 'dark utopia' for the last 45 years.
One of the reasons I enjoyed the book Runaway by Peter May so much was that it followed a group of teenagers having various adventures in urban areas- Leeds and London in that instance, that mirrored my own teenage years in many ways. I too felt the pull of London but only for short exploratory visits- it was this place that grabbed my full teenage curiousity and imagination with a much stronger magnetic click than the UK capital with the added bonus that it was far easier to reach. For three or four years I was down here exploring at weekends whenever I could manage it and I loved the way all three towns climbed up the rolling slopes from the waters edge. Back then it also held other fatal femme attractions for the teenage me.
Although A and B had previously enjoyed our nighttime walks along the River Clyde and a dark descent of Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh I still had to sell this new walk as "The Beverly Hills of Scotland" to a frankly dubious audience as neither of them knew Greenock or Port Glasgow that well- only by reputation... and Gourock was known... but during the day. Admittedly, Port Glasgow and Greenock are not really tourist resorts in the accepted sense- especially at night...
but as I already knew- they can be spectacular places to behold of an evening. Greenock and Port Glasgow seen here.
I enjoyed Inverclyde back then and still love it today. It's always been a very exciting place for me in so many different ways. You can't beat three towns built over hillsides with extensive sea views... and a certain edge at night.

Three different night walks followed. First a wee tour of Gourock's steep back lanes to set the mood.
I liked this as it was a challenge to photograph them properly to do the atmosphere some justice yet still keep up with my friends as they showed no signs of slowing down to fully savour their surroundings . The salt splashed air... the smell of damp moss and mold everywhere, growing on the high surrounding walls....the creepy claustrophobic green gloom, narrow inclines and hidden corners and bends where anyone could be lurking... brilliant stuff. Classic horror noir of the highest order. If only they would slow down slightly as I still had a dodgy knee from the Corrour bothy trip and rough ground coal carrying contest.
Up we climbed.. me humming 'When you go up into the woods today' etc.. which was not appreciated much.
"Drink in that atmosphere girls. Slow down and soak up that menace." I implored. " Sniff those steps one by one. Hey! Don't speed up as soon as you leave the lights. That's cheating! Get back here. Surf those darkness fear vibes like an incoming wave."
"Shut up you nutter!" I was told. "Back in your basket, limpy teddy bear."

"When's this Beverly Hills bit going to appear?" Anne asked.
"It's more like Deliverance." quipped her daughter. "twang a twang twang twang twang- twang twang twang."
And another even darker lane followed after that. I was in my element here despite my injury. "Spooky or what!? C,mon, don't you dare turn back. Safety in numbers. Wooooooooh! "

Then the Greenock Docklands arrived. The Beacon lit up by green light.They always use green in horror films I've noticed. Mainly green and............. red.
No need to spice things up by this stage- it was well creepy already- and pitch black- very easy to step over the edge of the unguarded, sheer sided dock, blinded by distant neon in every direction, fall into deep water and drown. I had my health and safety hat on at all times here, watching them very closely. " Docks are dangerous places and can be really unsavory at night. You could easily get tossed off here by a gang of ruffians and no one would be any the wiser."

"Yes, thank you Kenneth Williams." Anne didn't appreciate my attempt at humour but Belinda was having fun exploring, almost by touch, while still being careful where she walked.
A proper lighted walkway was also discovered nearby and a docked ship.

which led us round to Greenock's soaring 300 foot high Victoria Tower which dominates the town.
We then visited the seafront promenade.

Several ships moving out on the water cast unusual profiles, gliding past us silently like illuminated ghosts in a black mirror. It was a very different experience at night beside the waters edge- slightly intimidating but thrilling. At this point it was pitch black again.
It's perfectly normal to locals here of course, dog walkers, late night shoppers etc, but if you come from a well lit inland city environment to any coastal resort at night it can feel strange, dangerous and exotic- until you get used to it...especially the jet black sea- not the friendly blue stuff of daytime but an uncaring, distinctly unfriendly looking freezing void- exactly why I like it.  But I wouldn't fancy falling in with below zero air temperatures and away from the town centres certain areas had zero visibility without a city sized background glow Central Belt folk often take for granted even in unlit areas as it still provides some light. Total darkness here seemed really dark.
" You certainly take us to some unusual locations." Anne admitted. " A proper mystery tour tonight."

"Ah, but are you ever bored?" I inquired.
No, I'll give you that. Any walk with you is always an adventure........ or a nightmare.

"Can you be scared and bored at the same time? Belle asked sardonically.

We climbed up to Lyle Hill at night. A stunning viewpoint over the three different towns awaited and the wide open Firth dotted with the tiny twinkling lights of various communities and distant boats. (You can easily drive up here for the views, by the way.) I should point out at this point that we had Belinda's faithful hound 'Snapper' with us on the trip, which, although only medium sized was toothy, streetwise and thick set enough to deter most folk wishing us harm... probably the main reason I managed to persuade them up here at night on foot, giving them extra confidence.

"It's a smashing view right enough....but let's go home now. Beverly hills is stretching it some and I'm completely knackered. That's enough for me." Anne was already on the way back down.
" If you're tired you can wait up here, enjoy the views, and we'll run down and get the car... then drive back up in under ten minutes." I joked, indicating the deserted and lonely dark hilltop and car park with nobody else around. "What can possibly go wrong?"
" OK then. On you go. Leave me the dog. " Anne called my bluff immediately, sitting down on a bench as we passed. " I'll wait up here for you. Women are just as brave as men you know."
"I do know," I admitted cheerfully. "Braver even. Men have been standing on you lot for centuries- keeping you down and in your place."
"Like a carpet." Belinda added helpfully with a bright smile. She had diligently watched the same history programme as I had recently and found it educational and informative. Anne had not bothered... probably busy in the kitchen as usual, chained to sink and oven- shoveling out tasty meals :o)
"and mothers always carry the weight of the world on their broad shoulders." I agreed, warming to my subject. "Everyone knows that,"
"Like an elephant!" her daughter chipped in, earning a glare. "the ones with a people basket tied on them for sightseeing is what I meant," She elaborated. "doing all the work. Good memory for everything. Queen of the herd."
"Yes, Thank You! Off you go."
We walked down the hill for 30 steps then turned back to find her catching up rapidly, Snapper pulling on the lead to reach us quicker.
"I've had a rest now. I feel much better............................ It's not me." she insisted. "that dog's a complete coward. It wouldn't stay put up there. "
B was unconvinced. " Poor Snapper.  Bad Mummy blaming you."
" Wear proper walking boots next time. Very comfy on feet." I recommended. " and good for kicking convicts and assorted ghouls in the dark."
" No-one can really see what you wear at night anyway." A fashion conscious Belinda added. " so you can dress anyway you like up here and it doesn't matter."
" Now you're talking. Unrepentant after the last time. I like that! "  
"Ho, what do you mean you lot? " Anne demanded, pulling me up for my earlier quip with a prodded finger in the back.
"I've got to say that." I protested." It's expected of me as a man. Otherwise I loose my bearded brethren membership rights. It's a male bonding thing. Sausage solidarity. "

 and so we walked down as a trio... plus four grossly insulted paws.
Shops passed in Gourock on the way back.
Night Town memories.
Heading towards Port Glasgow.
Last view of Port Glasgow to round it up.

Another memorable and interesting trip.

It was only after watching the Walter Mitty film remake that I discovered the sport of long-boarding existed as an offshoot of the more familiar skateboarding. That is going down steep twisting roads at speed for as long as possible. Iceland and Norway seem to be popular for this, having the right roads but also, crucially, not much traffic driving up towards the descending boarder. I also like the attitude and optimism in this video. For each new generation growing up it should be a golden age of discovery and hope for them and enjoyed as such if at all possible. Nice scenery in this and it reminds me of my own carefree 20 something years in various outdoor clubs.


Rosemary said...

I am not a night owl myself, but I can see that this was quite an adventure especially for your two more timorous friends. I thought that your final act on this night prowl might be purchasing fish and chips!

Kay G. said...

Whenever someone starts making those banjo chords from Deliverance, it's time for me to leave! Interesting walk but my goodness, it was very dark.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Rosemary,
Timorous!!? I must be doing them a real disservice via poetic licence storytelling (typical male:) as I don't think many females would walk under an unfamiliar and deserted railway tunnel in the middle of a city at night (Edinburgh trip) or go through the River Clyde pedestrian tunnel after a late night party in Govan.
On a different note a family of notorious killers that hunt in packs were spotted off Gourock and Greenock yesterday. Killer Whales that is cruising the Firth and causing much excitement on social media.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Kay,
Same as See you Jimmy wigs, kilts, haggis, Bagpipes, Mars Bar Suppers and anyone singing 'I belong to Glasgow' drunkenly on a bus for me. It was very dark around the dock area, a dangerous place at night for unseen trip hazards.

Anabel Marsh said...

I agree the Lyle Hill view is wonderful - but i’ve Never seen it at night.

Carol said...

Do they still have the big IBM place at Greenock?

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Anabel,
It's really nice up there at night for the views but potentially dodgy depending on who else arrives. Fairly dark unlit area at night.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Carol,
Nope, that site was mostly lying empty for years but when we passed it was being flattened by bulldozers into piles of rubble. Another reason for population decrease in Inverclyde as in its heyday it was a major employer in the area.

Weekend-Windup said...

Beautiful to see the night light shots...

Carol said...

I didn't know that had gone - unimaginable and very sad. I worked for IBM for a couple of years and loved the company. Yeah they were a major employer in that area...

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Thanks, Weekend Windup.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Carol,
good book called 'Accidental Empires.Wiki' should get a look at it via search engine. Might be a free updated version online via wiki link as well. Funny and informative read about Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Microsoft, IBM etc explaining the insider angle and why an international giant like IBM would probably be vulnerable to
small tech companies.(10 to 20 folk in a room somewhere developing new products on an almost yearly basis- overnight game-changers that massive companies would always find harder to adapt to or invest in. By the time they caught up with the latest tech trend and restructured, it would already be obsolete. Very insightful read and a real vivid page turner- not dry and academic at all.

Anonymous said...

That's a walk with a difference! A night time view over a city is always an interesting one and I can totally see what you mean about the difference with a Port city. Great stuff.

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Mark,
Even more special now with several killer whales spotted cruising around in the Firth of Clyde just off the three towns. Not often that happens.

Anonymous said...

Some of those descriptions of the night-time terrors had me on edge. I love night time views over city as well. Mesmerising

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Anon.